Hike-in Required
Guided tours
ADA accessible
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1974 to protect the estuary created by the meeting of the freshwaters of Nisqually River and the marine waters of the Puget Sound. The refuge encompasses an immensely diverse number of habitats. The trail and boardwalk system leads through thick riparian forests and along the rapidly flowing Nisqually River, through open grasslands, near salt and freshwater marshes, and over salty tidal mudflats. This habitat diversity leads to incredible biodiversity, which means Nisqually is a prime area for wildlife observers. Nisqually is home to over 300 species of birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and fish.  If you are a birdwatcher, photographer, or just a nature enthusiast, you should pay a visit to Nisqually Wildlife Refuge. 

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge covers just over 6-square miles of the Nisqually River Delta, one of the last and largest remaining minimally altered estuaries in the state. Before the refuge was established, a 5-mile dike was constructed from 1904 to 1906 to convert the delta into farmland by the Brown Family. Since the establishment of the refuge, 4 miles of the dike have been removed and 762 acres of what was once farmland has been reclaimed by the delta. The delta has survived plans to dredge the fragile estuary, to construct a deep water port, to build a landfill for Pierce and King County. It even survived the 6.8 magnitude Nisqually Earthquake in 2001 (the epicenter was just 2 miles from the historic Twin Barns).  

If you are in the mood for a shorter walk, the Twin Barn Loop is just over a mile; if you have more time, connect with the Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail that is approximately 4 miles there-and-back.

Note that there is a seasonal trail closure due to waterfowl hunting from late October to January. The exact dates change annually, but the last 700 feet of the boardwalk are closed to visitors for safety reasons. During this time, be aware that gunshots may be heard and hunting activities may be visible from the refuge. 

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

General Day Use Fee


Diverse habitat. ADA accessible.


Crowds in spring and summer.

Pets allowed

Not Allowed


ADA accessible
Bird watching


Nearby Lodging + Camping

Seattle + Tacoma Metro Area, Washington
Hood Canal + Eastern Olympic Peninsula, Washington


Love this place, now called Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.
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