Watchable Wildlife in Indian Country
From resident birds and mammals that abound in our woodlands, deserts and along our rivers and seashores, to migratory species that use Washington as a "stopover" between destinations, Indian Country is rich in watchable wildlife.
For centuries, the Tribes have honored, respected and nurtured the habitat for these critical sources of life. Spiritual lessons from coyote, raven and the salmon have been handed down, providing guidance for countless generations. Here is a brief sampling of the kind of natural experiences you can enjoy during your visit to Indian Country.
Bald Eagles on Nooksack and Skagit Rivers
The Skagit and Nooksack River located along the I-5 corridor in northwest Washington are the wintering home for hundred of bald eagles that are drawn to thousands of spawned out salmon along the rivers. The best time of year to see eagles is mid-December through mid-February. Located in Whatcom County, the Deming Homestead Eagle Park on the Nooksack River is a good place to observe eagles feed on the salmon that wash up on sandbars. The parks department has constructed salmon habitat structures that provide a great environment for the salmon to spawn and the young to hatch.
The concentration of bald eagles and spawning salmon in the Skagit River basin is a spectacular site, with as many as 400 eagles spotted during peak times. One of the best ways to view eagles is on the water from a raft, drift boat, or kayak.
Trumpeter Swans and Birds of Prey on Skagit Flats
One of the rarest birds in North America, the trumpeter swan, can be seen on the Skagit Flats off I-5 just north of Burlington between November and April. Trumpeters frequent the same area each year and the Skagit Flats is an excellent place to spot flocks of them. While on the Skagit Flats, look for birds of prey-from bald eagles to rough-legged hawks to peregrine falcons and wintering gyrfalcon- numerous raptor species make western Washington their winter home.
Shorebird Migration-Grays Harbor Estuary
Each spring, shorebirds come from as far south as Argentina and concentrate at the muddy tide flats of Grays Harbor Estuary near Hoquiam. Up to one million shorebirds gather here in the spring to feed, store up fat reserves, and rest for the non-stop flight to their northern breeding grounds. These Arctic-bound shorebirds are among the world"s greatest migrants; many travel over 15,000 miles round trip! The five most abundant species are the western sandpiper, dunlin, shortbilled and long-billed dowitcher, and the semipalmated plover.
Dungeness Spit and National Wildlife Refuge
The Dungeness NWR provides habitat for many different species. More than 250 species of birds, 41 species of land mammals, and eight species of marine mammals have been recorded in the refuge. It provides critical habitat for a number of species, some of them threatened or endangered, and is an important stop for many birds during migration. The black brant is one of the refuge's most important inhabitants as it depends on the refuge's eelgrass for its survival. The black brant is a true sea goose and is able to drink salt water and eat saltwater plants. The tip of Dungeness Spit is also a traditional haul-out and pupping site for the harbor seal. It is used year after year when seals leave the water and form colonies. During these essential periods, the seals rest, sleep, mate, give birth, and nurse their pups.
Columbia National Wildlife Refuge Ducks & Sandhill Cranes
The Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, located about 8 miles northwest of Othello, is a wintering area for an average population of more than 100,000 ducks (mostly mallards) and Canada geese. Here you'll observe mallards, redheads, and cinnamon teal nest on the refuge along with various song, water, marsh, and shore Kayaking and Rafting One of the best ways to view birds and other wildlife is from our rivers and streams. There are several excellent outfitters and guides who can help you plan a water journey, from a quiet rubber raft or drift boat excursion, to kayaking or whitewater adventure. You choose the level of excitement and they'll handle the details. birds, as well as many hawks and owls. Thousands of sandhill cranes migrate through on the Pacific flyway in spring and fall.
Dry Falls Overlook
This geologic wonder, located on Hwy 17 just south of Grand Coulee Dam and the Colville Reservation, was created when a prehistoric ice dam gave way causing a cataclysmic flood. This is the site of a waterfall that was ten times the size of Niagara Falls. Here you'll witness the aerial ballet performed by white-throated swifts, and violet-green and barn swallows. During winter, check utility lines for raptors and northern shrikes.