by Bob Morse

revised by Dianna Moore and Alan Richards

The South Coast has a gentler, more open terrain than the mountainous Olympic Peninsula. The seaboard consists of wide, sandy beaches, grasslands, intermittent timber stands, extensive rivers, tidal marshes, and two great estuaries—Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay. The backcountry stretches from the broad Chehalis Valley south over the rolling Willapa Hills to the lower reaches of the Columbia River. Nearly all of the ancient forests are gone, but trees grow quickly in this damp, mild climate (about 100 inches of rainfall annually). In some places, impressive second-growth stands with characteristics of the original forests are being nurtured through sound conservation management. These habitats attract a great diversity of avian species. Tens of thousands of shorebirds stop each spring to refuel on the 1,500 acres of mudflats at Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge. Nearby Ocean Shores—a magnet for rarities—is one of the premier birding hotspots in the state. Regularly scheduled boat trips out of Westport offer birders the opportunity to see albatrosses, shearwaters, petrels, jaegers, auklets, and other pelagic specialties. The 11,000-acre Willapa National Wildlife Refuge hosts a wide assortment and high numbers of wintering waterfowl. Willapa Bay is one of the most pristine, productive estuarine ecosystems in the United States.



To reach the Grays Harbor area from Point Grenville, go south about 20 miles along SR-109 through Moclips, Pacific Beach, and Copalis Beach to the intersection with Second Avenue in Ocean City. Turn right to the seashore a few hundred yards ahead. Long stretches of the wide, hard-packed, sandy ocean beach can be driven between Ocean City and Point Brown at the south end of Ocean Shores. The next access point is four miles south, at the end of Damon Road—the first of five in Ocean Shores. The speed limit on the beach is 25 mph, and sections may be closed to vehicular traffic at certain times. It is illegal to drive over the razor-clam beds exposed at low tide. Stay on firm sand and keep an eye on incoming tides; careless motorists can easily get stranded. During spring and fall migration, large mixed-species flocks of shorebirds are common along the beach, especially at high tide. The beach is good for close studies of gulls including Heermann’s (summer and fall), Mew (fall through spring), Ring-billed, Western, California (fall), Herring (fall through spring; uncommon), Thayer’s (winter; rare), Glaucous-winged, Glaucous-winged X Western, and Glaucous (unusual). Scoters, loons, Brown Pelicans (late spring through fall), and gulls can be seen flying by offshore, and tens of thousands of Sooty Shearwaters streaming by in a seemingly endless line. They are actually moving in a fiveto ten-mile-long oval loop; a scope can usually pick out the northbound and southbound “lanes.” Here too Caspian Terns (spring and summer) can be seen among the gulls.

To reach Ocean Shores by conventional highway, continue south 1.9 miles on SR-109 from Ocean City and turn right onto SR-115. Be sure to check the trees along the east side of the highway; Bald Eagles often perch there, as does the occasional Red-tailed Hawk and Peregrine Falcon. The mixed forest and shrubs at Ocean City State Park (Discover Pass required), on the west side of the highway just north of Ocean Shores (0.8 mile), have a good selection of typical Western Washington lowland songbirds. Myrtle Yellowrumped Warblers winter in good numbers in the California Wax-myrtle here and throughout Ocean Shores. Check the freshwater ponds along both sides of the entrance road for ducks, Pied-billed Grebe, Great Egret (rare, summer and fall), Green Heron (late spring and summer), Sora (summer), and yellowlegs (in migration). American Bittern and Virginia Rail have nested here, and Trumpeter Swans are present in winter.

map ocean shores


Upon leaving the state park, turn right onto SR-115 and continue south. The road soon bends right (west). At 1.3 miles you can go straight ahead on Damon Road to a beach access. Otherwise, turn left (south) here and pass through the town gate on Point Brown Avenue, the main artery of Ocean Shores. If undisturbed by golfers, the golf course fairways on both sides of Point Brown Avenue south from the roundabout may host flocks of Cackling, Canada, and the occasional Greater White-fronted and Snow Geese, ducks, and shorebirds. Yellowlegs like the ponds that form on the greens during spring rains. Most of the golf course is easily viewed from neighboring roads. Two of the better vantage points are along Point Brown Avenue, from the rear of the Ocean Shores Cinema parking lot, and on Ocean Shores Boulevard, from the rear of the Ocean Shores Inn parking lot. Generally, golf-course birding is best early in the morning and at high tide. During stormy weather, this may be the best place in Ocean Shores to find various plovers, yellowlegs, and godwits.

Return on Point Brown Avenue to the roundabout, take the west or left exit to W Chance A La Mer, travel one long block, then turn left (south) onto Ocean Shores Boulevard to reach the North Jetty in 5.5 miles, best visited in the morning to avoid the glare of the afternoon sun. From the beach on the north side, scan the breakwater rocks for Wandering Tattler (mid-April through May, late July through mid-October), Black Turnstone (late July through May), Surfbird (late July through April), and Rock Sandpiper (early October through mid-April). Look also for Brandt’s, Double-crested, and Pelagic Cormorants, and Mew (late August to May), Western, Herring (September to May), and Glaucous-winged Gulls. A scope is helpful. Walking out on the jumble of huge, tilted rocks that compose the jetty (treacherous) may be necessary to get good views of the rock birds, especially as the tattlers seem to prefer the outside face of the jetty. At high tides, or when big swells are coming in from the ocean, waves can break over the top. At such times, stay off the jetty altogether.

Weather permitting, the top of the jetty is a great place to set up a scope for a sea-watch, as far out toward the end as you feel comfortable scrambling. Wear warm clothing if you plan a prolonged stay during fall, winter, or spring. Scan south and west across the channel and ocean for passing birds of the same species mentioned for the ocean beach, plus Sooty Shearwaters (summer), Common Murre, Pigeon Guillemot, Rhinoceros Auklet, and Blacklegged Kittiwake (fall through spring). Migrating flocks of Common Terns (May and mid-August through mid-September) often attract a Parasitic Jaeger. Harbor Seals and California Sea Lions are common in the waters south of the jetty. Gray Whales migrate off the coast and are sometimes visible from the jetty, especially from March through May. There are often a few whales right off the southern end of the jetty during the summer, feeding over the harbor bar.

The Ocean Shores Sewage Treatment Plant, located 0.8 mile farther on Ocean Shores Boulevard as it curves to the east, is open from 8:30AM to 4:30PM, Monday through Friday (please respect the hours of operation or we may lose this privilege); park in front of the office in the designated areas, or off Ocean Shores Boulevard near the fence. The three ponds provide shelter during storms as well as a high-tide refuge for ducks and gulls. Scope the edges closely for shorebirds, especially at high tide. Rarities such as a Temminck’s Stint (November 2005), Wilson’s Phalaropes (three in May 2008), or the occasional Ruff may show up again. Red-necked Phalaropes are regular in fall migration, and Red Phalaropes are possible after severe storms. Lapland Longspurs can usually be found from mid-September to mid-November in the short grasses between the fence and the jetty wall. Paths along the side fences provide access to the tidal mudflats and marshes of the Oyhut Wildlife Area (known as the Game Range to birders and natives alike). Each year seems to bring an interesting vagrant, such as the Smith’s Longspur found here in August 2013, only the second record for the state. The best birding is one or two hours before or at high tide. Calf-high waterproof boots will increase your enjoyment of this habitat.

Continue on Ocean Shores Boulevard, which curves northward and becomes Sportsman Street. Go right on Fairwood Drive (0.8 mile), then right (east) onto Marine View Drive (1.1 mile). In 0.7 mile, turn right onto Tonquin Avenue, a dirt road that dead-ends at a state-regulated parking lot (Discover Pass required) near a radio facility. Walk around the gate, through an opening in the wax-myrtle to the right of the structure, and out into the salt marsh along the north edge of the Game Range. This access can be hazardous due to large logs piled there by high tides.

During fall migration, especially August, the birds that can be seen include Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs, Dunlin, Baird’s, Least, Buff-breasted, Pectoral, and Western Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plover, and dowitchers. This is also the best spot to find both American and Pacific Golden-Plovers (late August through early October) and is a magnet for the rarer migrants, such as the Eurasian Dotterel that spent two weeks in the fall of 1999, the Lesser Sand-Plover (formerly Mongolian Plover) that dropped by in August of 2010, and the Upland Sandpiper from early September of 2013. Merlins and/or Peregrine Falcons will most certainly strafe the large flocks of shorebirds, and Bald Eagles and Northern Harriers hunt this area, so be prepared to spend some time. Rubber boots are helpful. Be aware: the depth of water in the feeder stream can be deep, especially near high tide. Also, this is a waterfowl hunting area September through January.

Return to Marine View Drive and continue east (right). Across from the concrete water tower (0.4 mile), a small parking area leads to a path out to the beach, and an alternate way into the Game Range. In the open bay on the south side can be found Harlequin and Long-tailed Duck, scoters, Redthroated and Common Loons, Western Grebe, cormorants, Brown Pelican, and even a rarity such as the female King Eider that appeared in July of 2009 and stayed two years. Some summers Elegant Terns are numerous between here and the sewage treatment plant. Horned Lark, American Pipit; Lapland Longspur (fall) can also be seen on the sand.

Proceed east 0.3 mile along Marine View Drive to reach the parking area to Damon Point, a long sand spit extending east into Grays Harbor on the southeastern tip of the Ocean Shores peninsula. There are porta potties at the start of the trail, but this area is undergoing fairly rapid change with the winter storms eating away at what was once an asphalt road, and high tides and storm surges regularly overtopping the lowest parts on the way out to the end. Walk to the end of the asphalt, then east (left) up the south (right) side of the beach, approximately 1.5 miles to the tip. DNR now manages this spit and has asked that visitors obey the signage regarding off-limits areas.

The grassy area between the beach dunes and the treed area, about three-quarters of a mile from the parking area is where the Snowy Owls can be found during the irruption years, most recently the fall and winters of 2011 and 2012; this area is now breeding territory for the endangered Streaked Horned Lark (April through September).

Also from here, birders can get looks at Brant off the northeastern tip of Damon Point, as well as mergansers, loons (three records of Yellow-billed), grebes, cormorants, turnstones, and gulls, and sometimes Common Murre and other alcids. Birds may seek protection here from winter storms. Green Heron and Belted Kingfishers can be seen here in the summer. The Scot’s Broom thickets around the intersection of Discovery Avenue and Point Brown Avenue, a little over 0.2 mile north, are one of the best spots in the state to find Palm Warbler in the fall and winter.

The best birding site on the North Bay of Grays Harbor is Bill’s Spit, reached by a labyrinthine route one mile from the marina. (See inset map, page 59.) Geese, ducks, godwits, small sandpipers, and gulls congregate here, especially on a rising high tide. Bald Eagles, Northern Harriers, and Peregrine Falcons hunt the edges. Bill’s Spit, Westport Marina, and Tokeland are probably the three most reliable places in the Lower 48 for Bar-tailed Godwit in the fall.

Go north on Discovery Avenue, turn right onto Catala Avenue, right onto Duck Lake Drive, right onto Wakina Loop, and right onto Peninsula Court where there is a poorly marked public easement between trees on the left just inside the cul-de-sac. The base of the spit can be approached on foot from here via a rough trail out to the beach; this area is also undergoing change from erosion. Please avoid flushing the resting birds, and be respectful of private property fronting the bay.

When you head back, check the area from the Ocean Shores Community Club on Catala Avenue southward to the marina for Tropical Kingbird (rare) and Palm Warbler in late fall. Turn right onto Point Brown Avenue, which will take you north through downtown Ocean Shores to the town gate in a bit more than five miles.



From Ocean Shores take SR-115 back to SR-109, reset your trip-odometer to 0.0, and turn right toward Hoquiam. In 14.6 miles, just before entering Hoquiam, take a right onto Paulson Road at the wildlife refuge and airport signs. At the T-junction (0.5 mile) go right on Airport Way along a sewage lagoon. Continue to the airport and park diagonally on the right. Walk around the gate, go west to the end of the pavement, then take the Sandpiper Trail on the right to the Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge shorebird-viewing areas.

The Grays Harbor estuary is one of eight sites in North America to be designated a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site of hemispheric importance. The extensive mudflats and the high concentration of invertebrates they support provide a rich resource for the tens of thousands of shorebirds that stop here to feed and rest before continuing their 7,000-mile journey from South America to their nesting grounds in the Arctic. The peak of spring migration occurs in late April and early May. At high tide 10,000 or 20,000 shorebirds may be feeding at your feet or swirling in vast clouds. Conversely, when the tide is out few birds remain as they spread out to feed in other parts of the estuary. The most prevalent species are Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers, Dunlin, and Western Sandpiper. Greater Yellowlegs, Red Knot, and Least Sandpiper are usually present but in much smaller numbers. Merlins and Peregrine Falcons regularly hunt here, providing a fascinating spectacle as flying balls of shorebirds maneuver to elude them. The annual Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival is timed to coincide with the peak of spring migration (information at Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, and Northern Harriers also hunt the area, and a pair of Ospreys has a nest nearby and they are often seen during the late spring and summer. In fall, migrating shorebirds and waterfowl are present in lesser numbers, and the mudflats are sometimes visited by flocks of Sandhill Cranes for an overnight rest stop.

On the way out, drive around the sewage lagoon to check for waterfowl, grebes, phalaropes (Red can occur after winter storms), gulls (Franklin’s is rare in migration), and three species of swallows. A Tufted Duck has appeared among the scaups several times just in time for the shorebird festival. South of the lagoon, the Chehalis River estuary mudflats are also worth a look.


Return to SR-109, zero your trip-odometer, and turn right into Hoquiam. The highway flows into US-101 southbound, which will take you through Hoquiam to Aberdeen. At the east edge of downtown Aberdeen (5.4 miles) you can turn right with US-101 toward Westport (page 67). Or, you can opt for a side trip to explore the wooded and wetland habitats of the lower Chehalis River valley, in which case you should continue straight ahead (east) onto US-12 at this intersection. In 12.7 miles, turn right onto the Monte-Brady Road. At 0.8 mile, turn right again onto the Brady Loop Road. This seven-mile itinerary crosses open farmlands on the floodplain of the Chehalis River, where shallow ponds host good numbers of wintering waterfowl. Raptors regularly hunt these fields, including Bald Eagle, Cooper’s, Red-tailed, and Rough-legged Hawks, American Kestrel, Gyrfalcon (rare), and Peregrine Falcon. Check the weeds, fencelines, and brushy patches along the road for Spotted Towhee, sparrows, American Goldfinches, and warblers in season. In 1.0 mile, the road takes a left turn beside thickets with large stands of alder (flycatchers and songbirds). At 0.7 mile there is a public fishing access to the Chehalis River. In another 0.5 mile the Brady Loop Road turns right while the Henry Foster Road continues straight ahead to meet the Monte-Brady Road a mile farther north. Drive part way up Foster Road, then turn around and come back to continue eastward along the Brady Loop, scanning ponds, bordering trees, and fields for waterfowl (swans on the larger ponds), raptors, and Western Meadowlarks. Short-eared Owls sometimes perch on fenceposts, and Western Scrub-Jays should be searched for around the farmhouses. After another 3.8 miles on Brady Loop Road E (including a final curving swing west), turn right at the Monte-Brady Road to return to US-12 100 yards ahead.

The 527-acre Chehalis Wildlife Area is a haven for waterfowl, shorebirds, and passerines in a mosaic of open wetland, riparian shrub, and meadow/field habitats, with some open water. However, the wildlife area is prone to flooding and may be inaccessible from late fall through spring. To reach it, turn right (east) onto US-12 and travel to the intersection with Schouweiler Road (3.3 miles). Turn right (south) here, then left at the stop sign at Allen Road S and follow the dirt road to the end at a metal gate (0.2 mile). Park out of the way, go around the gate, and walk straight ahead (south) on the dirt road. Birding the paths along weedy edges and thickets usually produces a good mixture of sparrows. Raptors hunt the fields, and geese and ducks, American Bitterns, and Virginia Rails can be found in the sloughs and ponds. Green Herons favor two larger ponds reached by walking east from the gate along a gravel berm.

Return to US-12, continue east 2.0 miles, and take the Third Street Elma exit. Turn right (south) at the stop sign onto Wakefield Road. In another 0.2 mile, turn right again at the county park and airport signs onto Wenzel Slough Road. A 10-mile loop westward from here through more fine floodplain habitat is at its best in winter and early spring when fields are flooded, but can be good in any season. Pull into the main parking lot of Vance Creek County Park, on the right in 0.5 mile, and bird the path across the footbridge, riparian habitat, and the long pond west of the parking lot for waterfowl, grebes, and gulls, as well as passerines (especially in migration). Fields near the airport, just ahead, sometimes have shorebirds in migration. Stop frequently anywhere along the route to check ponds, open fields, riparian vegetation, thickets, and brushy patches. Keep a watch for Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, and Red-tailed Hawk. Swans and other waterfowl may winter in flooded fields and on small ponds. Waterfowl are skittish during hunting season, and you will get better views if you use your car as a blind. Do not enter fields without permission. At the intersection of Wenzel Slough Road and Keys Road, turn right to rejoin US-12. Turn right here and head east to bird Hood Canal (page 214), the Olympia area (page 206), or the South Sound Prairies (page 192). A left turn will take you back to Aberdeen and the road to Westport in about 17 miles.



At the intersection with US-101 and SR-105 in Aberdeen, reset your trip-odometer to 0.0, turn left (south) toward Westport, and cross the high bridge over the Chehalis River. Just after the bridge, where the two highways divide, stay right on SR-105 toward Westport. In just under 11 miles, turn left to an unmarked parking area for the Johns River State Wildlife Area (Discover Pass required). Beyond the gate, trails lead for over a mile to coniferous and broadleaf forests, shrubby thickets, and freshand saltwater marshes. Look for Wood Ducks, other waterfowl, and Wilson’s Snipe in the wetland habitats. Typical woodland and edge-loving species found here include Ruffed Grouse, Band-tailed Pigeon, Northern Flicker, Hutton’s Vireo, Black-capped and Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Pacific and Bewick’s Wrens, Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned (winter) Kinglets, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Spotted Towhee, Golden-crowned Sparrow (winter, in brush along the dike trail), and Dark-eyed Junco.

To reach another portion of the wildlife area, continue southwest on SR-105 past the cranberry plant. In 0.7 mile, turn left onto Johns River Road just after the Johns River bridge. Bear left at the fork with the Welcome to Johns River sign, left at the stop sign (0.1 mile), and right down the hill in 200 yards to a parking area (Discover Pass required). Habitats here include open farmlands and freshand saltwater marshes, adjoining the Johns River. A half-mile walk along the paved river-dike path to a blind should produce ducks, hawks, and occasionally a Short-eared Owl (at dawn); the trail continues unpaved for another mile or so past the blind. Elk sometimes browse in the open pastures.

Continue west on SR-105 for another 2.0 miles from Johns River Road to a sign on the right for Bottle Beach State Park (Discover Pass required). The 70-acre park has a parking area, a composting toilet, a covered blind, viewing platforms, and a trail along the creek. Shorebird viewing (including Red Knot) can be quite good during spring migration, especially two hours before incoming high tide, but it is good birding any time of the year. Continuing west on SR-105, Brady’s Oysters at the west end of the Elk River bridge is worth a stop (turn right onto Oyster Place at 3.0 miles). Scan the river for ducks, loons, and grebes, and if the tide is out, shorebirds. Great Egret is regular in fall. Northern Saw-whet Owls may be calling from conifers to the west in the pre-dawn hours.


map westport


One mile farther west, turn right and travel north on Montesano Street into Westport, the charter-boat fishing capital of the Pacific Northwest. In 3.0 miles, turn right on Wilson Avenue and park at the end of the road in front of Float 21. From the float, you can see Marbled Godwits in large numbers from fall through winter and the occasional Bar-tailed on the rock wall just east (right) of the float.

Go back on Wilson Avenue one block and turn right on Nyhus Street and follow it eight blocks to the bend to the right where it becomes Cove Avenue, then left onto Neddie Rose Drive at the stop sign (0.3 miles). Park at the end of the road (0.7 mile) and walk up onto the observation platform next to the public restroom. Gray Whales summer in the surrounding Grays Harbor channel. Throughout the year, scan for Surf and White-winged Scoters, Common Loon, Red-necked and Western Grebes, cormorants, and Black-legged Kittiwake (fall through spring). Parasitic Jaegers have been seen here, chasing kittiwakes and Common Terns during migration. When strong winds blow in from the ocean, Black Turnstones, Surfbirds, and Rock Sandpipers—normally out on the jetties—may seek protection on the leeward side of the rock groins to the west of the viewing platform. Wandering Tattler is also present in fall.

The nearby walkway next to the Harbor Resort leads to the docks of the Westport Marina and, at the end, to a fishing pier, which offers good views of grebes, cormorants, and gulls. The pier pilings sometimes host Black Turnstones and Surfbirds. Look around the docks for Long-tailed Duck, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Red-throated, Common and Yellow-billed (rare; winter) Loons, Western Grebe, Heermann’s Gull (fall and winter), and California Sea Lion. In October of 2012, a Common Eider made a brief stop here, just outside the wall of the marina. Glaucous Gull is uncommon in winter; a scan of gulls on the roofs of the seafood processing plants or nearby fields may produce one.

Since the mid-1960s, Westport Seabirds has gone offshore to deep oceanic waters, looking for pelagic birds unlikely to be seen from shore. The Westport trips are well-known among birders for the reliability of Black-footed Albatross (seen on virtually every trip) and Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel (seen on almost all trips between May and October). Trips are run during all seasons, but most take place from late spring into early fall.

Probable for the July–October period are Laysan and Black-footed Albatrosses, Northern Fulmar, Pink-footed, Flesh-footed, Buller’s, and Sooty Shearwaters, Fork-tailed and Leach’s Storm-Petrels, Red-necked and Red Phalaropes, South Polar Skua, Pomarine, Parasitic, and Long-tailed Jaegers, Common Murre, Pigeon Guillemot, Marbled Murrelet, Cassin’s and Rhinoceros Auklets, Black-legged Kittiwake, Sabine’s Gull, and Arctic Tern. Tufted Puffin is possible. Most trips go about 30 miles offshore to the edge of the continental shelf, but as many as four trips annually head for oceanic waters 65–70 miles out, looking for Pterodroma petrels (Murphy’s, Mottled) and other intriguing possibilities. Expert spotters accompany each trip. For current schedule and other details, check their web site at or leave a message at 360-268-9141.

The Westport Jetty offers similar birding possibilities to the Ocean Shores jetty across the channel, but the walk out is even more difficult and treacherous. The base of the jetty is accessible from Westhaven State Park (day use only, Discover Pass required). Turn right (west) at the park sign (obscured by a tree) onto Jetty Haul Road a short distance along Montesano Street as you head back south from town.

To head south toward Grayland and Tokeland, return to N Montesano Street, turn right and go 0.1 mile. Turn right onto N Wilson Avenue and continue on this road (which changes names several times) for 3.1 miles until it joins SR-105. Proceed straight ahead 11.7 miles to the sign for Tokeland, on the right.



Tokeland, at the mouth of Willapa Bay south of Westport, is famous for long-legged shorebirds such as Greater Yellowlegs, Willet, Long-billed Curlew, and Bar-tailed (nearly annual in fall) and Marbled Godwits. Follow the signs from SR-105 through the Shoalwater Indian Reservation (map on previous page). Obey the 25-mph speed limit—it is strictly enforced. Where the arterial turns left 1.7 miles from the highway, continue straight ahead on Fisher Avenue and park by the rock wall where the road makes a left turn (0.2 mile). Walk out to the sandy beach and search the offshore sandspit and nearby beaches for Brown Pelican (late spring through fall), shorebirds, and gulls. This is one of the most reliable spots in the state for Willet and Long-billed Curlew in migration and winter. In late summer and fall, huge flocks of Sooty Shearwaters sometimes enter Willapa Bay and can be seen from this and other vantage points.

Continue left (north) on Seventh Street, then right in about 75 yards onto Kindred Avenue, which runs east into town. Take a right at Emerson Avenue (hidden street sign on left in 1.0 mile). This dirt road ends in a short distance at Toke Point. Scan the beach, rocks, and pilings for cormorants, Willet, Black Turnstone, Ring-billed, Western, California, Herring (winter), and Glaucous-winged Gulls. Scan the bay and marina for loons (Red-throated, Pacific, Common—and Yellow-billed occasionally in winter).

Return to Kindred Avenue, turn right, and continue a couple of hundred yards until the road ends at the Public Fishing Dock. Park and check the bay for seabirds, including Brant (winter, spring), or watch people tending their crab pots. Stretching west from here along Front Lane, the Tokeland Marina—and especially the long rock breakwater beyond the marina—are a favored high-tide godwit roost from late August through the winter. Very often one or more Bar-taileds can be picked out among 200–500 Marbleds, but the Bar-taileds usually disappear by early winter. Though much rarer, Hudsonian Godwit has been seen here, too. At low tide, the godwits can be anywhere in the Tokeland area including the shoreline at the marina or far out in the bay. Watch for Purple Martin (uncommon) in the marina from midto late summer.

For direct access to the rock breakwater and the surrounding saltwater marsh, drive west on Front Lane to My Suzie’s Store and RV Park. Park out of the way and ask the managers for permission to bird the area (they are birder-friendly). Walk down the stairs at the west end of the RV park and on out to the marsh and breakwater. This is another good place to find Willet (winter).

Many rare landbird vagrants have appeared in Tokeland, among them Snowy Egret, White-winged Dove, Prairie Falcon, Tropical Kingbird, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Black-and-white Warbler, Northern Parula, Lark Bunting, and Hooded Oriole. Walk the short, dead-end residential streets in fall to see what you can see.

map raymond


From Tokeland, SR-105 continues east along the north shore of Willapa Bay. The mouths of the Cedar (2.4 miles) and North (5.7 miles) Rivers can be checked for waterfowl in migration and winter. Turn west on Airport Road (5.9 miles) to the Raymond Airport (officially, Willapa Harbor Airport) on the floodplain at the mouth of the Willapa River. Occasionally, large Elk herds graze nearby. The fields and small freshwater ponds and sloughs along SR-105 near the airport support many wintering ducks and raptors. Watch for roosting shorebirds at high tide, and Palm Warbler in dense brush in fall and winter.

Continue east into the town of Raymond (watch for Western Scrub-Jays in residential areas). Turn right at the T-intersection with US-101 (4.5 miles). Drive southwest along the Willapa River toward South Bend, the “Oyster Capital of the World.” Purple Martins can be found in season along the river. Beyond South Bend, Emperor Goose, Cattle Egret, and Tropical Kingbird have occurred (rarely), and Snow Goose uncommonly in the open farmlands from late fall to early winter. The road parallels the shoreline of Willapa Bay and crosses the Palix River in about 16 miles from Raymond. Turn west (right) onto the Bay Center Dike Road, just after the bridge. When flooded in winter, the fields to the south of the road have waterfowl (including Eurasian Wigeon among the flocks of American Wigeon), shorebirds, and gulls. Large flocks of shorebirds, especially Black-bellied Plover, Dunlin, and dowitchers may be here during spring migration (late April). Loons, grebes, and diving ducks use the three-mile stretch of the river from its mouth to the bridge, and Virginia Rails are common along reedy banks and slough edges. Look for Great or even Snowy Egrets (rare in migration and winter). The best river birding is usually an hour or so before or after high tide.

Continue south on US-101 (map on next page), winding through managed forests interspersed with freshwater creeks that enter the saltwater marshes of Willapa Bay. At the stop sign for SR-4 in 13.5 miles, turn right with US-101 toward Long Beach. Here the road follows the Naselle River across open, expansive marshes. Headquarters for the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge are located on the left in 4.6 miles. Those with a boat can launch it across the road to gain access to nearby Long Island, the largest estuarine island along the Pacific Coast with 5,000 acres of saltgrass tidal marsh, intertidal mudflats, and mostly second-growth forest. (Caution: most low tides are too low for boating in this area.)

A 274-acre Western Redcedar grove is one of the last remnants of the old-growth coastal forest once prevalent in this area. Woods host Bald Eagle, Ruffed and Sooty Grouse, Red-breasted Sapsucker, and Pileated Woodpecker, as well as Elk, Mule Deer, Beaver, and a high concentration of Black Bears. Nesting Band-tailed Pigeons can usually be seen from May through September. Eelgrass beds off the west side of Long Island provide an important food source for large flocks of wintering and migrating Brant. Near the refuge headquarters, at dawn, Marbled Murrelets can be heard passing overhead during the breeding season (best during mid-June to mid-July).

The Lewis Unit of the Willapa NWR is now accessible only by small boat, using the Riekkola Unit entry, described in the following section. The habitat has been radically modified for the better by the recent removal of large dikes in the Porter’s Point and Lewis units.

map willapa


Continue west on US-101 toward Ilwaco (do not use Alternate-101). To reach the Long Beach Peninsula, turn right onto Sandridge Road in 4.7 miles (brown Willapa National Wildlife Refuge sign) and head north. A right turn onto 67th Place (1.6 miles) takes you past cranberry bogs and mixed forest to the parking area and gated entrance (open at some times of year) of the refuge’s Riekkola Unit, in 2.3 miles. In winter, check the large flocks of both Cackling and Canada Geese for different subspecies. Among the two expected Cackling Goose subspecies of Ridgway’s (minima) and Taverner’s, look for the rare Aleutian during migration. A fair number of Dusky Canada Geese can be expected among the typical Canada Geese (moffitti), but Lesser Canada Geese (parvipes) may also be present, though rare.

Return to Sandridge Road and turn north. Turn right at 273rd Street (10.5 miles) in Nahcotta, famous for its oysters: nearly 10 percent of oysters eaten in the U.S. come from Willapa Bay. Check the oyster-shell piles, marina, oyster plants, rock jetty, and nearby waters for Common Loon, Red-necked and Western Grebes, Ruddy and Black Turnstones, Surfbird, Herring Gull (winter), and Glaucous Gull (rare in winter). Also check the waters around the boat basin at the end of 275th Street. Farther north along Sandridge Road, bear right at Territory Road (3.0 miles) to visit the National Historic District of Oysterville with original houses from the 1860s and 1870s. Turn left onto the Oysterville Road (0.4 mile), which goes westward across the peninsula. At 0.4 mile turn north (right) onto Stackpole Road to reach the upper end of the peninsula.

Leadbetter Point State Park, a day-use natural area (Discover Pass required), begins at 2.9 miles north from Oysterville Road. Be bear-aware on all trails here. A small parking lot on the left near the state park entrance provides access to the new Martha Jordan Birding Trail, expected to be completed in 2015. The wheelchair-accessible portion of the trail follows a gravel easement road that reaches Hines Marsh in about a half-mile. This unusual interdunal wetland attracts Trumpeter Swans (winter; scope advised), waterfowl, raptors, and passerines. Jordan worked for years with several conservation organizations to restore and protect the wetland, adding some 240 acres to the state park. Farther along the easement road, the birding trail then turns north to connect with the state park’s Dune Forest Loop trail.

The main parking lot for Leadbetter Point is 1.5 miles north of the park entrance, at the end of Stackpole Road. The land from here up to the end of the peninsula—part of the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge—is Leadbetter Point. Sandy trails lead westward, traversing an interesting succession of plant communities on the way to wide beaches fronting the Pacific Ocean. At the parking lot, mature Sitka Spruce forest with a dense and varied understory prevails; next comes a belt of Lodgepole Pine on sandy soils, and then a shrubby zone with many wax-myrtles—very attractive to wintering Myrtle Yellow-rumped Warblers. Approaching the ocean, introduced European Beachgrass grows in the unstable dunes, just above the high-tide zone. You may walk the outer beach northward all the way to the tip of the peninsula.

On the east side of the point, a rich salt marsh of Pickleweed and Arrowgrass floods and drains twice daily with the change of tides. The marsh and adjacent intertidal zone are an important feeding and resting habitat for Brant, especially during April and May when thousands stop here on their northward migration. There is no trail to Grassy Island, a thicket of willows, alders, and shrubs near the inner tip of Leadbetter Point that can have unusual passerines in migration. Walk the path to the beach on the east side of the point, then follow along the shore north to the tip and on to Grassy Island. It is a long trek. Attempting to take shortcuts may mean backtracks and futile detours to get around the tidal channels in the marshes. The area is prone to flooding at high tide, especially from October to April. Rubber boots are recommended.

While Leadbetter Point is an excellent site for shorebirds, long experience by birders has shown that Ocean Shores and Tokeland provide much easier access for viewing virtually all Washington shorebird species. However, if you want an opportunity to immerse yourself in a wilderness experience, Leadbetter Point is the place for you. With preparation, proper tides, and a willingness to walk, you may encounter shorebirds in great variety and number. Many records of state rarities come from here, including Gray-tailed Tattler, Upland Sandpiper, Little Curlew, Bristle-thighed Curlew, Hudsonian and Bar-tailed Godwits, and Curlew Sandpiper.

Two specific areas are worth mentioning: the salt marsh west of Grassy Island and the ocean beach and flats at the outer point and northwestern shore. In the salt marsh, you may see American and Pacific Golden-Plovers and Pectoral and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers. On the ocean beach and flats, look for Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs in winter; for Snowy Plover (but stay out of the clearly marked, restricted nesting area of this state-endangered species); and rarely, for Streaked Horned Lark, state-endangered subspecies. Impressive shorebird roosts may be encountered anywhere along the outer beach at high tide.

Return to Oysterville and continue south on Sandridge Road. Follow SR-103 where it turns westward on Bay Avenue (8.7 miles), then southward for about 20 miles through the towns of Ocean Park, Klipsan Beach, Long Beach, and Seaview, offering a profusion of motels, restaurants, galleries, and amusements. In Seaview, take US-101 south to the town of Ilwaco at the southern end of the Long Beach Peninsula (1.8 miles to the only traffic light in town, at Spruce Street).


map disappointment


Go west from the traffic light at Spruce Street in Ilwaco and proceed counterclockwise on SR-100 Loop. In 2.1 miles turn right to the North Head Lighthouse. Park in the small lot (0.4 mile, Discover Pass required) and walk 350 yards to the scenic lighthouse. Migrant passerines are common, spring and fall, on the southwest-facing slope of shrubby thickets and mixed coniferous and deciduous woods. Gray Whales (spring), Sooty Shearwaters (fall and spring), American White Pelicans (rare, but increasing), and Brown Pelicans (late spring through fall) swim in offshore waters or fly by the lighthouse, along with scoters, other diving ducks, and Pigeon Guillemots. Black Oystercatchers and Surfbirds may be on nearby rocks.

Return to SR-100 Loop, turn right, then right again at the main entrance to Cape Disappointment State Park (1.1 mile). The 1,666-acre park, located at the mouth of the Columbia River, offers a wide variety of habitats including open salt water, rock jetty, rocky cliffs, sandy ocean beach, saltwater marsh, Sitka Spruce forest, freshwater lakes, Red Alder swamp, shrubby thickets, and park-like settings. (Note: A major project to shore up the jetties at the mouth of the Columbia River began in late 2014 and was expected to disrupt access to Cape Disappointment State Park for up to two years.) Drive ahead past the entrance booth, then follow signs into the campground. Freshwater Lake O’Neil and McKenzie Lagoon, in the center of the park, usually have Pied-billed Grebe, Green Heron (summer), and waterfowl (Trumpeter Swan in winter). Virginia Rails are numerous year round in the sedge marshes. Varied Thrushes patrol the lawns in winter. Check the trees and bushes here, and along the trail to the North Head Lighthouse (trailhead a bit farther along on the right) for passerines, including Orange-crowned, Black-throated Gray, and Wilson’s Warblers from spring through fall, and Red Crossbill at any season. Brushy patches hold winter sparrow flocks. Come back out and drive right to the end of the North Jetty Road (0.8 mile). Along the way, isolated conifers on the south side often have interesting passerines during migration.

The North Jetty (under repair 2015–2016) of the Columbia River is subject to constant winter storms that change access, cut away beachfront, and deposit logs along access roads and parking lots. Pick your way out the rock jetty to view Pacific and Common Loons, long strings of passing Sooty Shearwaters in fall and spring, flying Surf and White-winged Scoters, and Black-legged Kittiwakes (uncommon). Search for Common and Arctic (rare) Terns during migration. Watch for jaegers, with Parasitic being the most likely, in fall and spring migration. Wandering Tattlers (spring and fall), Black Turnstones, Surfbirds, and Rock Sandpipers (rare) inhabit the jetty rocks. Caution: Stay off the jetty when winds and high or incoming tides create dangerous conditions with breaking swells, extreme spray, tidal wash, and treacherous footing.

Return toward the entrance booth. The parking lot for Waikiki Beach, near the campground entrance road, is an excellent place to observe the cliffs of Cape Disappointment, where Brandt’s and Pelagic Cormorants, Glaucous-winged Gulls, and Pigeon Guillemots nest. Turn right at the stop sign after the booth to a parking lot for the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse (the oldest lighthouse still in use on the West Coast) and the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, reached by short, steep trails. Both offer great views of the huge swells as the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. Use caution and stay behind the fence.

Return to the traffic light in Ilwaco and go east on Spruce Street (US-101 southbound). Before you leave town, the waters off the boat basin (three blocks south) are worth a look. Purple Martins nest in the pilings. Stringtown Road turns off to the right from US-101 in 2.0 miles from the stoplight in Ilwaco (easy-to-miss sign; see map on page 72). This road goes south past a small airport (Lapland Longspur fall and early winter), then turns east along the shore of Baker Bay. Here, on 18 November 1805, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition killed “a buzzard of the large kind” measuring 9.5 feet from wingtip to wingtip—an early record of the California Condor, once a regular visitor to the Columbia River.

Check roadside vegetation and feeders at houses for hummingbirds and passerines. In 2.6 miles Stringtown Road rejoins US-101. Turn right a short distance to the bridge over the Chinook River. The river mouth has shorebirds in fall and hundreds of ducks in fall and winter on an incoming tide, although they may be scarce during hunting season.

At the Stringtown Road intersection, drive cautiously straight across US-101 onto the Chinook Dike Road. Continue by open fields lined with brush (winter sparrows). At the T-intersection (1.2 miles), turn right onto Chinook Valley Road. This road is good for geese and ducks, especially during and after rainstorms, and is an important wintering area for raptors. In winter look for White-tailed Kite (rare), Bald Eagle, Red-tailed and Roughlegged Hawks, and Northern Shrike. At the next T-intersection (2.7 miles), turn left to stay on Chinook Valley Road (Lingenfelter Road, straight ahead, is also good).

In 0.8 mile Chinook Valley Road reaches an intersection with US-101 in Chinook. Turn left here. East Sand Island in the Columbia River (actually in Oregon, but visible to the southwest from the Port of Chinook turnoff a short distance ahead), hosts the largest nesting colony of Caspian Terns in the world. Also found on this island is the largest known Double-crested Cormorant breeding colony in Western North America. An increasing number of Brandt’s Cormorants also nest at East Sand. Historically, Caspian Terns nested in Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor. But as the terns lost habitat to vegetation growth, predatory birds, erosion, and human actions, they settled at Rice Island, another dredge-spoil island 12 miles up the Columbia. There, terns devoured an estimated 11 million salmon smolts in 1998. In 1999 and 2000, the Army Corps of Engineers and wildlife agencies ordered vegetation cleared from East Sand Island in an attempt to draw the nesting terns away from high concentrations of migrating smolts at Rice Island. It worked, but the terns began nesting so densely at East Sand Island that the Corps proposed in 2014 to reduce their nesting habitat there. The cormorants consume even more juvenile salmon than do the terns, and the federal agencies are also proposing to shrink the size of their nesting colony. East Sand also serves as a spot for roosting or stopover by Brown Pelicans, Pelagic Cormorants, and several other species.

Four miles farther east, US-101 crosses the Columbia River to Astoria, Oregon, and SR-401 heads east and north along the Washington side of the river, cutting inland to Naselle 9.6 miles past the Astoria-Megler Bridge. At the T-intersection in Naselle (2.5 miles), turn right (east) on SR-4 toward Cathlamet (page 230), or turn left to head west back toward the coast on SR-4.