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Hotspots Near You

204. Julia Butler Hansen Refuge, Cathlamet, Washington

Where to look for Bald Eagles, Wood Ducks, and other birds on Washington’s Columbia River.

This 6,200-acre refuge, named for a local congresswoman, provides habitat for an endangered subspecies of white-tailed deer — and for birds. About 250 of the 365 bird species found in Washington favor this stretch of the Lower Columbia and nearby land. It’s particularly important for wintering waterfowl and migrant shorebirds and songbirds. Your best bet is to drive or cycle Steamboat Slough Rd., paddle the outskirt sloughs, hike the gated and grassy Center Rd., or sit on the river shore. I recommend all of the above.

On a visit in April, I divided my time between land and slough, walking the perimeter roads and paddling the backwaters in my canoe. Geese flying noisily between Price Island and the refuge’s inland fields enlivened the misty sky in the morning. On my afternoon paddle, eight Bald Eagles flew out of a big spruce above Steamboat Slough. The birds nest in the area December through March, and several stay year-round. I saw adults and juveniles throughout the day. Great Blue Herons, Turkey Vultures, Red-tailed Hawks, Cedar Waxwings, swallows, ducks, gulls, and a Peregrine Falcon added to my day’s list. — Rhonda Ostertag

Rhonda Ostertag is a guidebook author. She also wrote about William L. Finley NWR in Corvallis, Oregon, Hotspot Near You No. 120.

204. Julia Butler Hansen Refuge, Cathlamet, Washington


The Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for the Columbian White-tailed Deer protects tidal swamps, marshes, and other habitats along the Columbia River in Washington and Oregon. From north- or southbound I-5, exit onto Hwy. 4 in Kelso and drive west for 28 miles. Turn left at the refuge entrance and proceed 0.2 miles to the headquarters.

Downloadable Files

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
46°13’53.47″N 123°23’55.59″W


Wetlands, riparian areas, grassy bottoms, woodlots, river beaches, islands, and sloughs.


Mostly flat or leveed. Can be birded by car.


Year-round: Bald Eagle, Western Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Northern Harrier, Northern Flicker, Black-capped Chickadee, Winter Wren, Varied Thrush. Spring to fall: Cinnamon Teal, Great Egret, Osprey, Barn, Violet-green, and Tree Swallows, Purple Martin, American Goldfinch, Yellow Warbler. Fall to spring: Tundra Swan, Wood Duck, Greater Scaup, Green-winged Teal, Gadwall, Canada Goose, American Wigeon, Northern Pintail, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Killdeer. Rarities: Black Phoebe, Red-necked Phalarope, Clark’s Grebe, Ring-billed Gull, Anna’s Hummingbird, Yellow-breasted Chat.

When to go



Viewing platform, recent-sightings list, restrooms at headquarters. Wildlife-viewing spot on Hwy. 4 west of refuge entrance. Checklist on website. Columbia River Kayaking, west of refuge, offers guided birding tours by kayak (360-747-1044).


National wildlife refuge. No fees. Open dawn to dusk, year-round. Except for Center Rd., which is open to hiking June through September, refuge interior (including its waters) is closed to the public. No public transportation.


Bring a spotting scope and drinking water. When paddling, check tides and wind, and be careful for boat and ship wakes.

For more info

Julia Butler Hansen Refuge, (360) 795-3915
Willapa Hills Audubon Society

Sites nearby

Willapa Bay
An hour west of refuge near Long Beach off Hwy. 101 and Hwy. 103. Attracts shorebirds in spring and fall, plus Brown Pelican, Common Loon, and grebes.

Lake Sacajawea Park
In Longview off Hwy. 4. City park with lake and woods. Waterfowl, spring warblers, swallows.

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