It was a gorgeous Saturday. We were just finishing up breakfast, so I asked my wife Peg what she would like to do. She said, “Go to a movie.” We love the Grand Cinema, but they had nothing scheduled. We live just above Point Ruston, so I checked the PR theaters, but nothing looked interesting to either of us. Next, Peg suggested the Nisqually Delta. Soon we were there enjoying the views and the walk.
If you’ve never visited the Nisqually Delta, you owe it to your self and your family to visit the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. I-5 passes over the Nisqually River between DuPont and Lacey. There are several parts to the Wildlife Refuge. We decided to settle for the only walk near the only parking space we could find.
“Billy Frank Jr. was a Native American environmental leader and treaty rights activist. A Nisqually tribal member, Frank led a grassroots campaign for fishing rights on the tribe’s Nisqually River, located in Washington state, in the 1960s and 1970s. As a lifelong activist and the chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission for over thirty years, Frank promoted cooperative management of natural resources.” – Wikipedia
I met Billy Frank Jr. when we were both being interviewed on the Don St. Thomas TV Show. He spoke on fishing rights, and I spoke about Christmas House of Tacoma Pierce County. He was pleasant to talk with. Peg and I love the refuge and how apt to name it after someone who believed in the land and nature. For more information, please, visit – wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/nisqually-nwr
What’s great about the Nisqually Delta is that you see all aspects of life and death and their beauty. I love old trees. I found one that had seen fire at one time or another. Much of the base was covered in moss, but it still had life and was holding its ground by the roots. However, you can see through the base of the tree and the trunk is tilted. Its days are numbered, but then so are’t we all?
We chose to walk on the boardwalk about the lake edge. Peg spotted a pair of ducks. While the female swam about, the male duck upended himself looking directly down for something to eat on the lake bottom. While we couldn’t see what he was after, later on our walk we could see directly into the water and vegetation underwater with what looked like blossoms and reddish orange fruit.
Spaced out on the boardwalk are signs that explains the habitat and the residents from marsh wrens to eagles. While reading one of the informative signs, Peg saw two bees/wasps/hornets either fighting each other, swapping pollen, kissing, or sharing information. There was no one to ask on the walk and even if there were someone with knowledge, they probably couldn’t handle all our questions.
We found an interesting outgrowth on one older tree. It had a patch with numerous new limbs growing out and up. The newest had a yellowish green look to them, contrasting with the grayish old growth.
Soon we found a turtle warming himself with the afternoon sun. Turtles withdraw their neck, head, and feet into their shell to protect themselves. There’s nothing rarer than turtle teeth, because turtles don’t have teeth, but they do have strong beaks that allow them to bite, tear, and chew. Never pet a big turtle and this one had a shell about a foot long.
As we began our walk, we were interested in mostly the wildlife, but returning we took a closer look at the buds and blossoms that we saw everywhere. The day was warm and windless. We weren’t dressed for cold weather and we were comfortable and this was merely the 13th of March. We know there are all forms of wildlife around Nisqually, but we didn’t expect the plants to be showing their colors and displaying such energetic spring growth.
Several years ago we stayed in DuPont a couple of days to explore the area AND Nisqually. You might enjoy our story – nwadventures.us/DuPont.html
Leslie Gracey says
Don, regarding the hornets in your photo, were they large? Could they be “murder hornets”? Maybe should forward the photo to state wildlife department so they could take action if necessary.
Don Doman says
Thanks for commenting.
The images I’ve seen of the Murder Hornets looked orangy and hairy, so I really doubt they are the same. What we saw in Nisqually were yellow and black and more interested in themselves than anything else.
Thanks for sharing.
Mary Clare Benson says
Don, thanks for your article about this nearby gem. Last summer my son and I took his three boys to the Billy Frank Jr. Wildlife Refuge for one of our “field trip Fridays” and we all loved it. Even though we needed to be masked and distanced with others, there was enough space and distancing on the paths for the boys to run a bit and once you are walking on them you feel very far from the busy freeway nearby. The old barns on the property were a surprise to me, reminders of the farming history of the property
It’s a truly lovely oasis to wander in, and now that things are improving with Covid vaccination progress some of the buildings and features there should be open again to the public that were closed on our visit last year.
Nearby on the other side of the freeway is a delicious Indian cafe next to a gas station, called Curry Corner. Well worth a stop before or after a trip to the wildlife preserve.
Don Doman says
Thank you for comments.
Curry Corner? I’ve already told my wife . . . I’ll have to tell my friends as well. What I love about this treasure of nature refuge is that it is different every time you visit. You could probably go two days in a row and see something new and wonderful that my missed the first time. As the weather changes Nisqually changes. The boardwalk makes viewing easy. I would love to get a bigger lens for my camera just to reach out a little bit further and find my eye closer.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
My Onalaska School District planned an interesting Field Trip to the Delta in early Spring relating to fish hatching. Ony’s FFA actively raises a couple types of fish in their tanks in the Onalaska Bus Compound for the Mill Pond which goes to a creek which dumps into the Newaukum River. Their hatches and the successful “returns to their hatchery” has been a successful program.
I cannot speak to the program now as I have retired, but the Delta was an interesting program for FFA to observe.
Tom Shaw says
Great pictures Don. Thanks for sharing.
Don Doman says
Thanks for the compliment. Sharing is what we do.