Discover the Tualatin Valley’s Natural Side this Summer

Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge

The Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge is One of Oregon’s Best Natural Attractions

Did you know one of the most precious natural attractions in our region is just minutes from The Grand Hotel at Bridgeport? The Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, a 1856 acre wildlife sanctuary home to nearly 200 bird species and 70+ other animal species, is a quick drive from Tualatin and Tigard (15 miles SW of Portland).

It was established as an urban refuge to provide habitats for a variety of migratory birds, threatened and endangered species, fish and other resident wildlife. Walking trails in the refuge include a one-mile trail open year-round and a three-mile service road open from May-September.

Though the refuge is located in an urban surrounding (it’s just one of approximately ten urban refuges in the U.S.), you would never know it once you enter this magical place. Many of our visitors tell us the serene and quiet environment makes them feel as if they’ve have been transported to another world.

According to their annual report,  nearly 20,000 visitors passed through the Wildlife Center this past year.  Here’s what some visitors had to say-

“A beautiful, well preserved area – with a park, hiking and walking trails, a river, fields, forest, picnic spots, etc. A great area for respite from the hustle and bustle of the new age!”

“This is a favorite family getaway, we have been coming here since the day they opened!”

“Great stop! Bring binoculars, OR RENT THEM from the visitors center. Go inside the visitors center and use their binocular set up to see the eagles nest!!!!!!”

“Great trails for easy walks, well-maintained benches and observation areas. A good mix of forested and open spaces with excellent opportunities for bird-watching with the naked eye.”

Source: Yelp  & Trip Advisor

“Tualatin is setting an example of how an urban refuge should work with the community,” Joan Patterson, director of grassroots outreach at the National Wildlife Refuge Association in Washington, D.C., says in this Oregonian article and adds that the Friends are a “model for the rest of the nation.”

The 6,300-square-foot Wildlife Center is open year-round and includes classrooms, a student lab, a gift shop, and informational displays, and hands-on exhibits, and is next to a grove of oak trees estimated to be 350 years old.

It is described in this 2008 post as “a shrine to curiosity, wonder and awe. The display hall tells the history of the refuge in murals, from untouched wilderness to tamed onion fields to the ongoing effort of restoring its 1,358 acres to their natural state…..the center is meant only as a base, a brief perch for visitors before they swoop out to explore wetland and forest.”

When you go-

  • Bring Binoculars for a closer look at wildlife
  • Come Early or Stay Late- Early morning and dusk are the best times of the day to view wildlife. Please note that the refuge is open from dawn to dusk.
  • Use Identification Guides- Use field guides to help you identify the wildlife and plant species that you may see or hear.
  • Move slowly. Quick movements and loud noises will frighten most wildlife away. Try sitting quietly in one location. Animals that have hidden may reappear after a short while. Teach children quiet observation. Other visitors will appreciate your consideration.
  • Be Aware- Pay attention to sounds and smells around you. Look for animal signs. Tracks, scat, feathers, and chewed plants left behind often tell interesting stories. But remember to leave these discoveries where you found them.
  • Be Respectful- Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge is a place where wildlife comes first. When visiting, always remember that you are a guest in their home. For the protection of wildlife and their homes, visitors must stay on maintained trails. Please, no off-trail use.
  • Observe wildlife from the sidelines and do not approach too closely. Don’t offer snacks; your lunch could disrupt wild digestive systems.

Don’t miss the Tualatin River Bird Festival on May 16, 2015!  This special celebration of wildlife features exciting outdoor fun and activities, entertainment, guided bird walks and more at the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge

During your visit, we hope you will discover the many natural wonders in our area with the Nature Passport — a handy, portable guide to some of the best nature spots in the area provided by Washington County Visitors Association.

For more information on upcoming events, please visit:

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photo credit: Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge via photopin (license)

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