William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge

Mill Hill Trail, William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge
Mill Hill Trail

William L. Finley was the conservationist who convinced President Theodore Roosevelt to set aside the first national wildlife refuge west of the Mississippi River. This 5,666-acre NWR that is named for him is situated at the western edge of the Willamette Valley along the foothills of the Coast Range in northwestern Oregon. There is a second unit of the National Wildlife Refuge at Snag Boat Bend, just to the east across the Willamette River.

The primary mission at William L. Finley NWR is to provide high quality wintering habitat for the dusky Canada goose. That goose spends its summers at the Copper River Delta in Alaska and spends its winters almost exclusively in the much smaller area of the Willamette Valley. Habitats on the property include upland forest and prairie, wetlands and wet prairie, riparian forest and cultivated farm fields. This is an area of meandering creeks filled with bottomland Oregon ash forest, native prairie, old growth big-leaf maple in a mixed coniferous forest and wildlife food crops interspersed with Oregon white oak savanna. Part of the effort here is to reduce the damage done by geese browsing the neighboring private agricultural fields.

Also on the refuge is a herd of Roosevelt elk. Among the endangered and threatened species found on the property are Bradshaw's desert parsley, Oregon chub, bald eagle and peregrine falcon. There is an archery deer hunting season and a shotgun deer hunting season but elk hunting is not allowed. There are 12 miles of trails on the property with several observation blinds and platforms along the routes. There is also an auto tour route that crosses the heart of the national wildlife refuge and allows you to visit those areas that the dusky Canada geese call home in the winter. Fishing is allowed in designated areas from May 1 through October 31.

To get there: At milepost 93 on Highway 99W (7.5 miles north of Monroe, 10 miles south of Corvallis) go west on Finley Refuge Road. Once you turn into the refuge, follow the signs for three miles to the headquarters. The Snag Boat Bend Unit is about 1 mile south of Peoria on River Road North.

Waterfowl production areas at William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge tend to be closed when the geese are in residence. Usually the entire refuge is open to the public from the beginning of April to the end of October. The property is open from sunrise to sunset only.

The Woodpecker Loop Trail is located just off Finley Refuge Road and is open all year round. This is a 1.1-mile loop trail that was designated a National Recreation Trail in 2005. The trail travels through several of the habitats present on the refuge and offers an overlook with spectacular views of the Willamette Valley and the Cascade Range. There is usually an interpretive brochure available at the trail head kiosk but there are also interpretive signs scattered along the route.

The Mill Hill Loop Trail is on the west side of the refuge, beginning and ending at the Display Pond parking lot. This is a 3-mile trail that is also open year round. The trail loops around Display Pond and follows a refuge road up and down through many different forest types.

There are several trails in the McFadden Marsh area off Bruce Road and a couple trails leading out of the headquarters parking lot to Cabell Marsh. Some of these trails are open year round but several of the longer ones are closed from the end of October to the end of April.

Bird watchers at William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge
Watching the birds at William L. Finley NWR
Oak savanna at William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge
Oak savanna on the refuge
Map of William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge