William L Finley NWR is a 5325-acre refuge, created in 1964 to provide a safe wintering habitat for Dusky Canada Geese. They nest in Alaska’s Copper River Delta and winter almost exclusively in the wetlands of the Willamette Valley. The refuge is about 10 miles south of Corvallis. From Corvallis go S on SR 99W for 9 mi (2 mi past Greenberry Store) and turn R on Finley Refuge Rd. Go W 1.3 mi and turn S to enter refuge at the north prairie overlook. This road continues SW for 3.5 mi across the refuge to Bellfountain Rd. Woodpecker Loop and other trailheads are near W end of the road.
From intersection of SR 99W and Finley Refuge Rd continue 2.6 mi S and turn W on Bruce Rd, and go W 0.5 mi to gravel parking area for boardwalk trail to viewing blind on McFadden Marsh. Follow Bruce Rd west for access to the south portion of the refuge.
From Nov–Mar most wetland trails are closed to protect wintering waterfowl. Birders must stay in cars along roads, but a boardwalk along Muddy Creek ending at a viewing blind overlooking Cabell Marsh allows for winter wetland viewing. Upland trails are open year-round. The refuge is open from sunrise to sunset. Entrance is free. ADA accessible restroom facilities are provided at the refuge office.Directions
Habitat and Birds
Over 250 bird species have been recorded on the refuge’s varied habitats, which include expansive wetlands, oak savanna, grasslands, upland and riparian forest. Boardwalks, trails, and observation blinds provide excellent viewing opportunities. The north prairie overlook provides views across a large part of the 400 acres of native wet prairie; look for White-tailed Kite, Short-eared Owl, Northern Harrier, Western Kingbird, Northern Shrike, Western Meadowlark, and Lincoln’s, Grasshopper and Savannah Sparrows. Farther SW look for Wood Duck, Hooded Merganser, and Cinnamon Teal in ponds, and White-breasted Nuthatch, Western Bluebird, Lazuli Bunting and Acorn Woodpecker in the oaks, with an occasional Lewis’s Woodpecker. Brushy areas host wintering Varied Thrush and Golden-crowned Sparrow, nesting Swainson’s Thrush and Yellow-breasted Chat, and resident Wrentit.
Migratory waterfowl are abundant throughout the refuge, but McFadden’s Marsh often holds the largest winter flocks of Northern Pintail, Tundra Swan, and Cackling and Canada Goose, which roost and forage by the thousands. Goose flocks can include Greater White-fronted, Snow, Ross’s, or Emperor Goose. Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon are often around these flocks; also watch for the occasional Golden Eagle, Red-shouldered Hawk, or Barred Owl. In spring look and listen for American Bittern and Common Yellowthroat. Farther W on Bruce Rd, a wide gravel trail gives seasonal access to the interior of the refuge, including Pigeon Butte and Cabell Marsh (closed Nov–Mar), and a hiking trail through riparian habitat leads to Cheadle Marsh. Scan grazed grass fields for American Pipit, Streaked Horned Lark, and Lapland Longspur (rare). In spring, scan the small mitigation wetland W of Cheadle Marsh for Wilson’s Phalarope and Yellow-headed Blackbird, along with more common wetland birds. Rough-legged Hawk is regularly seen here in winter.