Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge has become one of my favorite places to visit, hike, explore, and photograph. Having visited many times, I still find something new and interesting about the area every time I go. The refuge spans a little over 18,000 acres between wetlands, prairies, and forested woodlands. Throughout the acreage, an abundance of diverse wildlife can be found. Everything from birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and numerous mammal species can be seen at Turnbull.
The number of birds that utilize the refuge is quite high at around 200 different species. Some of the more sought out birds to be found are the Trumpeter Swans, Great Horned Owls, Blue Herons, American Goldfinch, and the American White Pelican. Many of the birds are migratory and can be seen seasonally as they come and go, but there are also a large number of birds (over 120 species) that nest in the refuge. The best seasons to see the majority of birds are the warmer months, while hiking through the refuge under beautiful blue skies and Spring and Summer sunsets.
A nicely detailed map of the refuge can be found on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service website. This map shows the hiking trails and driving route with accurate descriptions and points out various areas of interest. A large variety of mammals wander though the refuge also, and can be spotted quite often. Obviously the chances of spotting certain animals depends on the season and time of day. Most recommendations, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife point to going in the early morning and evening, as the larger animals are out and about more during those hours.
I have been fortunate enough to capture photos of many of the animal species that leave tracks through Turnbull. Tiny chipmunks, graceful coyotes wandering through the snow, massive moose that simply stop and gaze at exploring hikers. Those are some of the experiences I have had, and there is also a herd of close to 400 elk as some sources say. I have seen some of that herd off in the distance, grazing upon the grass growing along the treeline of the pine forest. Warmer weather will have the frogs and snakes and other small reptiles and amphibians out in the rocky outcroppings as well.
So how was Turnbull formed, and how did it become such a rich habitat for the animals we can see there today? As with many other regions in Washington, forces of nature from a very long time ago all played a part in the development of the area as we know it. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife website a combination of ancient volcanic activity, glacial movements, and incredibly powerful floods helped to form the area known as the channeled scablands. Established in 1937, the refuge has a lasting beauty that is enhanced by the trees, shrubs, and wildflowers you can enjoy while hiking along the many trails that dissect the landscape. Just a short drive from Spokane, this is certainly a place to take day trips and enjoy a plethora of wild flora and fauna.