[Local Lore] Wild and Free at the William L. Finley Wildlife Refuge


Tucked deep in the heart of Corvallis sits a whimsical wildlife habitat; a home to many seasonal creatures as they make their semi-annual migratory routes. Created back in 1964, the William L Finley National Wildlife Refuge is a preserved natural land area in the Oregon’s greater Willamette Valley and is notorious for the flocks of dusky Canada geese that frequent the landscape. Unlike typical Canadian geese, their dusky cousins nest and mate along the Copper River Delta in Alaska over the Summer and visit the vast acreage of wetlands of the Finley Wildlife Refuge during the colder, Winter months.

One of the last intact wet prairies in the area, the refuge was a reaction to the Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964 which diminished the available natural land for dusky Canadian geese. Fast forward almost forty years and in 2006 the Snag Boat Bend Unit was acquired as a partition of the reserve, adding almost 350 acres of unique, historic habitat to the already sprawling 5,300 acres of wetlands covered by the Finley Reserve.


Beyond the dusky Canadian goose, the William L Finley Wildlife Refuge also plays homebase for a variety of flora, fauna and fowl throughout the year with a handful of habitat regions on site, ranging from wet prairies on the East End to sprawling wetlands off of Muddy Creek, or to the upland Oregon white oak savannas and forests. On any given day, you could run into a menagerie of birds and waterfowl from migratory raptors like the rough-legged hawk to turkey vultures, peregrine falcons, golden and bald eagles, to great horned owls and geese, great blue herons, wood ducks and swans, woodpecker colonies and meadowlarks; not to mention the herds of Roosevelt Elk, blacktailed deer, coyotes and bobcats, alongside pond turtles, red legged frogs and the endangered yet recently re-introduced Fender’s blue butterfly.


For a full spectrum of the Refuge, I highly suggest returning throughout the year. Even though Winter is wonderful to observe the migratory patterns of waterfowl, November marks the beginning of ‘Sanctuary Season’ which closes off the interior or the park for resting animals; the season end on April 1st, and all interior trails are opened once again.


Whether you’re hiking, cycling or simply just observing the world at large, the refuge boasts a menagerie of looping trails and rolling hills throughout the grounds, offering over a handful unique hiking paths that cover over a dozen miles of land. For those looking to stay lazy, fret not – there’s an auto tour route with ample roads for roaming. Posted every now and again, you’ll find neat tidbits and educational facts on the nature and ancient nurture of the area.


Originally, the land was settled by the Kalapuya tribe – a conglomeration of thirteen related tribal groups speaking three distinct languages among themselves; each tribal group inhabited a specific area along and around the Willamette River. With the volcanic Cascade Mountains nearby, tribes around the river effectively fashioned obsidian  arrowheads and spears; if you look hard enough, you can still find obsidian artifacts and minerals in the area to this day – including in the grounds of the Wildlife Refuge. On the other end of history, is the Willamette Valley segment of the Applegate Trail, first used in the 1840’s – it’s a more southerly trail than the Oregon Trail sauntered through by European Settlers.

For more on the William L Finley Wildlife Refuge, head to their social channels – or simply go pay them a wonderful visit; I promise, it’s worth it!

What are your favorite spots to observe the wistful, wonderous wildlife in your town? Let me know in the comments below!

Website | Friends of the WLF Refuge | Facebook | Twitter


One thought on “[Local Lore] Wild and Free at the William L. Finley Wildlife Refuge

  1. wanderingbare says:

    Finley Wildlife refuge is big, it’s really big with open spaces. Offering plenty of space to enjoy a secluded naked walk. In the afternoon the refuge is usually deserted since most people visiting are there in the morning and evening when the birds and wildlife is more active. We have met a few textiled visitors in the past, it’s usually not a problem.
    Enter the reserve at the Beaver & Cattail Ponds trailhead, walking down a tree-lined service road to an old rock quarry site. Then through the Maple Knoll Research Natural Area and on to Beaver Pond.
    At the interior service road that runs through the reserve and ties the Mill Hill Loop, Pigeon Butte Trails and the Campbell Board Walk.
    Saturday, August 8th, 2020 turned out to be another fantastic day for wandering naked at Finley Nature Refuge. We had a great turnout of 12, and yes, once again the boys outnumbered the girls 10 to 2.
    At the trailhead a couple was walking down the path towards the exit. They were the only people we would see in the entire reserve. We could have been walking around without any clothes on, and nobody would have known. We were walking around naked and nobody was the wiser.
    Finley Nature Refuge has never disappointed. Even in the spring when we’re suffering from cabin fever and it’s still cold we had a great time there. This time was no exception, we had another fantastic naked adventure. Walking down tree-lined roads, through moss-covered trees, past cattail lined ponds, in wide-open spaces, over Pigeon butte, and in golden fields of tall grass, while picking blackberries along the way. Wow, all this while enjoying nature in the most natural way possible.
    This is the fourth summer Wandering Bare has been holding clothing-optional events at Finley Nature Refuge. It’s always been an excellent place to be naked and enjoy the freedom.


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