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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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[Oh, Snap!] Ringing In 2015 at The University of California’s Botanical Garden in Berkeley

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After crushing it into the New Years at Sea of Dreams for the second time running, the New Years Day was spent marinating in the good tidings of the past year, and the first half of Friday was devoted to work. But, as noon settled in – I got the call from my boss that everyone wishes they had: If you have your work in, you’re dismissed. All week, I’d made it a mission to get ahead of myself so I could coast into the New Year; it was totally working.  My parents were poised to pounce with a bevvy of beautiful options for the afternoon – we could go to Land’s End and enjoy the roar of the Pacific, or they could whisk us over the Bay Bridge and into one of two Botanical Gardens manned by the University of California School System, the other located at UCLA ./home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/117/39265557/files/2015/01/img_6142.jpg As Ursula from The Little Mermaid taunted, ‘Life is full of tough choices‘; but when one of them happened to be a place I’d already been, and the later a place my family had never spent time, I knew exactly where we should be.

The sun just reached it’s pinnacle and we were off, galloping across the glistening San Francisco Bay into new territory, Oakland’s Strawberry Canyon. Within seconds we were lost in the wilderness, whimsically in wanderlust.   Tucked away in the hillside, high above the city and it’s highest skyscrapers – the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley is one of the Bay Area’s best kept secrets. Boasting over 12,000 rare and unusual plants selectively segmented across 34 acres and multiple greenhouses, these botanical gardens are among the most populated and diverse in the entire United States.

For you number nerds like me – according to their site, this is the breakdown in numbers:

  • 300+ families
    • 2,710 genera
      • 9,670 species
        • 12,800 taxa
          • 19,300 accessions (each accession represents one or more plants in the Garden).

The five best-represented families are:

  1. Cactus family (2,029 accessions; 1,198 taxa)
  2. Sunflower family (1,002 accessions; 771 taxa)
  3. Orchid family (1,030 accessions; 711 taxa)
  4. Lily family (1,097 accessions; 675 taxa)
  5. Heath family (979 accessions; 614 taxa).

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/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/117/39265557/files/2015/01/img_6157.jpg From Cactus Gardens to Herb Gardens, Medicinal Chinese Gardens and massive plots of native Californian, South American, African, Mediterranean and Asian plants – the botanical gardens represents the entire globe, with an emphasis on plants from Mediterranean Climates. Not to mention, there’s an amazing arena for succulents.

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The gardens are open daily from 9 to 5PM and tickets typically run at $10 a head – but, know before you go: there’s free admission the first Wednesday of every month!

 For more about the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley, visit their various socials:

 Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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