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State of Washington Parks

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USA Parks
Rocky Mountain Gateway Region
Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge
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Picnic Table ©
It is always a great day for a picnic in the park.
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In the agriculturally-intensive Yakima Valley of eastern Washington, there is a wildlife oasis--the Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge. Using the waters of Toppenish and Snake Creeks and supplemented with summer irrigation, managers are able to provide a mosaic of refuge wetlands interspersed with lush riparian and native upland habitats.

Wetland habitats rich with food attract thousands of wintering waterfowl, and during the summer, provide breeding grounds for an array of wetland-dependent birds, mammals, and plants. Winding its way through the refuge, Toppenish Creek serves an important role as one of the last remaining streams where Columbia River steelhead, one of America's endangered species, still reproduce in good numbers.

Toppenish Refuge is a place where people observe spectacular concentrations of waterfowl or participate in wildlife-dependent recreation such as hunting, wildlife photography or environmental education programs.
Nature of the Area
Toppenish Refuge is an important link in the chain of feeding and resting areas for waterfowl and other migratory birds using the Pacific Flyway. The refuge was established in 1964 to provide resting areas and food for wintering waterfowl. Each fall, ducks and geese which have nested in Canada and Alaska fly south to winter in Oregon and Washington along the Columbia River. These birds rest and feed at the refuge until harsh winter conditions push them further south. Each fall the waterfowl population on the refuge begins to rise until a peak is reached in November and December when the southward migration to the Columbia River commences. Although the refuge was established primarily for migratory waterfowl, many other migratory and resident wildlife species benefit from refuge habitat management.

The refuge consists of almost 2,000 acres spread across 27 miles of the agriculturally intensive Toppenish Valley in southeastern Washington in the heart of the Yakama Indian Reservation. The main part of the refuge is at the center, with the remaining, smaller parcels spread around it. They are within the floodplain of Toppenish Creek, a year-round tributary of the Yakima River.

Crops are grown on about 250 acres of land by local farmers under cooperative agreement to provide food for waterfowl and to minimize any damage from waterfowl eating surrounding commercial crops. Major food plants grown include corn, barley, wheat, and alfalfa.

Another approximately 1,400 acres of wetland impoundments along Toppenish and Snake Creeks are flooded from October through July to attract waterfowl, shorebirds, and other water-dependent migratory birds. Riparian zones and grasslands provide breeding, migrating, and wintering habitat for a variety of songbirds and raptors.

Of the remaining area, about 500 acres are managed as grasslands and for nesting cover. Unfarmed upland areas, riparian woodlands, open water, marshes, brush piles, and farm fields support a large diversity of wildlife. A small remnant steelhead run still occurs in Toppenish Creek.

Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge is located near Grandview, Sunnyside and Toppenish

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From the town of Toppenish, take Highway 97 south approximately 10 miles.

The refuge entrance is on the west side of Highway 97.

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State of Washington Parks