Located on the tip of the Long Beach Peninsula, Leadbetter Point separates Willapa Bay from the Pacific Ocean. Preserved in its natural state by two public agencies, the point’s appearance changes constantly as dunes shift, become stabilized or erode away. The Peninsula is in its geologic “youth” at Leadbetter Point, where it still continues to grow. Here, picturesque sand dunes support stands of beach grass, lupine, wild strawberry, sand verbena, sea rocket and beach pea. Potholes created by the wind between the dunes fill with winter rains and support willow and marsh plants. A salt marsh of pickleweed and arrowgrass on the bay side of the point is flooded and drained twice daily with the movement of the tides. Biologists have recorded over 100 species of birds here.
There are four hiking trails in the refuge:
- Yellow Trail runs up the beach of Willapa Bay and continues across the Peninsula 1.8 miles to the mighty Pacific.
- Blue Trail is the shortest route from bay to ocean at just 1.3 miles.
- Green Trail is an inland path that connects with Yellow Trail. This short trail is just .5 miles long.
- Loop Trail runs 2.1 miles from the south to north parking lot.
Abundant and Diverse Wildlife
Tens of thousands of shorebirds feed and rest on the ocean beaches, salt marshes and bay tidal flats here during spring and fall migration peaks. Shorebirds and seabirds often number in the hundreds of thousands as they stop to feed and rest during their migrations. In spring and summer, nesting species include grouse, bald eagles, herons, woodpeckers and shorebirds.
During the nesting season (March through September) a portion of Leadbetter Point is closed to public entry to protect the nesting area of the snowy plover, a small shorebird species which reaches the northern limit of its breeding range here.
Winter is Willapa’s season. The greatest diversity of birds is present, including large flocks of black brant, Canada geese, American widgeon, canvasbacks, scaup, buffleheads and scoters. Loons, grebes, mergansers and cormorants join them on the bay while dunlin, plovers and sandpipers line the tideflats. Be prepared to hike in water if you plan to enjoy Leadbetter during the annual winter flood season.
The beach trails flood deeply from November through mid-May (and in some years from mid-October through the end of June). Mid-winter flooding is knee deep and may be waist deep in places. Travel is discouraged for less than serious birders and hikers as attempting to bypass wet areas damages the environment and will prove fruitless as there is simply no dry route to the beach during the annual flood.
Please note that collection of plants, animals, and artifacts, including mushrooms, is prohibited on national wildlife refuges.
In addition to Leadbetter Point, the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge consists of Willapa Bay, Long Island, Lewis Unit and Riekkola Unit.
A Discovery Pass is required to park at the Refuge.
- US Fish & Wildlife Service: Snowy Plovers
- US Fish & Wildlife Service: Forest Management
- US Fish & Wildlife Service: Spartina
- US Fish & Wildlife Service: Willapa National Wildlife Refuge
- Friends of the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge
- funbeach.com: Long Island
- funbeach.com: Willapa National Wildlife Refuge