Local Treasures with Pia: Turnbull National Refuge

You don’t have to be a “bird nerd” to enjoy a trip to Turnbull National Refuge, just south of Cheney. For instance, did you know that more than 10 different types of bats live on Turnbull? Or that the wetlands offer excellent viewing of native flora in spring and summer?

Turnbull covers more than 16,000 acres of Channeled Scablands, a very unusual landscape and ecosystem different from almost anywhere else in the world. There are more than 130 marshes and lakes on Turnbull, connected by small streams and twinkling creeks, nestled between basalt outcrops and patches of ponderosa pine forest. It is a true heaven for migrating and resident waterfowl as well as countless species of songbirds just waiting for you to listen.

It’s easy to find Turnbull: from Cheney, take South Cheney Plaza Road and follow it into the heart of Turnbull where signs will direct you to the visitor center.

Many of the paths around the main visitor parking lot are paved and there are bathrooms as well as viewing points with binoculars.

Turnbull is a dynamic place. In spring, the grass is brilliantly green and flowers bloom everywhere while red winged blackbirds entertain with throaty thrills and clicks from the cattails. White pelicans are a fairly common sight – and if you are lucky you may see a pair of trumpeter swans. To learn more about what the common Turnbull birds look and sound like visit https://www.audubon.org and click on birds.

Okay – enough about the birds, what else is there to do? Wear sturdy shoes and follow one of the maintained footpaths out into the Refuge. It’s relatively level terrain and because it’s so flat, it’s easy to navigate. You may see large mammals like Rocky Mountain Elk or Moose – and among the ponderosa pines you could spot a northern flying squirrel.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Turnbull website features lots of information and maps, including these wildlife viewing tips:

You do need a Washington State Discover Pass to access the Refuge. You may buy a one-year pass online. It’s $35 and valid for a year from the day of purchase. It may be transferred between two vehicles as needed. One-day passes at $11.50 can also be purchased.


Visit the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Turnbull website to learn more and view maps.

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  1. Recreation

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