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Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, Othello, WA

    In 2001, we first went over to the Potholes/Columbia NWR area to see the Sandhill Cranes.  Despite camping and hiking in the usual rain and wind combos, we’ve gone each year since then to see the cranes migrate through.  And each time we manage to have a good time.  We started by camping at Potholes State Park – back before it became popular or crowded.  We’ve since moved on to camping at Upper Goose Lake on the refuge.  We enjoy this better – hardly any people (sometimes none) and we see (and hear) the Sandhill Cranes flying out to feed in the mornings and returning to the refuge at dusk to roost.
    The part of the refuge we camp on is open to hiking.  So we often hike around the mesas and open sage.  We’ve hiked along the Upper Goose Lake down and around the Lower Goose Lake.  Animal paths and trails make hiking fairly easy, and the small dams on the lake are crossable.
    Other popular birding spots in the area include the O'Sullivan Dam, Potholes State Park, the "Para Ponds" on Hwy-26 just west of Othello, Dodson Road, the Potholes Reservoir, and Lower Crab Creek.


Upper Goose Lake
Sandhill Cranes fly over Goose Lake at dawn and dusk.
Different subspecies of Sandhill Crane migrate through Washington, with a few staying to breed in Washington.

I think the Sandhill Crane is of the Greater race and the two on the right are of the Lesser or Canadian race.

Yellow-bellied Marmots live among the mesas
Small-flowered Woodland Star
Spreading phlox
Yellow Bells
In 2010, we noticed many black widow spiders. At night many were out building their webs near their small burrows. During the day time there were still a few out but these were seen in the mouths of the old larger animal burrows. These spiders were very shy and fled to their homes during our approaches.
Sagebrush and open plains of Columbia National Wildlife Refuge

Bird List
Canada Goose
Trumpeter Swan
Northern Shoveler
Common Goldeneye
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Northern Pintail
American Wigeon
Eurasian Wigeon
Green-winged Teal (& Common Teal)
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Hooded Merganser
California Quail
Ring-necked Pheasant
Common Loon
Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
American Bittern
Great Blue Heron
American Kestrel
Red-tailed Hawk
Northern Harrier
Cooper's Hawk
Prairie Falcon
American Coot
Sandhill Crane (Greater & Lesser/Canadian race)
Wilson's Snipe
Long-billed Curlew
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Northern Flicker
Say's Phoebe
Loggerhead Shrike
Black-billed Magpie
American Crow
Common Raven
Horned Lark
Violet-green Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Rock Wren
Canyon Wren
Marsh Wren
American Robin
Hermit Thrush
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Song Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Spotted Towhee
Red-winged Blackbird
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Brewer's Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
House Finch

Other Critter List

Mule Deer
Mountain Cottontail
Yellow-bellied Marmot
Bat sp.
Gopher Snake
Pacific Treefrog
Black Widow Spider

March 2006 & Para Ponds/Lower Crab Creek
March 2010 & Para Ponds/Lower Crab Creek

March 2011



Located: Othello, WA
Directions: Off of I-90 (where the freeway crosses the Columbia River) take hwy-26 east to Royal City/Othello, go north on to hwy-262 (toward Potholes State Park), follow hwy-262 across the O'Sullivan Dam to the north entrance of Columbia NWR or turn east onto McManamon Road to enter the refuge from the south.
Columbia National Wildlife Refuge


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page updated: 3/27/11