Frank Richardson Wildfowl Preserve


Channel Road, northwest of Deer Harbor
Deer Harbor , WA 98243


Every day Never Closes


The Frank Richardson Waterfowl Preserve offers some of the best freshwater bird viewing in the San Juans. Located on private property, the public is invited to enjoy the peek-a-boo views of the wildlife that are to be had from the roadside margin of the wetland. The preserve is dedicated to the memory of Frank Richardson whose retirement home was located nearby. Known to close friends as "The Birdman," this University of Washington Zoologist was well known not only for his passion for birding but for his early involvement and long history of support for conservation efforts in the State of Washington.

The mention of roadside viewing at this location fails to accurately portray the wealth of wildlife observation that is enjoyed by visitors to this marsh. Using the roadside shrubbery as a convenient blind, birders and other wildlife enthusiasts can enjoy the quiet and surreptitious hunt for views of animals behaving naturally in their home environments. With public entry prohibited, the number of species and natural behaviors of the waterfowl are enhanced making this marsh exceptionally useful for species counts and behavioral observations.

Unlike many birding areas, this superb marsh has a loyal following in all seasons. The quiet protected setting makes it an ideal location for waterfowl to raise their young in the spring and summer. During this time it's common to see parents instructively leading their broods about the pond borders. In the fall, many species of migratory fowl visit the wetland for a necessary rest on their way to distant locations. With the arrival of winter when other locations may become quiet and thinly populated, the Frank Richardson Preserve is a wonderful place to visit. Not only rich in species, the viewing opens up with the falling of the leaves from the shrub border and surrounding forest providing more extensive if less hidden viewing.

The richness of this habitat is the result of several factors including its proximity to saltwater, the surrounding marsh and woodland habitats, and the extensive pond that provides the necessary component for the waterfowl. While a marsh has always existed in this upland basin, the pond was created not by nature but by man, accidentally. Traced to an old agricultural project and a plugged culvert, the resulting impoundment is now a critical component of the preserve. Beyond this, a conservation easement has created a contiguous wildlife corridor between the marsh and the nearby saltwater lagoon, thus benefiting and attracting an even wider range of local wildlife.

Located close to Deer Harbor, those arriving by either boat or car can visit the marsh as part of an enjoyable roadside walk. Even though this is a quiet and remote corner of Orcas Island, you’ll still want to be mindful of traffic. While enjoying your walk don’t forget the sea. With a saltwater lagoon and bay nearby, connections between the freshwater marsh and the saltwater are an essential part of the local ecosystem and you can see a lot of bird traffic passing overhead between these areas on any day.
Written By: Bud Hardwick
On: 7/27/2009


Drive or walk west from Deer Harbor around the upper end of the bay on Channel Road. After crossing the bridge over the "channel" that separates Cayou Lagoon from Deer Harbor go another ¾ of a mile. The road climbs and turns away from the harbor and when it levels again, the marsh will appear on the right. There is a small pull-out area near the dedication memorial on the left. Be careful not to block the road if parking.


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