Update: The Overlook Trail on the south side of Woodard Bay will temporarily close on March 25 to protect seasonally nesting herons and eagles (map).
Please note that this is an active restoration site. Stay on trails and use caution over uneven ground.
Features protected: Five miles of undeveloped shoreline in Puget Sound, mature upland forests, freshwater wetlands, historic and cultural resources. (Thurston County)
Ecoregion: Puget Trough
Woodard Bay Natural Resources Conservation Area was designated by the legislature in 1987, one of the first in the state. A wildlife sanctuary that is just minutes from downtown Olympia, this 800 acres site protects habitat ranging from marine shoreline and wetlands to mature second growth forest. The site has a rich and varied human history that includes Native Americans, early settlers to southern Puget Sound and the logging and shellfish industries.
Woodard Bay provides habitat for shorebirds and songbirds, harbor seals, river otters, bald eagles, a large maternity colony of bats, and one of the most significant heron rookeries in the state. Three hiking trails are within the natural area: a paved road used as trail, a forested loop-trail, and another that is barrier-free, overlooking Woodard Bay. Trails may be closed seasonally to protect nesting herons and eagles.
Woodard Bay NRCA Management Plan (1.29KB PDF)
Environmental Education and Public Access
With interpretive infrastructure including an interpretive center, three hiking trails and signage. Woodard Bay Natural Resources Conservation Area (NRCA) is a popular destination for environmental education. Frequent visitors include kindergarten through 12th grade students and higher education classes. The site provides opportunities for visitors to learn about native wildlife species and native forest, nearshore and wetland ecosystems. For information on educational opportunities and for tours with groups larger than 10 people please contact Pacific Cascade Region, Natural Areas Manager. No dogs allowed—please—to help conserve the ecology of this site.
Information about bats - Bats About Our Town
Science, Research and Monitoring
Public and private universities, other research institutions or individual researchers may contact DNR to propose a research project at the site. If you are interested in pursuing research at Woodard Bay NRCA, please contact David Wilderman, Natural Areas Ecologist at email@example.com
Examples of research and monitoring conducted at Woodard Bay:
Volunteer and Stewardship Opportunities
DNR and People for Puget Sound host several volunteer work days at Woodard Bay NRCA throughout the year. For upcoming volunteer and stewardship opportunities, please contact the Birdie Davenport, Pacific Cascade Region, Natural Areas Manager.
Restoration at Woodard Bay NRCA
From the 1920s until the 1980s, when the site was legislatively designated as an NRCA, Woodard Bay was operated by Weyerhaeuser Co. as a log transfer facility. The creosote-laden remnants of the industrial structures have been providing habitat for important wildlife species like bats, seals, herons and cormorants. However, the structures also obstruct important nearshore processes and contribute to the degradation of water quality. DNR partnered with several organizations to complete a sediment characterization and feasibility study to develop ecosystem process-based restoration alternatives for the aquatic environment at the site. The study prioritized protection for important species present at the site including bats, seals, Olympia oysters, shorebirds and waterfowl.
The first phase of the restoration project was completed in 2010 and included removal of 1,450 tons of creosote-treated materials. The Woodard Bay Trestle and a portion of the Chapman Bay Pier (outside of the primary bat roost area) were removed, in addition to 600 anchor pilings throughout the inlet. The project also included installation of nesting and roosting boxes for purple martins and bats.
Future phases of restoration are pending funding. They include relocating bat roost habitat upland, removal of the northern portion of the Chapman Bay Pier, where the bats do not roost, removal of fill along the shorelines of Woodard and Chapman Bays, and weed control and re-vegetation on twenty-acres of Weyer Point located between the two bays. The restoration plan also includes improvements to existing recreational and educational facilities.
Photos of restoration
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|Chapman Pier in the nearshore before restoration.||Deteriorated creosote-treated super-|
structure on the Chapman Bay Pier
|Removal of the first 160 feet of the|
Chapman Bay Pier.
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|Woodard Bay Trestle before removal.|
|Creosote-treated trestle beginning removal.||Crew removes bolts from Woodard Bay|
Trestle to prepare structure for deconstruction.
Attachments and Links
Directions to the Site
From Olympia: Travel north on East Bay Drive, which becomes Boston Harbor Road. Turn right onto Woodard Bay Road. Travel about ~ 1.5 miles and the road jogs to the left then picks up again to the right. Follow Woodard Bay Rd to the bottom of the hill. The parking area is on your left, just before the bridge.
From I-5 Southbound: Follow I-5 towards Olympia. Take Exit 109 (Martin Way Exit) towards Sleater-Kinney Road. Turn right onto Sleater-Kinney Rd NE. Travel approximately 4.5 miles then continue straight onto 56th Ave NE for 0.4 miles. At "T" turn right onto Shincke Rd NE going 0.5 mi. Turn right to remain on Shincke Rd NE for another 0.5 miles. The road curves to the left and becomes Woodard Bay Rd NE then it curves to the right. Cross the bridge over Woodard Bay and the parking lot is on your right.
From I-5 Northbound: Take I-5 north to the Port of Olympia exit. Travel north on Plum St., which becomes East Bay Dr and then Boston Harbor Rd. Turn right onto Woodard Bay Road. Travel about ~ 1.5 miles and the road jogs to the left then picks up again to the right. Follow Woodard Bay Rd to the bottom of the hill. The parking area is on your left, just before the bridge.
A Washington State Discover Pass is required for parking at this site. This funding helps DNR manage these important natural areas across the state.