Description - Each fall, the ducks and geese which have nested in Canada and Alaska fly south to winter in Oregon and Washington along the Columbia River. These birds rest and feed at the refuge until harsh winter conditions push them further south. During the fall the waterfowl population begins to rise until a peak is reached in November and December when the southward migration to the Columbia River commences.
The refuge is managed to produce habitat for wintering waterfowl. Crops are grown by local farmers under cooperative agreement to provide food for waterfowl and to minimize any damage from waterfowl eating surrounding commercial crops. Major food plants grown include corn, barley, wheat, and alfalfa.
Wetland impoundments along Toppenish and Snake Creeks are flooded from October through July to attract thousands of waterfowl in the fall and spring as well as shorebirds and other water-dependent migratory birds. Dikes and water control structures have been constructed to hold waters from snowmelt and irrigation runoff. Riparian zones and grasslands provide breeding, migrating, and wintering habitat for a variety of songbirds and raptors.
Of the remaining area, some are managed as grasslands and for nesting cover. Unfarmed upland areas, riparian woodlands, open water, marshes, brush piles, and farm fields support a large diversity of wildlife. Hawks, eagles, herons, owls, and songbirds are among the species benefiting from habitat and sanctuaries provided. A small remnant steelhead run still occurs in Toppenish Creek. River otter, badger, and beaver are frequent visitors on the refuge.
- Migrating waterfowl attract wildlife observers, hikers and hunters.
Recreation - Opportunities for recreation at Toppenish include wildlife observation, hiking and hunting. Fishing, camping, boating and driving off-road are prohibited on the Refuge.
Wildlife observation and hiking are allowed year-round in the southeast portion of the main Refuge from Highway 97 to the Refuge headquarters.
Sport hunting is permitted on the refuge in accordance with state and federal regulations. Hunters should consult the Washington State hunting regulations. Special refuge regulations also apply (See Toppenish NWR Hunting Regulations PDF).
Climate - Washington's climate varies with each region. The Cascades split the state and alter weather patterns. The terrain east of the mountains receives significantly less rainfall than that west of the mountains, 12 inches is the annual average. Temperatures in this region are lower during the winter months, because it is landlocked. Frequent winds coming down from the mountains also contribute to the low temperatures of eastern Washington.
Toppenish NWR is spread across 27 miles of the Toppenish Valley in southeastern Washington in the heart of the Yakima Indian Reservation.