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Olympic Peninsula Dungeness River Guided Tour

A birder with a spotting scope looks from a small ridge on the Dungenes Recreation Area and towards the Olympic Mountains

Travel to the Olympic Rainshadow in Dungeness with Experience Olympic

The Dungeness River, sandspit, and estuary are exceptional for birding year-round, with hiking as a bonus activity. 

We recommend starting your Olympic National Park birding trip by staying in Sequim/Dungeness and then we can arrange to meet you in Sequim to save an hour of extra driving (30 minutes between Port Angeles and Sequim) for a private guided birding day tour.

Enjoy Dungeness sites with a birding guide in order to find a diversity of birds with the help of a spotting scope in the Salish Sea and on expansive mudflats, which are best viewed at certain tidal heights.

Dungeness River Estuary

Our Dungeness Birding tours concentrate on the Dungeness River Estuary and Bay from multiple small public access locations. These sites straddle the Dungeness River Mouth and look out onto Dungeness Bay that is formed from the five mile long sandspit. 

The protected bay and the sediment flow down the Dungeness River creates an important mudflat for shellfish and birds. There are also nearby wetland areas that host different birds at different times of year that we will visit. Hiring a birding guide helps to concentrate your energy in this important birding area.

A pair of Brant, which are black white and gray birds with a white collar around their neck pictured swimming
A view of a dairy feeding lot with the cows sticking their heads out of enclosures to feed and gulls feeding inside the enclosure

Dungeness River Ponds and Agricultural Fields

The flat Dungeness Prairie around the City of Sequim used to be dominated by Oregon White Oak Grassland Savannah.

The flat landscape is dotted with drainage and natural ponds of various depths in low lying areas or where the groundwater table is high which is attractive to dabbling and diving ducks and geese.

Shorebirds, swans, geese, and gulls often use various agricultural fields and the few remaining dairy farm operations.

Dungeness Salmon and the Dungeness Fish Hatchery

In September, it is time to start looking for Pink Salmon in the lower Dungeness River. The larger fish runs are in odd years. Pink Salmon are also called "Humpies" due to large mounded form of the back of the spawning male Pink Salmon. These fish are the least common in Olympic National Park rivers and their numbers have been declining. 

The Dungeness Fish Hatchery is a place we sometimes visit on birding tours for breeding birds and resident birds like American Dipper. There is also an exceptionally productive artificial frog pond on the property.

A Pink Salmon is shown from Railroad Bridge in shallow water with lots of sediment
Two Black-tailed Deer in the foreground and six Roosevelt Elk in the background including two immature males with simple unforked antlers

Roosevelt Elk Herd in Sequim

Although they might seem domesticated when they are in yards, the Sequim Elk herd is wild. The Sequim elk inhabit a small home range, and do not stay in the mountains during the summer. Pictured here are two smaller Black-tailed Deer in front of the larger Roosevelt Elk. 

Wolves are starting to populate the North Cascades and they will presumably then make their way to the Olympics. The Olympic forests will be healthier as wolves will cause more elk herd migration leading to less severe browsing on vegetation, especially near rivers.

Dungeness River Nature Center & Railroad Bridge Park

We recommend planning a visit to Sequim/Dungeness at the start or end of your trip to Olympic National Park since this area is east of Hurricane Ridge, Lake Crescent, Sol Duc, Neah Bay, the Pacific Coast, and the Hoh Rainforest

The Dungeness River Nature Center adjacent to Railroad Bridge Park in Sequim is a great facility to start your Olympic Peninsula exploration. The center includes a fantastic Dungeness River Watershed exhibit. There are also bird feeders behind the center and you will want to walk over Railroad Bridge and walk on some of the Discovery trail.

A brilliant male Violet Green Swallow rests for a moment on a roof
A hiker looks through a spotting scope from Dungness Spit on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State

Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge

This is a great location to visit on your own, because we might not have time to access the 5 mile spit on our guided birding tour. The wildlife refuge is adjacent to the Dungeness Recreation Area which includes trails along a bluff, through woodlands, and wetlands. 

You drive through the Dungeness Recreation Area and continue through the campground to the end of the road where you park and then walk down to and on the sandspit (at low tide, otherwise you have to navigate beach logs). You will need to consult a tide table if you plan to walk the entire distance (5 miles one-way) to the Dungeness Lighthouse. 

Photo of the Dungeness Lighthouse showing the main building with the light as well as some additonal buildings on the sandspit
Red throated loon as seen from Dungeness Spit at dusk with the hills of Whidbey Island
Savannah Sparrow on a post in the middle of a grassland
Male American Goldfinch in brilliant yellow perched with round white dandelion seed heads
Snowcapped Mount Baker at 10,000 feet in the Cascade range as seen over the Salish Sea from the Dungeness
An adorable Douglas Squirrel is posed on top of a branch at Railroad Bridge Park
Four Roosevelt Elk grazing in a field with a flowering tree in the background
A Douglas Squirrel sits on a branch eating red Dogwood fruit
A large Salmon tries to move upstream in a very shallow spot in a stream with a gull in the background
A large Elephant Seal which is noticeably larger the surrounding Harbor Seals is resting on a shallow spot in Dungeness Bay
A large group of amphibian tadpoles, most likely frogs, gather together in shallow warm water in a sidechannel of the Dungeness River
Lavender plants used as landscaping along Marine Drive in Sequim/Dungeness area
Dungeness Spit as viewed from a viewing platform on the paved trail down through the wildlife refuge showing the Salish sea on teh left and the bay on the right
Dungeness fallow field full of blooming yellow mustard flowers with the Olympic Mountains in the background
View of the white-capped Cascade Mountains from one of the birding sites in Sequim/Dungeness
A juvenile dark Bald Eagle with little white in the plumage except some under under the wings and at the base of the tail
Two Bald Eagles pictured, one flying and one perched looking in Dungeness Bay towards the Spit
An immature Bald Eagle that almost has a full white head but still has a line of black through the eye and is missing a white tail is pictured perched on a conifer
Dunlin and other shorebirds flying over Dungness mudflats as exposed during low tide
Short-billed Dowitcher shows a flatter back than long-billed and is shown here during low tide in the Dungeness
Least Sandpiper are some of the smallest shorebirds called peeps and have yellow legs
A Plover and Sanderling in nonbreeding plumage are shown on a beach log
A Killdeer chick is shown with downy feathers in prairie near Dungeness Bay
A male California Quail is pictured perched on a fence in the Dungeness
A female Anna's hummingbird is shown in flight next to a hummingbird feeder in Sequim
A male Varied Thrush is smaller than a robin with less of a protruding breast and a distinct collar and mask
A Chestnut-backed Chickadee is pictured which shows a chestnut back and sides but otherwise similar and in overlapping range as a black-capped