Benton, Franklin &
western Walla Walla County
Find and explore the best hotspots for watching birds in Benton, Franklin and western Walla Walla Counties. Peruse the geographically grouped sites, choose an area and go birding!
Links for each site take you to eBird where you will find a treasure trove of details and photos about the birds observed there.
Snively Road & Barker Ranch
Horn Rapids County Park
Horse Heaven Hills
Vernita Bridge Rest Area
Rattlesnake Mt - south slope
Howard Amon Park
Leslie Groves Park & Nelson Island
W. E. Johnson Park
Chamna Nature Preserve & Inland Asphalt Pond
I-182 Yakima River Bridge
Crow Butte Park
Yakima River Delta
Bateman Island & Columbia Park Marina
Two Rivers County Park
Rattlesnake Mt. south slope - Lisa Hill
Tri-City Animal Shelter pond & trail
Sacajawea State Park
Ringold Boat Launch
Big Flat HMU
Palouse Falls State Park
Lyons Ferry State Park
McNary National Wildlife Refuge
West Richland, Benton City, Prosser
Snively Rd/Barker Ranch North of the Yakima River off Twin Bridges Rd, Barker Ranch is private land, but Snively Rd which runs through the ranch, shows habitat the ranch is protecting. Marshy areas on the west side of Snively Rd attract shorebirds and waterfowl, along with winnowing Wilson's Snipe, Sandhill Cranes, and occasionally American Bittern and White-faced Ibis.
Sandhill Cranes from Snively Rd - Larry Umthun
Horn Rapids County Park From Hwy 240, turn west on Hwy 225 (U.S. Reservation Rd). A spring migration hot spot, look for warblers and vireos in the cottonwood trees in the day-use and campground areas, and along the trails. The Yakima River has several viewing spots for water birds and waterfowl. Rarities seen include: Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided Warbler and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. One of the best places in the region to find Lewis’s Woodpecker.
Northern Parula from Horn Rapids County Park - Larry Umthun
Vernita Bridge Rest Area at the intersection of Hwys 240 and 243, stop to look for migrants. Rarities have included Cassin's Finch, Hairy Woodpecker and Clark’s Nutcracker.
Clark's Nutcracker from Vernita Bridge - Larry Umthun
Birding on Rattlesnake Mt - south slope - Jeanette Mendell
Rattlesnake Mt - south slope Some of the only remaining, accessible native shrub-steppe habitat in this area. Drive the roads, stop and get out often to see and hear Sagebrush Sparrow, Brewer’s Sparrow, Sage Thrasher, Vesper Sparrow and Western Meadowlark. It is one of the few areas where Common Poorwill can be found in summer after dark. In winter, large flocks of Horned Larks often have Snow Bunting and Lapland Longspur, and the arctic race of the Horned Lark with white instead of yellow on the face. From I-82 take Exit 80 Gap Rd. Go north on Gap Rd to access Rothrock Rd, Rotha Rd, Crosby Rd, Case Rd.
Drive in the Horse Heaven Hills for many miles in many directions. Great birding roads include Webber Canyon Rd which has margins of native shrub-steppe habitat, and McBee Grade Rd with breeding Grasshopper Sparrow and wintering Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch. In the snow-covered hills, find Lapland Longspur and Snow Bunting in the flocks of Horned Larks. Winter raptors include Rough-legged Hawk, Prairie Falcon and rarely, Gyrfalcon.
In the Horse Heaven Hills - Lisa Hill
Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch from McBee Grade Rd - Larry Umthun
Richland - north of I-182
Leslie Groves Park & Nelson Island A long narrow Richland City Park extending along several miles of Columbia River shoreline. Biking and walking paths, maintained and natural areas, playgrounds and sports facilities are found at various points. Parking lots are located at the eastern ends of Newcomer, Park, Saint and Snyder Streets.
Offshore at the north end of Nelson Island is a gull hotspot hosting Lesser Black-backed, Slaty-backed, Glaucous and Bonaparte’s Gulls among more common residents. Thousands of waterfowl crowd the river between the shoreline and the island in winter including Barrow’s Goldeneye, Pacific Loon and rarely, Long-tailed Duck.
Long-tailed Duck near Nelson Island - Larry Umthun
Chamna Natural Preserve & Inland Asphalt Pond Chamna is a Richland City Park with trails maintained by the Tapteal Greenway Association. The park’s strip of trees and riparian area along the north bank of the Yakima River, and acres of open sagebrush land, provide habitat for the region’s breeding and wintering birds. Many trails crisscross the preserve and there are a few spots to observe the river. A few rarities seen include: Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Ash-throated Flycatcher.
Inland Asphalt Pond adjacent to Chamna is host to waterfowl, shorebirds and marsh-loving birds, depending on the water level in the pond. Accessible by scope only, with views on three sides. Park with care along Carriage Rd or park in the area at the east end of the road. Walk the trail to access the views on the east and south side of the pond.
W. E. Johnson Park One of the best birding locations in the Tri-Cities, this Richland City park is a 225-acre natural area on the east bank of the Yakima River. Dirt paths and roads wind through heavy undergrowth, stands of trees, seasonal ponds, and riparian marsh. In wet seasons, some paths are submerged. The park is the best spot in Washington to find Yellow-breasted Chat in summer. All the common breeding birds in the area can be found here. Great for winter birds, including: Varied Thrush, Hermit Thrush, Pacific Wren, Spotted Towhee, White-throated Sparrow, Golden-crowned Sparrow and Ruby-crowned Kinglet.
Although there two entrances into the park, birders typically enter at the south end. Park on Tanglewood St and walk down the asphalt road into the park. No vehicles allowed beyond the street.
Northern Goshawk from W. E. Johnson Park - Larry Umthun
Howard Amon Park This Richland City Park along the Columbia River provides opportunities to observe waterfowl, shorebirds and gulls along the river's edge. Large trees in the Park can harbor migrants as well as the common birds of the area. This is a maintained park without large natural areas, however, the other facilities (playgrounds, tennis courts, adjacent galleries and businesses) make this a family birding destination in the heart of town. On Lee Blvd east of George Washington Way.
South Benton County
Paterson Slough is part of the Umatilla NWR on the north side of the Columbia River, near Plymouth, WA. From the Tri-Cities, go south on I-82, then west on Hwy 14. Turn south on Plymouth Rd, then east on Christy Rd. Before the road crosses the RR tracks, veer left and follow the dirt road running between the river and the RR tracks to the slough ponds. Be aware that the road is narrow and occasionally rough. Excellent waterfowl viewing in early morning in spring and fall with a scope. From the ponds, follow the road back to Paterson Old Rd and search for breeding and migrating songbirds.
Whitcomb Island - Umatilla NWR The island west of Paterson is part of the Umatilla NWR. From Hwy 14 turn south on Whitcomb Island Rd. The roads and agricultural fields host a variety of songbirds. Waterbirds and waterfowl might be in the slough at the causeway. Go to the south edge of the island and check the area all around the water pump station for shorebirds and songbirds. In winter, flocks of Snow Geese may gather in the fields.
Steller's Jay from Crow Butte Park - Larry Umthun
Crow Butte Park From Hwy 14, turn north on Sonova Rd, then east on Crow Butte Rd. Being mindful of traffic, check the water on both sides of the causeway for waterfowl. Rarities near the marsh at the east end of the causeway have included Swamp Sparrow, Common Yellowthroat and Snowy Egret. Trees in the park and camping area host vagrants such as American Redstart and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Winter rarities here include Steller's Jay and Mountain Chickadee. A minimal park usage fee may be required.
Yakima River Delta, Kennewick, Finley
Yakima River Delta This delta, where the Yakima River flows into the Columbia river provides good birding year around. Shorebird viewing is exceptional when water levels are low, especially late March-May and August-November. Winter waterfowl are abundant. Sightings have included Marbled Godwit, Red Knot, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Ruff and Red Phalarope. The delta waters can be viewed from the dike area behind the Benton-Franklin city bus buildings, from Bateman Island, and from Columbia Point.
Greater & Lesser Yellowlegs from Yakima Delta - Nancy LaFramboise
Bateman Island & Columbia Park Marina One of the best birding sites in south central Washington, Bateman Island has an impressive 230 species bird list. Too many to mention! First Saturday bird walks on Bateman Island are guided by LCBAS from September through June. The island is accessible only by foot or bicycle via the causeway, which, with various shoreline vantage points around the island, is a prime spot for viewing shorebirds and waterfowl. A circular trail system covers most of the island. The adjacent Columbia Park Marina is great for gulls and a variety of waterfowl.
Birding on Bateman Island - Charlene Burge
Columbia Park This Kennewick City park is a long, narrow stretch of Columbia River shoreline and a great place to spend a few minutes or explore for hours. Drive along Columbia Park Trail, walk the river trail, or explore riparian habitats. Search for migrants or in winter look for mixed flocks of over-wintering birds. Waterfowl, loons and grebes are on the river in winter.
The east end of the park is good to look for winter flocks that include Brown Creeper. The Family Fishing Pond has a good assortment of diving ducks in winter: Hooded Merganser, Ring-necked Duck, American Wigeon. Grassy areas host huge flocks of geese and wigeon. Cackling Goose, Greater White-fronted Goose and Eurasian Wigeon are not uncommon. A rare Brant was been found in the park.
Brant from Columbia Park - Larry Umthun
Two Rivers County Park This Benton County Park occupies 200 acres; a mile of Columbia River shoreline across from the confluence of the Columbia and Snake Rivers and Sacajawea State Park. Access is from Finley Road east of Kennewick.
A wide variety of habitats provide year-around forage and shelter for many resident and migratory birds. Scan the Columbia River and the park lagoon for loons, grebes, waterfowl and the occasional shorebird in winter. Walk the nature trail along the edge of the marshland in the undeveloped east portion of the park. Walk the grassy park areas for a variety of songbirds in evergreen and deciduous trees.
Pasco - South Franklin County
Chiawana Park A Pasco City park on the north bank of the Columbia River across from Bateman Island. From Court Street, turn south on Road 88. This is a great location to search for migrant songbirds. Walk the wooded area and the west end of the park where a small trail goes through thicker riparian habitat. Rarities have been found including Red-breasted Sapsucker, Hairy Woodpecker and Black-and-white Warbler. A walking and bicycle path extending along the Pasco side of the River runs through the park.
Black-and-white Warbler from Chiawana Park - Bill LaFramboise
Tri-City Animal Shelter Pond & Trail The pond next to the shelter facility has riparian habitat good for migrant and breeding songbirds. Waterfowl gather in great numbers in winter and spring - a bit of an oasis away from the Columbia River. Typical ducks and grebes are seen including a rare Black Scoter. This area is also accessible from the trail that runs along the dike.
Sacajawea State Park A day-use park on the north shore at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. Extensive freshwater river shoreline, large old trees, and numerous trails make this area a good birding spot year around. In winter, eagles return each afternoon to roost in the trees. Plenty of waterfowl ply the waters and numerous breeding and migrant songbirds can be found in the trees and along the trails. The road into the park is closed in winter, but park outside the gate and walk in.
Northern Saw-whet Owl from Sacajawea State Park - Larry Umthun
Ringold Boat Launch located north of Pasco on the Columbia River, is accessed from Road 68 which becomes Taylor Flats Road; turn west on Ringold Rd. Riparian and shoreline habitats host good numbers of migrant and breeding songbirds. Waterfowl and some shorebirds are present in winter. North of the boat launch, fish hatchery ponds can have shorebirds and waterfowl.
Black Scoter from Tri-City Animal Shelter Pond - Nancy LaFramboise
Pasco - North Franklin County
Big Flat HMU located north of Pasco on the Snake River, is accessed from Pasco-Kahlotus Rd. via Herman Rd. From the parking lot, walk a short causeway to the site over a Snake River inlet. Shoreline habitat, shrub-steppe and trees host good numbers of migrant and breeding songbirds. Waterfowl are present in winter. Nearly 500 acres with trails, the area is full of bird life, but often overlooked by birders.
Windust Park located north of Pasco on the Snake River, is accessed from Pasco-Kahlotus Rd. via Burr Canyon Rd. For such a small park, the area is renowned for an amazing number of rarities and migrant songbirds. Large trees and some shoreline habitat packed into a few acres provide great birding opportunities.
Tricolored Blackbird from Harder Spring - Larry Umthun
Harder Spring near the town of Kahlotus is one of the best places in Washington to view Tricolored Blackbirds. A new WDFW site allows limited access to private property to view the spring and blackbirds. A good number of songbirds and raptors can be found here. From Kahlotus, go east for 3 miles on Hwy 260. Turn left into a small parking area. Always respect private property while birding.
Lyons Ferry State Park at the confluence of the Palouse and Snake Rivers is another small park with an impressive list of rarities and migrating songbirds. Large trees, some shrub-steppe and a bit of shoreline habitat along the Snake River host a wide variety of birds in any season.
Palouse Falls State Park - Lisa Hill
Palouse Falls State Park east of Kahlotus is an excellent site in Washington to view White-throated Swifts in action. The view of the river plunging over a basalt cliff into a deep pool is spectacular. The steep cliffs surrounding the pool host the swifts which often fly by at eye level. The park area and some surrounding shrub-steppe is often crowded with songbirds, especially during migration. From Kahlotus, go east on Hwy 260, then south on Hwy 261. Turn left on Palouse Falls Rd.
Western Walla Walla County
McNary National Wildlife Refuge is a vital wintering ground for thousands of inland waterfowl, the refuge boasts 15,000 acres of wetland, riparian and shrub-steppe habitat. Huge flocks of Snow Geese settle on the ponds and fields in winter. Numerous hotspot sites are located within the refuge grounds including the headquarters building and the education center.
Casey Pond teeming with waterfowl, shorebirds, gulls and terns.
Hood Park Nature trails, mature trees and Snake River shoreline attract many species of waterfowl, raptors and songbirds.
Charbonneau Park Campground with mature trees, Snake River shoreline and adjacent shrub-steppe habitat hosts many waterfowl, raptors and songbirds. Located about 7 miles NE of Hood Park.