Woodard Bay Natural Area, Olympia, Thurston County, Washington

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Olympia Washington's bats at: Bat's About Our Town: http://www.batsaboutourtown.com/
Aerial View of Woodard Bay. The pier is in the upper right quadrant.

View of the pier in May 2011, after the land connection was removed.

DIrections from UW

Follow I-5 south into the northern end of Olympia. Take Exit 109 (Martin Way Exit) going 0.2 mi towards the Sleater-Kinney Road N. turn right onto the Sleater-Kinney Rd NE going ~ 4.4 mi., then continue going straight onto 56th Ave NE for 0.4 mi. At a "T" turn right onto Shincke Rd NE going 0.5 mi. Then turn right to STAY on Shincke Rd NE for another 0.5 mi., it will curve left to become Woodard Bay Rd NE which then curves right. Cross the bridge to park near the gate into the Woodard Bay Natural Area. You can walk out the old gravelled Whitman Road to reach Weyer point to see the harbor seals & bats.


The natural area comprises 678 acres of older second growth forest with a mixture of large Douglas Fir, Western Red Cedar, Big-Leaf Maples along with numerous understory shrubs. Harvey Rice Woodard was a millwright who settled on & named) Woodard Bay in the mid- 19th century. Weyerhaeuser much later bought the land and, in 1928, finished a railroad to link its southwest Washington timber lands with a shipping terminal at Woodard Bay. Until 1984, Weyerhaeuser used this logging railroad to tranport logs to the bay where they were then floated north to the lumber mills in Everett, Washington. In 1988, Washington State Department of Natural Resources purchased the terminal site and established the Woodard Bay Natural Resources Conservation Area. Approximately 175 species of birds have been recorded from here, including Purple Martins & Band-tailed Pigeons. There is a freshwater pond within the natural area that is supposed to be a breeding site for Rough-skinned Newts. Woodard Bay is a shallow salt water or mudflat that is closed to boaters to protect nesting Bald Eagles &Great Blue Herons. It is the home of a large colony of Harbor Seals that haul out on old log booms in the center of the bay.

There is a large maternity colony of perhaps 2000-3000 Yuma Myotis & Little Brown bats that emerge from under the aging pier at dusk. The colony roosts under the old pier which is covered with steel plates that supported the track. The steel plates contribute to the warmth of this roosting site. Amazingly, many of the bats then fly into downtown Olympia to feed on insects above Capital Lake near the State Capital building.