The Bandon Marsh NWR area is not so much of a hike but an area where you can muck around in the mud, take a stroll, and enjoy the wildlife.
The Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge is known as one of the “go to” locations in the nation for shorebirds. Not only are there nearly always birds present and often in very large number, but it is also one of the best places to see some rarely seen species such as Ruff.
The Refuge is divided into two sections. The Bandon Marsh and the Ni-les’tun unit. Together they cover 889 acres.The Bandon Marsh Unit is located between Riverside Drive and the Coquille River and is comprised of huge open saltwater mud flats. Along Riverside Drive is the best access where the refuge has privided parking and a viewing platform. But don’t stop here. Put on your mud boots and take a walk out into the flats. This portion of the refuge is open to entry. Often the best birding is to be found where the mud flats connect with the river at the South West end of the refuge. However, most of the sightings of rare visitors occurs along the North edge of the mudflats. Very large numbers of shorebirds can be seen on these flats including Western Sandpipers, Semi-palmated Plover, Black Bellied Plover, Golden plover, Dowitcher and Dunlins. Be watchful for the surprise visitor.
The North end of the Bandon marsh unit is open expanses of grass with small water flows cutting through it. This is a good place to watch for Harrier Hawks, Canada Geese and American Bittern.
The Ni-les’tun Unit of this refuge is located on the North side of the Coquille River and East of highway 101. Turn East on North Bank road and watch for the large sign indicating that you have entered the refuge. About 1 mile from hwy101 is the viewing platform and parking area. Currently this is the only access to the refuge so birding is limited to scopeing from the platform or along North Bank road.
The Ni-les’tun unit is divided by North Bank Rd and has open grassy fields between the road and the river and dense riparian habitat to the North of the road. This provides a good home for a wide variety of birds ranging from American Kestral, Canada Goose, Song Sparrow and Common Yellow Throat to Wren Tit, Bush Tit and the occasional wood pecker.
This Unit went through a process of reclamation recently. The following year there was an outbreak of mosquitoes. As a result, the drainage was re-dug over the last summer. I was out in it prior to the last transition and found that it is a fascinating area but very difficult to move through and requires waders. Since the last modification I have not been to this site and can not speak to accessibility. The Ni Les’tun unit is open to the public though access is limited during hunting season.
The Bandon Marsh is very easy to locate. As you drive through town watch for “The Station” restaurant at the corner with a stop light. Turn to the North at this intersection. The road becomes Riverside Drive after 1 block. The viewing platform is about 1 mile down this road.
The Ni Les’tun unit is on the other side of the river. Continue down Riverside Drive until it comes back to Highway 101. Turn north and pass over the bridge. The first road to the east is North Bank Lane. Turn down this road and proceed for about 1 1/2 miles. The viewing platform is on the right and the refuge offices are on the hill overlooking the viewing platform.