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Brewster to Bridgeport area

A trip along the south side of the Columbia River between the towns of Brewster and Bridgeport provides access to a rich variety of habitats. Most birders visit the area in winter or during spring and fall migration. This trip can be combined with a visit to Bridgeport State Park on the north side of the Columbia.

Access and Logistics

From the West: In Brewster, along SR 97, turn onto SR 173 and follow that road across the Columbia River and on eastwards (left) towards Bridgeport.

From the East: In Bridgeport, along SR 17, turn onto SR 173 and follow that road through Bridgeport and on westwards toward Brewster.

Four pull-outs along SR 173 in the 1 1/2-mile stretch of the road east of the Columbia River bridge provide good locations for scoping the surface of the Lake Pateros reservoir on the Columbia as well as the adjacent hillside on the opposite side of the road.

Access points to Wells Wildlife Area are described in order from the Brewster end of the route.
  • The first parking access is approximately 2 1/2 miles from the Columbia River bridge (8 miles from SR 17 in Bridgeport), on the north side of the road. Watch for yards with white fences. The entrance is just past the last fence. There is a Wildlife Sign here.
  • The second access point is also #27 on the Cascade Loop of the Great Washington State Birding Trails map and is approximately 3 miles from the Columbia River bridge (7½ miles from SR 17 in Bridgeport), where you make a left turn on Grange Road. Turn almost immediately into the parking lot on your left, with a white building that looks like a garage. There is no Wildlife sign here, just a hunters’ check-in station.
  • The third access point is at the junction of Grange and Moe roads. From Brewster, find Grange Road on your left at about 2 3/4 miles from the Columbia River bridge. Continue east on Grange Road until it makes a 90° turn. No signs, but you can see a check- in box for hunters. Here you can walk north towards the water, and find a pond. Or, you can walk east to a channel and another pond. To reach this location from Bridgeport, travel approximately 5 1/2 miles along SR 173 to Moe Road. Turn right on Moe Road and follow it to a 90° turn described above, where the road becomes Grange Road. Birders can also bird behind the Wildlife buildings, where there is a boat launch. From the corner of Moe and Grange the buildings are approximately 1/4 mile, to the east. It will look like two homes, but the second one holds the Wildlife Offices. You can go down to the boat launch area to park.
  • The fourth access point is on Moe Road approximately 0.8 miles south of the 90° turn (approximately 0.3 mile north of the Moe Road intersection with SR 173). There are no signs, just a row of mailboxes on posts. It is a rocky drive down to the causeway gate. You can walk across the causeway onto Chief Joe Island and walk throughout the island.
  • The Wells Wildlife Area accessed at the locations described on this route requires a state Discover Pass. There are many dirt roads you may walk, with irrigated mixed vegetation on the sides. Exercise caution during hunting seasons.

    Limited facilities are found in Bridgeport. Full facilities can be found in Brewster.

Major Habitats along Route
  • Agricultural Lands
  • Shrub-steppe – Dominated by sagebrush and/or bitterbrush and grasses and forbs
  • Pondersosa Pine Woodland – Woodland, generally open, dominated by ponderosa pine with an understory dominated by either shrubs or grasses and forbs.
  • Wetlands: Lakes, Ponds, Marshes – Includes open water, water areas with emergent vegetation, and areas of seasonally wet soils. Many of these areas have a fringe of wetland vegetation. Water levels vary seasonally and some lakes and ponds are alkaline.

Birds and Seasons to Visit

Seasons: These areas are excellent in all seasons.

Birds: Migrating passerines in spring and fall are abundant. Large numbers of waterfowl and waterbirds can be seen on Lake Pateros in winter. Raptors can be common.

Side Trips

Dezellem Hill Road. This side route begins 3 miles west of the Bridgeport City limits on SR 173. The road is only 4 miles long, but is a great way to spend several hours, especially during spring migration. In winter, or after heavy rain, the road can be quite slick. In non-winter months, you can drive to the top of Central Ferry Canyon from here, and make a loop of about 32 miles through diverse habitat back to Bridgeport.

Chief Joseph Dam area. At the east end of Bridgeport, cross SR 17 and go up Pearl Hill Road approximately 60 yards. The guard rail on your left ends and you can turn down into a parking lot left of a gate. The wide meadow-like area may still be under construction, but there are paths with benches, as well as a restroom. Views here of the river, and in the wooded areas you can find a variety of passerines.

When you leave the location described in the preceding paragraph, continue up Pearl Hill Road, behind the dam to Fisher Road, which also has a sign saying Debris Basin Recreation Area. Take Fisher Road, which leads to a small cove. There is a restroom and a walking path that connects to the boat launch area further up Pearl Hill. Birding is good year-around. The water level fluctuates daily, and when low, during spring and fall migration shorebirds can be found here. There are 2 short side roads that can also be explored.


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