August 11, 2008 in City

Refuge is for the birds, moose …

Turnbull mixes in a little education
By The Spokesman-Review
Christopher Anderson photo

Gretchen Mallari, an AmeriCorps environmental educator, checks out the binoculars at Turnbull.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Turnbull tips

Bring food, water, sunscreen and insect repellant. Pack it in, pack it out; there are no litter containers at Turnbull.

What can you see? Elk, moose, deer and badgers. A great variety of ducks, swans, hawks and smaller birds such as warblers and nuthatches, goldfinches and hummingbirds.

Charmaine Gural should have a bumper sticker that reads: “Brakes for snakes.” On a morning drive inside Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge south of Cheney, she carefully stopped, got out of her car and encouraged a snake to leave the warm gravel on the road.

“They say there aren’t any rattlesnakes out here, but I don’t know,” she said, as she climbed back into her car.

Gural is a volunteer with Friends of Turnbull, and this summer she’s helped put together a couple of birding and tracking backpacks geared for the littlest hikers.

“There are binoculars, a water bottle you can keep, a notebook and all these brochures about Turnbull in the pack,” said Gural. The packs also contain laminated cards identifying birds and tracks one might see at the refuge.

A donation of your choice lets you check out a backpack from the bookstore at Turnbull.

The refuge covers 15,500 acres, about 2,500 of which are easily accessible via tracks and dirt roads. Among its many trails is the Pine Lake Loop, which is 1.25 miles and wheelchair accessible.

For those not much into hiking, the 5.5-mile, one-way Pine Creek Auto Tour Route is a beautiful alternative, and there are plenty of trailheads along the way if you get tempted to leave the car.

It’s a good idea to bring along food and water – there are plenty of restrooms and picnic shelters, but no other services. Bikes are only allowed on the Pine Creek Auto Tour Route.

So when is the best time to visit Turnbull?

“During the spring and fall bird migrations it’s very good,” said Gural. “But if you are hard-core you know the best times are at dawn and at dusk, any day. That’s when you have the best chance of seeing the critters.”

Contact Pia Hallenberg Christensen at (509) 459-5427 or

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