Belted Kingfisher at pre-construction Wiley Slough (photo by Glenn Nelson).

Wiley Slough (or, officially, the Skagit Wildlife Area Headquarters Unit), one of the most popular and diverse birding areas in the region, will remain closed to all public access until at least Nov. 15, as previously advised by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).

WDFW expects to issue an update in mid-November about access to the estuary north of Stanwood during the remainder of fall and winter.

Heavy machinery and other construction activity is ongoing on the site to elevate dikes and improve protection against flooding, as well as renovating the parking area and installing a new concrete boat launch and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-accessible loading ramp.

“We know this site is very popular and appreciate people’s patience,” said Chase Gunnell, WDFW spokesperson. “It will be worth the wait.”

Heavy construction equipment shown at the intersection of levees and an ADA-compliant boat launch.

Recent construction at Wiley Slough (courtesy WDFW).

As a nearby birding alternative, WDFW recommends the Fir Island Farms Reserve Unit, which is about 2 ½ miles west of Wiley Slough. Many early Snow Geese and Cinnamon Teal were spotted at the site last week, mixed in with the first migrating flocks of Green-winged Teal.

This latest project builds on estuary restoration that was completed at Wiley Slough in 2009. That initial stage improved habitat for Chinook salmon, shorebirds, and waterfowl. The current project is intended to support visitor uses and improve protection from flooding.

This has been the third closure of the area since fall, 2022. Additional closures and work will be required in 2024 to finish portions of the project.

WDFW does not expect any significant changes to fish and wildlife presence as a result of the construction at Wiley Slough, Gunnell said.