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PostSun Feb 02, 2020 10:19 am 
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West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area - 10-05-19 and 11-14-19

Administered by Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife, the West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area is about 15 miles south of Olympia, a few miles east of I-5.

The Wildlife Area is 810 acres in size, of which 300 acres is woodland, 360 acres is wetland, 40 acres is native Garry Oak (Quercus garryana) forest, and 300 acres is South Puget Sound Glacial Outwash Prairie, some of which has Mima Mounds on it.

Elevation varies from 213 to 349 feet above sea level.

Mostly undeveloped raw land, portions of the area were previously settled and used for livestock grazing, and at one point in the distant past the DuPont Company operated a powder plant on the site.

There are no developed "trails" on the site per se. One can walk on the existing Powder Plant Road, follow any part of the spider web of game trails, or simply wander out on the open sections of prairie.

Dogs are allowed off leash except for a period between April 1 to July 31. Horses are not allowed on the area.

Take I-5 South to Exit 99 - WA 121 / South 93rd Ave. SE - follow WA 121 S - take 143rd Ave / SE Arrowhead Lane to Powder Plant Road SE

The access point to the Wildlife Area is in the southeast corner on Arrowhead Lane. There is a small parking area with an interpretive kiosk and a map of the area.


West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area MAP
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area MAP
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 01
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 01
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 02
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 02

There's a bit of a road walk through small second-growth mixed forest, much of which is overrun with Himalaya Blackberry (Rubus Discolor).

West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 07
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 07

The road gradually drops down onto the open prairie. On our first visit, we took the first fork to the left (west) and followed it some ways. The scattered apple trees appeared to be wild remnants of a previous homestead.

West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 10
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 10
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 11
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 11
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West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 09
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West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 12
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West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 13
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 14
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 14
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 15
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 15

Walking a bit further west takes one to small patches of mixed forest and Garry Oak.

West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 16
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 16
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 17
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 17
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 18
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 18

WDFW has been investing considerable resources attempting to restore the native ecosystem, in part using controlled burns to eradicate non-indigenous species of flora, particularly Scotch Broom (Cytisus scoparius).

West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 19
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 19
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 20
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 20
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 21
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 21
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West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 23
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 22
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 22

After sampling the tiny wild apples from at least a dozen different trees, we found some that were really tasty over toward the southwestern corner of the prairie, just before it started becoming less prairie-like and more marsh-like, and the snowberry grew in profusion.

West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 27
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 27
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 KK
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 KK
Kitty West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 01
Kitty West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 01
Kitty & BK West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 01
Kitty & BK West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 01
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 24
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 24

No sooner had we found the best apples, a little squall blew in from the southwest and began to drive us out with pouring rain. It cleared up and the sun came out again just before we got back to the car.

West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 32
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 32

On our second trip, we wanted to take a look at more of the area. The first glimpse one gets of the prairie from the road is just before it drops down onto the open prairie.

West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 111419 01
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 111419 01
Kitty West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 111419 01
Kitty West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 111419 01

We walked the main road down to the second fork, where an old abandoned sheep cote still stands. Some of the trees still had apples hanging from them.

West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 111419 02
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 111419 02
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 111419 03
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 111419 03
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 111419 04
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 111419 04
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 111419 09
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 111419 09
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West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 111419 05
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West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 111419 08

We walked west, across the area covered with Mima Mounds, and over into the Garry Oak forest. We spoke at length to a WDFW staff member who was working on a revegetation project and gave us directions to the remnants of the long-abandoned powder plant, broken remnants of which can be found at the edge of the oak forest.

West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 111419 13
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 111419 13
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West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 111419 14
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West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 111419 21
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West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 111419 24
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West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 111419 25
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West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 111419 30
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 111419 26
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 111419 26

This late in the season, the waters of Beaver Creek are no more than a trickle.

West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 111419 34
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 111419 34

The area supports a wide variety of wildlife, and although we didn't see much of it during either trip, we did encounter one of the larger denizens of the woods on our way back to I-5.
Fortunately the damage was limited to $6414 in body work, and didn't result in injuries to any humans, dogs, or Mazama Pocket Gophers. The deer, obviously, didn't fare quite so well.


2010 Subaru Impreza Outback RF corner 111519 02
2010 Subaru Impreza Outback RF corner 111519 02

The dogs definitely enjoyed both the trips, but were unquestionably puzzled riding in the back of the car with nobody driving it while it was hauled on a flatbed trailer back to Tacoma.

This very special and unique remnant of South Puget Sound Glacial Outwash Prairie, into which the State of Washington has made a significant investment ostensibly to restore the native habitat and the Endangered Species which call it home, is currently in jeopardy of losing its unique and wild nature. For more information please see my post in the Stewardship Forum HERE

West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 03
West Rocky Prairie Wildlife Area 100519 03

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"I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. 
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
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