near Mount Vernon, WA


Photo by Martha Jordan

This site was created by a public/private partnership in 2001. Its primary purpose is to provide quality public viewing of swans during their winter stay. It is owned and managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) as part of their Skagit Wildlife Area.
A Discover Pass is REQUIRED to park in all improved parking areas on WDFW lands. You can purchase this permit at any store that sells hunting and fishing licenses or on-line WDFW or State Parks. For a list of vendors in this area visit:

Hours: About 8:00 a.m. until dusk.

NEW to this site is the Watchable Wildlife Trail that is on the east side of the parking lot, opposite the swan viewing fields. A map will soon be posted to give more details on this wonderful area for walking and birding.

SWANS and other waterfowl

101-0191-DS-Tundra-Swans-at-Tall-Chief---Dec[700x466]The past few years the swans have been moving about and can be found in the Reserve and in the surrounding fields adjacent to the Reserve. You may see hundreds of Trumpeter Swans, a few Tundra Swans, Canada Geese, and thousands of ducks of several species including Mallards and Pintails. Bald Eagles, Northern Harriers and Cooper’s Hawks are common raptors and many other bird species are possible during this time of year.


The area is northeast of Mt. Vernon, Washington.

  • Go on I-5 to Mt. Vernon. take the COLLEGE WAY EXIT.
  • Turn EAST on College Way (if driving northbound I-5 turn right on College Way. If driving southbound, turn left on College Way)
  • Go to LaVenture, turn LEFT (traffic light, Skagit Valley Community College on corner).
  • Follow this road and it will drop down into the valley. Be sure to obey the speed limit signs.
  • At the bottom of the hill as you come to the valley floor the speed changes to 50mph. From this speed sign it is about 3.1 miles to the Reserve.
  • Turn LEFT on DeBay Isle Road. This road is located at the beginning of a major right bend in the main road. If you miss the left turn, go straight into a gravel parking lot and turn around – DeBay Isle Road adjoins this intersection.
  • Go on the dike road to a gate.

The Reserve is open to the public every day. Please remember that even if the gates are closed you may still park in the outer lot and walk around the gate to bird watch within the Reserve.

Crops planted

The site is usually planted in corn or potatoes depending on the rotational cropping plan. The past two years, the site has been undergoing soil restoration and about one-half of the Reserve is planted in alfalfa. This improves soil condition as well as restoring important nutrients lost with continuous plantings of corn or potatoes.

The current cropping plan is to harvest the corn or potatoes and over-seed with winter wheat. The waste crop left in the field is highly attractive to swans and the winter wheat provides additional winter forage for the birds. Some corn is left standing, then knocked down in late January after hunting season to provide an additional food resource.


If the gate is locked, please park in the outer lot and walk in to the Reserve. The Reserve is open all year, but the gate may be closed. It is opened by volunteers only during the swan season. The reason for the gate to be opened and closed daily is to prevent garbage dumping and vandalism at the site. This on-going problem has been greatly reduced by gate closure at night.

You may want to bring binoculars or a spotting scope, and wear warm clothing.

Photographic opportunities are often spectacular at this area, especially during swan season.