Nisqually Delta & Reach

Sea kayak or packraft the Nisqually Delta in South Puget Sound between Tacoma and Olympia, and fall in love with the pristine waters of the Nisqually Reach. Enjoy the Bily Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, an important and rich biological preserve in South Puget Sound that is home to many aquatic species.

Launch points

  • Nisqually River Public AccessFrom Seattle, head south on I-5 past JBLM, take exit 116, and turn left onto Nisqually Rd SW for 2.5 miles. Turn left onto 6th Ave SE for 0.4 miles to its end at the river. A Discover Pass is required. It is an uneven dirt parking lot for many vehicles. Do not leave valuables in cars.
  • Luhr's Landing (aka Luhr Beach) in the Nisqually Delta: This is the only permitted launch site within the wildlife refuge. From Seattle, head south on I-5 past JBLM, take exit 114 onto Martin Way E for 1.1 miles, and turn right onto Meridian Road NE for 2.6 miles. Turn right onto 46th Ave NE for 0.2 miles, then turn left onto D Milluhr Rd NE for 0.5 miles to it's end at the bay. There is a historical information center, bathrooms, and a boat launch. 
  • Tolmie State Park: From Seattle, head south on I-5, take exit 111 in Lacey, and keep right to merge onto Marvin Rd for 3.5 miles. Turn right onto 56th Ave NE for 0.5 miles, turn left onto Hill St NE for 0.5 miles, then turn left onto 61st Ave NE for 0.4 miles. The parking lot is back from the water and is not very convenient for boaters. 

On the Water

There is a channel to Puget Sound from Luhr's Landing. This channel is roughly marked by wood posts but it shifts location. Outside the channel are extensive mud flats. On a falling tide, these become exposed faster than a paddler can move to deep water.  Some of the mud flats are sand but there are areas of soft mud so walking off the flats may be impossible. It is safest to cross the flats on a rising tide.

Most of the delta is within the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. Most of the refuge may paddled, but exiting boats is not allowed. There is a sanctuary area in which boating is not allowed—its boundary is reported to be well marked. The best map of the refuge, including sanctuary boundary is the park brochure (see the land manager below).

With proper tides, exploration can include McAllister Creek on the west and Salmon Creek on the east with a connection back to the Nisqually River.


  • Note tide heights, because the delta dries at lower tide levels stranding many an unwary boater.
  • Duck hunting occurs in fall.
  • Difficulty: Sea Kayak III, Class 0 Still Water, Class I River
  • MapTech Puget Sound Chart No. 100
  • see Land Manager
Trip Reports

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  • Nisqually Delta
  • Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
  • Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

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