Morse Wildlife Preserve Boardwalk
Photo by Hayes Swinney

In Pierce County, a wetland provides an escape into nature

A walk through the Morse Wildlife Preserve transports you to a different world.

Heightened fragrances and vibrant hues of the natural world awaken the senses; birds chirp, insects buzz, leaves rustle.

Fields of Blue Camas at Morse Wildlife Preserve
Photo by Todd Parker

Situated near the headwaters of the North Fork of Muck Creek in Graham, WA, the 98-acre preserve is a mosaic of conifer forest, wetlands, oak savanna and prairie. The wetland, which changes configuration regularly because of an ever-evolving beaver dam, covers about half of the Preserve and attracts migrating and resident birds. Other mammals—deer, coyote, bobcat and rabbits—live here or make foraging visits while cougar, bear, and elk are occasional visitors.

Established in 1995 with a donation of 53 acres of land from Lloyd and Maxine Morse, the Preserve expanded by 45 acres with funding provided by a generous anonymous donor in 2001.

Morse Wildlife Preserve Map
A map of the Morse Wildlife Preserve

The Preserve is jointly managed by Forterra and the Tahoma Audubon Society with tremendous support from the Morse Force, a volunteer management team. These dedicated volunteers, many of whom have been volunteering since the start of the Preserve, meet regularly to tackle tasks large and small including:

  • Fundraising for efforts like the restoration of the historic barn and construction of the boardwalk;
  • Construction of the quarter-mile long boardwalk completed in 2013, and maintenance of the trails it connects to;
  • Restoration of the prairie and oak savanna and enhancement of habitat in other parts of the Preserve; and
  • Organization of educational events and materials to enrich the visitor’s experience.

It’s thanks to their extraordinary efforts that the Morse Wildlife Preserve is the premiere site in Pierce County for education. It has been host to many school groups who have monitored water quality, studied macro invertebrates and helped research the most effective way to remove non-native grasses so native prairie plants can prevail. A curriculum developed specifically for the Preserve is available to teachers interested in utilizing the Preserve as an educational resource.

The Preserve isn’t open to the public all of the time. But a public event every second Sunday of the month from April through October to allows for both guided and individual exploration of the trail network and various habitats.

On September 13th, the Preserve will officially be celebrating its 20th Anniversary. All are invited to join in the celebrations: Explore trails during the day from to 10am to 4pm or learn about what the future holds and help fundraise for this community treasure  in the evening, from 5 to 7pm. Registration for the evening event is encouraged. Learn more and RSVP here >

  • Hayes Swinney

    After roaming the country−leading outdoor adventure programs, teaching environmental education and studying ecology−and living in Ecuador as well as in Costa Rica, Hayes found her home in the Pacific Northwest working with communities to restore and manage our natural areas. She is constantly entertained, amazed and challenged by her curly-haired kiddo and enjoys helping him explore and discover the wonders of the great outdoors.
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