Northwest Watershed Institute

Comprehensive Watershed Assessment, Protection & Restoration

Tarboo Wildlife Preserve

The Tarboo Wildlife Preserve (TWP) is located on 316 acres in the heart of the Tarboo Valley northeast of Quilcene, Washington. The preserve is owned and managed by Northwest Watershed Institute as a fish and wildlife refuge and as a center for field research and environmental education. The preserve also serves as long-term base of operations for NWI’s field crew doing restoration projects on the property and with cooperating landowners in the Tarboo watershed and Tarboo-Dabob Bay. The entire Preserve is permanently protected under a conservation easement held by the Jefferson Land Trust.

Visiting the Preserve

We welcome visitors by prior permission only. Please Contact Us if you would like to visit the property on your own or as part of one of NWI’s periodic field tours for larger groups. In general, no dogs, hunting or fishing are allowed on the Preserve. The physical address is 2151 Dabob Road, Quilcene, Washington.

Please click HERE for driving directions to Tarboo Wildlife Preserve or HERE to the nearby Center Park and Ride meeting spot.


Early History

Early surveys, oral histories, old photographs, and field observations collected by Northwest Watershed Institute indicate that as late as the 1870s most of the Tarboo Wildlife Preserve was comprised of forested wetlands of Sitka spruce and Western red cedar, and probably included meandering streams, beaver ponds and a mosaic of open marshes and meadows. Early General Land Office surveys indicate that this “spruce bottomland” extended along most of the Tarboo valley. These streams and wetlands provided excellent habitat for salmon, particularly juvenile coho salmon that prefer slower water areas for the year in which they live and grow in the stream before migrating to sea. Although beaver, elk, and wolves of the Tarboo area were likely greatly reduced in numbers or extirpated by hunting and trapping by the mid to late 1800s, the valley undoubtedly supported a diversity of other wildlife, including songbirds, elk, deer, black bear, and waterfowl.

Historically, several Native Americans villages and seasonal settlements occurred along the shoreline of Dabob Bay, located several miles downstream from the Preserve. The Tarboo valley and surrounding hills were important hunting grounds for tribal members. To this day, four Tribal nations reserve treaty rights under international law to fish, hunt and gather throughout their territory of Hood Canal, including the Tarboo watershed.

By the 1890s, the Tarboo valley, like most of the stream valleys in Western Washington, was being cleared for pasture and farmland. Euro-American settlers worked their claims, pulled stumps, straightened streams and dug ditches to drain the wetlands. Dairy farms were operating in much of the Tarboo valley by the early 1900s. By the 1940s, many of the dairy farms were no longer in business and by the 1990s, many of the larger Tarboo valley properties had been subdivided and sold for rural residential uses. In 2004, NWI purchased the old Yarr farm property as the core of what would become the Tarboo Wildlife Preserve.

Funding for the acquisition came from a National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Between 2004 and 2009, NWI purchased additional adjoining parcels with county, state and federal grants. To protect the entire Preserve in perpetuity, a conservation easement was originally donated to the Jefferson Land Trust in 2007 and amended to include the entire 316-acre preserve in 2009.


The Tarboo Wildlife Preserve offers a rare opportunity to restore salmon and wildlife habitat on a landscape scale. The property includes more than 1.5 miles of the lower Tarboo valley. Historically, this type of valley bottom habitat provided some of the most productive habitat for salmon in the Pacific Northwest – but was mostly cleared and drained for agriculture and development uses. Because the Preserve also extends from one side of the valley to the other, it offered an exceptional opportunity to restore a fully functioning stream and floodplain wetland system without the risk of flooding adjoining residential or farm properties.

Starting in 2007, NWI began a major habitat restoration project with funding from the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Wetland Cost Share program and additional support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and other state and private sources. NWI biologists and contractors prepared engineered designs and re-meandered over three linear miles of Tarboo Creek and its tributaries that had been previously straightened and ditched.

Under NWI supervision, heavy equipment contractors, using excavators and dozers, sculpted new stream channels, installed large wood for habitat structure, and added spawning gravels for the purpose of restoring salmon spawning habitat, rearing areas for juvenile salmon, and the hydrology and functioning of associated floodplains and wetlands.

To enhance wildlife habitat for species dependent on dead trees, NWI contractors used excavators to install large logs - both downed logs and standing snags. Over time, these wildlife trees are expected to be increasingly important for the over 200 species of amphibians, birds, and mammals that use dead trees for feeding, roosting, or nesting sites.

After earthwork and log placement was completed, NWI planted native trees and shrubs. Over the past six years, NWI’s field crew and volunteers from five local schools have planted more than 90,000 native trees and shrubs on the Preserve that are starting to revitalize stream and wetland areas.

Description of Resources

The 316-acre Tarboo Wildlife Preserve includes over 3 miles of streams, including approximately 1.5 miles of the lower mainstem of Tarboo Creek, and 1.5 miles of tributaries that enter from the side hills to the valley. The Preserve includes 200 acres of floodplain and wetlands, as well as forested uplands.

Tarboo Creek and several of its tributaries on the property provide important habitat for coho salmon, fall chum salmon, and resident and coastal cutthroat trout. Oral history reports collected by NWI indicate that until about the 1960s, Tarboo Creek had a strong winter steelhead population. The Preserve’s streams also support brook lamprey, crawfish, and freshwater mussels. Bear, cougar, deer, waterfowl and other mammals and birds typically found in Puget Sound wetlands and forests also inhabit the property.

Educational and Research Opportunities

The Preserve offers a unique opportunity to learn about habitat restoration of salmon streams and wetland habitats. Every year, NWI hosts field tours and workshops for groups and schools.

NWI has completed several habitat surveys on the Preserve and conducts a number of long term monitoring projects, including field trials comparing plant restoration methods, periodic monitoring of stream temperature and groundwater levels, and annual surveys of amphibians, bird nesting boxes, salmon spawning, and juvenile fish surveys. For information on how you can become involved in monitoring or original field research on the Preserve, please Contact Us.