Columbia Basin
Wildlife Area Location

Chad Eidson
6653 Road K NE
Moses Lake, WA 98837
(509) 765-6641

Wildlife Areas

Start typing the name of a wildlife area or unit


List all wildlife areas
or units in a county
  Show All
  Wildlife Areas and Units  

Columbia Basin Wildlife Area
Desert Unit
The 34,920-acre Desert unit was wholly desert prior to the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project. It is the lowest part of the very large Quincy Basin that once was filled with glacial floodwater. The natural basin now serves as a collector for irrigation water from upslope farmlands. Most of this water is collected in the Winchester and Frenchman Hills wasteways, which meander southeasterly across several miles of the Desert Unit and eventually empty into the southwestern part of Potholes Reservoir. The vegetation in this mosaic of wetlands and desert uplands is very diverse. In addition to naturally-occurring shrub steppe communities, many acres have been aerially seeded to non-native grasses. The wetlands and shallow ponds created by the high water table and wasteways were once occupied by native marsh vegetation, but non-native invaders like Russian olive and purple loosestrife are now taking over. While county roads provide access to much of the perimeter of this area, access to the interior is very limited. The area supports waterfowl, white pelicans, mule deer, and other wildlife. Many ponds have been isolated from the wasteways with low sand dikes to exclude carp and improve waterfowl habitat.
Viewing Opportunities


  • Birds of Prey
  • Eagles
  • Shorebirds
  • Songbirds
  • Upland Birds
  • Wading Birds
  • Waterfowl
  • Mammals

  • Deer
  • Small Mammals
  • Other

  • Butterflies
  • Reptiles/Amphibians
  • Wildflowers
  • How to Get Here
    Access Site #1
    Driving Directions
    From Moses Lake, take I-90 west to the Dodson Road Exit 164. Go south on Dodson Road 2 miles to Road 1 SW. Turn east (left) on Road 1 SW and go 200 yards to the WDFW access road to the Audubon Trail. Back on Dodson Road, continue south about 2 miles to the WDFW Winchester Wasteway parking area, northeast wasteway bridge. Back on Dodson Road, continue south about 5 miles to the Frenchman Hills Wasteway and WDFW parking area on the southeast side of the wasteway bridge. Back on Dodson Road, continue south about one mile to the Frenchman Hills Road. Turn east or west on that road for more WDFW Desert access roads. About 1/2 mile west of Dodson Road there is a WDFW parking area on the north side of Frenchman Hills Road that overlooks a grazed wetland locally known as 'Birdwatchers Area'. There are two more WDFW parking areas at 1 mile and 3 miles west of Dodson Road. Continue west to County Road I SW. Turn north (right) on Road I SW and go 1.5 miles to a WDFW parking area on the east (right) side of the gravel road. Turning east on Frenchman Hills Road, there are WDFW access roads with parking areas at 2 miles and at 3 miles east of Dodson Road. Continue east on Frenchman Hills Road to the intersection with Highway 262. Turn east (left) on Hwy. 262 and go 2 miles to County Road C SW. Turn north (left) on Road C SW and proceed one mile on the gravel road to enter the Desert Unit at the WDFW 'Harris Road Access'.
    Parking/Restroom Information
    At the Audubon Trail, 1/4 mile south of Road 1 SW, there is a parking area and an outhouse. At Winchester Wasteway on Dodson Road there is a large parking area with a gravel boat ramp and an outhouse. At Frenchman Hills Wasteway on Dodson Road there is a large parking area and an outhouse. The Birdwatcher's Area on Frenchman Hills Road is a small parking area with no other facilities. The parking area on Road I SW is a large gravel lot with an outhouse. The four access roads and parking areas on Frenchman Hills Road between I Road SW and Hwy. 262 are small and primitive and do not have an outhouses. WDFW maintains four parking areas on the Harris Road Access. The eastern parking area, known as Harris Road #1, is at the Winchester Wasteway and it has an outhouse and a footbridge across the wasteway. The three other parking areas, on the west fork of Harris Road Access, provide public access to sandy uplands, small ponds and seasonal wetlands. Two of those parking areas, #2 and #4, also have outhouses. The middle parking area, #3, is a primitive site that provides cartop boat access to some shallow ponds there.

    See listing of Desert Access Sites and Facility Information

    Other Information
    There are two Game Reserves in the Desert Unit; The Winchester and The Frenchman Hills Game Reserves.
    Unique Features
    Most of the Desert Unit is within a large natural basin filled with black basalt sand deposited by ice age floods. It is a unique arid 'desert' environment with a high water table, many ponds, wetlands and two major wasteway stream systems, all fed by water from the federal Columbia Basin Irrigation Project.
    Notice to hunters: Winchester waterfowl hunting area dry
    Wildlife Area Habitat Conservation Plans
    Weekender Report
    Wildlife Viewing Guides
    Accessing Washington's Outdoors
    Find a Water Access Site
    GoHunt - Interactive Mapping
    Green Dot Maps
    No activities currently listed for this Unit.

    If you are Hunting or Fishing, remember to check all current regulations.

    Activities may include restrictions or require permits. Please see Public Conduct Rules for more information.