COLUMN: New outdoor classroom coming to Ankeny refuge

The Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge south of Salem is about to get a useful and unique public facility.  The David B. Marshall Outdoor Classroom is under construction. On Saturday, March 16, there will be a ribbon-cutting at 1 p.m. The address is 130 Ankeny Hill Road.

The refuge is about 12 miles south of Salem. Carpool if you can – parking is limited.

The nature center stands atop a hill overlooking the northwest corner of the refuge. Just outside its doors is a nature trail lined with native plants. The outdoor classroom will be completed next month. It sits at the base of that same hill, adjacent to a seasonal wetland where birds often congregate. This area is called Peregrine Marsh. 

A speaker in the classroom, mentioning ducks, may find those words punctuated by the quaking of mallards, or honking of Canada geese. Some days there’ll be a great blue heron hunting the shoreline within clear view from the classroom.

The outdoor classroom at Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge nears completion in February 2024. (Courtesy/Samantha Bartling)

David B. Marshall was a biologist with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He spent years working at Ankeny.  His family made a major donation toward construction of this classroom. Born in Portland, he graduated from Oregon State University. After retiring as federal biologist, in 2003, he co-authored a 700 page reference book “Birds of Oregon,” which has been called the “definitive source for Oregon ornithology.”   That book is still in print from Oregon State University Press.

The Ankeny Refuge contains almost 2,800 acres and about 500 of that is seasonal wetlands.  There are open fields for crops and some wetland forest. There are four hiking trails open in spring and summer. While wintering waterfowl and shorebirds are often numerous, the refuge also attracts migrants in spring and fall. Plus it has a rich variety of nesting birds, from bald eagle to bushtit, from pileated to down woodpeckers. The refuge was established in 1965 so its 60th anniversary is next year.

Major donors of the Ankeny Hill Nature Center and Marshall classroom (donating $5,000 or more) include (starting with the largest donors): Mark Gehlar, Salem Audubon Society, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Friends of the Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Dick and Beth Aften, Lowell Spring, David Harrison, Georgia Marshall (David’s widow), Chris Shank, Hugh Morrison Family Foundation, Ray Temple and Stephanie Hazen, Carolyn and Tom Homan, Tim Johnson and Carol Soderberg. 

Visit the website for the Nature Center at

Correction: This article originally listed the date of the ribbon cutting incorrectly. It is March 16, not February 15. Salem Reporter apologizes for the error.

For information about upcoming Salem Audubon programs and activities, see, or Salem Audubon’s Facebook page.

Harry Fuller is an Oregon birder and natural history author of “Freeway Birding” and the newly-published “Birding Harney County.” He is a member of the Salem Audubon Society. Contact him at [email protected] or His “Some Fascinating Things About Birds” column appears regularly in Salem Reporter.

SUPPORT OUR WORK – We depend on subscribers for resources to report on Salem with care and depth, fairness and accuracy. Subscribe today to get our daily newsletters and more. Click I want to subscribe!

Harry Fuller is an Oregon birder and natural history author of three books: “Freeway Birding,” "Great Gray Owls of California, Oregon and Washington," and "San Francisco's Natural History--Sand Dunes to Streetcars." He leads birding trips for the Malheur Field Station. He is a member of the Salem Audubon Society, and leads bird trips locally. Harry has just published a new book, BIrding Harney County.