Located on the north shore of the Olympic Peninsula, this site includes intertidal and subtidal waters of Dungeness Bay, Dungeness Spit, the Dungeness River estuary, and adjacent wetlands. It comprises extensive sandflats and mudflats; some of the largest eelgrass beds in the Northwest; and a network of spits, sandbars, and small islands. Adjacent coastal wetlands contain fresh water and estuarine marshes and ponds maintained by a seasonally high water table. Dungeness Spit and adjacent intertidal areas lie within the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge.
Dungeness Bay, one of the premier estuaries in the Pacific Northwest, is used by tens of thousands of shorebirds, gulls, and waterfowl during migration and winter. Its sandflats and mudflats provide extensive feeding areas for shorebirds. Subtidal eelgrass beds and associated fauna support significant populations of Brant, diving ducks, seabirds, loons, grebes, and other diving birds.
The fundamental threat to this area is recreational overuse. The refuge has attractive sandy beaches, and is heavily visited by tourists. Between 1980 and 1990, recreational visits increased from 67,000 per year to 113,000. Refuge managers are frequently under pressure from local elected officials to open the refuge to more tourism and recreational uses. Eelgrass beds are in decline because of disturbance and sedimentation from adjacent upland development. The estuary is downstream from a rapidly growing suburban area that is encroaching on fresh water wetlands. Runoff from agriculture, failing septic systems, lawns, and roads poses pollution threats.