Washington Swan Stewards

Washington Swan Stewards

Guidelines for Swan Watching: Johnson DeBay Swan Reserve

> Frequently Asked Questions

> Skagit Valley

> Johnson / DeBay Swan Reserve

> Get Lost Magazine article "Swans in the Skagit"

> Guidelines for Swan Watching

This site was created by a public/private partnership in 2001. Its primary purpose is to provide quality public viewing of swans during their winter stay. The Reserve is wheelchair friendly with special parking spaces for those with Disabled Parking Permits. It is owned and managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) as part of their Skagit Wildlife Area. The volunteer stewards are The Trumpeter Swan Society, Skagit Audubon Society, Washington Waterfowl Association and Ducks Unlimited.

A WDFW Vehicle Use Permit is REQUIRED to park in all improved parking areas on WDFW lands. You can purchase this permit at any store that sells hunting and fishing licenses or on-line from WDFW at: https://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov/wdfw/vup.html OR the Conway Texaco Grocery & Deli near I-5 and Fir Island Road intersection.


Hours: About 8:00 a.m. until dusk.

During much of the winter you can expect to see hundreds of Trumpeter Swans, a few Tundra Swans, Canada Geese, and thousands of ducks of several species including Mallards and Pintails. Bald Eagles, Northern Harriers and Cooper's Hawks are common raptors and many other bird species are possible during this time of year.

The majority of the area is planted in corn or potatoes depending on the rotational cropping plan. The current cropping plan is to harvest the corn or potatoes and over-seed with winter wheat. The waste crop left in the field is highly attractive to swans and the winter wheat provides additional winter forage for the birds. Some corn is left standing, then knocked down in late January after hunting season to provide an additional food resource.

GATE: If the gate is locked, please park in the outer lot and walk in to the Reserve. The Reserve is open all year, but the gate may be closed. It is opened by volunteers only during the swan season. The reason for the gate to be opened and closed daily is to prevent garbage dumping and vandalism at the site. This on-going problem has been greatly reduced by gate closure at night.

You may want to bring binoculars or a spotting scope, and wear warm clothing.

Photographic opportunities are often spectacular at this area, especially during swan season.


  • The area is northeast of Mt. Vernon, Washington.
  • Go on I-5 to Mt. Vernon. take the COLLEGE WAY EXIT.
  • Turn EAST on College Way (if driving northbound I-5 turn right on College Way. If driving southbound, turn left on College Way)
  • Go to LaVenture, turn LEFT (traffic light, Skagit Valley Community College on corner).
  • Follow this road and it will drop down into the valley. Be sure to obey the speed limit signs.
  • At the bottom of the hill as you come to the valley floor the speed changes to 50mph. From this speed sign it is about 3.1 miles to the Reserve.
  • Turn LEFT on DeBay Isle Road. This road is located at the beginning of a major right bend in the main road. If you miss the left turn, go straight into a gravel parking lot and turn around - DeBay Isle Road adjoins this intersection.
  • Go on the dike road to a gate.
  • The Reserve is open to the public every day. Please remember that even if the gates are closed you may still park in the outer lot and walk around the gate to bird watch within the Reserve.


Return to The Trumpeter Swan Society website