The Willapa National Wildlife Refuge was established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937. It was authorized under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and purchase of the original land base was accomplished with money raised by the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act of 1934. First established by Executive Order No. 7541 (on January 22, 1937), it was originally called the Willapa Harbor Migratory Bird Refuge. The name was changed to Willapa National Wildlife Refuge in 1940. The refuge was established in order to protect the migrating and wintering populations of brant, waterfowl, shorebirds, and other migratory birds and their habitats. Today, these lands preserve a rich heritage of wildlife for environmental conservation and wildlife-dependent recreation.
The current refuge headquarters, just to the south of the Naselle River, was constructed in the early 1940’s.