Though relatively compact as far as wildlife refuges go, the 1,049-acre Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge receives an extraordinary amount of wildlife traffic. The same sea-level passage through the Cascades that the Columbia River offers to shipping traffic also qualifies the basin as an excellent migratory path. Add to this the refuge’s proximity to the coast and to protected habitat such as Reed Island State Park, and the humble preserve suddenly becomes quite an important nexus for resident and migratory bird life.
The refuge consists of floodplain and wetland habitat that was historically Columbia River turf during seasonally high flows. Currently the area is a mix of dense stands of cottonwoods and open expanses of native grasses and ponds through which winds a walking trail. The trail itself consists of compacted gravel and is very accessible for wildlife watchers of all abilities. You will also find interpretive stations and assorted sculptures interspersed throughout the loop. Over all of this presides the dominant figure of Mount Hood, capping the sense of the refuge’s specifically Northwest location.
The Steigerwald Lake Trail leads towards the Columbia River Dike Trail, where you’ll gain views of Reed Island State Park and the refuge’s unique purple plover habitat. Turn left and walk upstream to continue the loop back around the lake and to return to your car. Alternately, if you are looking for a longer walk or have set a shuttle, turn right and walk downstream along the Reed Island Channel to Captain William Clark State Park at Cottonwood Beach.