Bird watchers rejoice! The Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge is absolutely the best location in the region for viewing wildlife, and it is often overlooked in spite of its proximity to Portland. At 5,218 acres, the refuge sits along the eastern bank of the Columbia River just north of Vancouver, Washington. The refuge is a protected area of sloughs, lakes, wetlands, grasslands and forests that comprise the Columbia River flood plain. It is an optimal environment for migrating birds, waterfowl and critters of all sizes.
The refuge is broken up into five different units, two of which are open to the public: the River ‘S’ and the Carty Unit. Head south of Ridgefield for the River ‘S’ Unit, where you can walk along the 1.5 mile Kiwa Trail (open May 1st through September 30th) or drive the the Auto Tour Route. You will see a dazzling collection of wildlife, including the semi-endangered western painted turtle, numerous red-winged blackbirds, Canada geese, great horned owls and bald eagles.
From Ridgefield, head north to make your way to the Carty Unit, a collection of trails that meander through Douglas fir, Oregon white oak, and wild hazelnut trees around serene Lancaster Lake. From the beginning of the 2-mile loop, stop off at the Cathlapotle Plankhouse, a full-scale cedar replica of the “Cathlapotle nation” vernacular architecture. The Cathlapotle Town Site was a home for native peoples for thousands of years. Lewis and Clark first observed the village of Cathlapotle on their way to the Pacific in 1805.