Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge
Visitors to Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge enjoy viewing a variety of wildlife within a few minutes of the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area. The refuge is situated on the shore of the Lower Columbia River, 10 miles downstream from the metropolitan area. This 5,217 acre refuge contains a mosaic of riverine flood plain habitat, intensively managed seasonal and permanent wetlands, and agricultural lands. The refuge contains the historic Cathlapotle townsite, which was visited by the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1806, and today is one of the best-preserved Native American sites in the Northwest United States. Ridgefield Refuge provides high quality wintering habitat for a variety of waterfowl, particularly dusky Canada goose and lesser sandhill cranes.
The Refuge landscape provides sanctuary throughout the seasons for waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, river otter, black-tailed deer, coyotes, herons, and numerous other species of wildlife. The Refuge also offers a place for people to keep in touch with their 'wild' neighbors. For many, this is a special place to learn about and appreciate the splendor of the natural areas that once occurred in abundance along the lower Columbia River.
Stop by the visitor contact station at the entrance and pick up a brochure, map or wildlife check list. Volunteers staff the station both during the week and on the weekends. If they are not there, pick up information from the dispenser boxes outside.
Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge is considered one of the top birding spots in northwest Oregon and southwest Washington. Stately sandhill cranes, shorebirds, and a great variety of songbirds stop at the refuge during spring and fall migrations. Some bird species such as mallards, great blue herons, and red-tailed hawks are year-round residents that nest on the refuge.
Join a refuge volunteer naturalist for a series of birding hikes on the refuge for an excellent opportunity to sharpen your birding skills while enjoying refuge trails. Space is limited, so reserve your spot early by contacting the refuge.
The refuge provides excellent wildlife viewing opportunities via a 4-mile auto tour route. New to the River 'S' Auto Tour is a companion Discover Audio Tour with information about the Refuge, its wildlife and its resources. The Discover Audio Tour is available for loan while visiting the Auto Tour Route from the Visitor Contact Station. Each track on the CD corresponds to a series of numeric signs along the Auto Tour Route. It can also be downloaded as a pod cast to a portable media device by visiting the web site for the Friends of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.
Fishing is allowed only in Lake River and not in any of the refuge ponds, ditches, or sloughs. Visitors wishing to fish on this unit must park in the entrance fee parking lot near the restroom area and walk down the side of the levy to reach the banks of Lake River. There are no fishing piers or launch facilities for motorized or non-motorized boats located on this unit of the Refuge. Frogging is not allowed anywhere on the refuge.
The refuge provides excellent wildlife viewing opportunities via two developed hiking trails. Join a Refuge volunteer naturalist for a series of birding hikes on Ridgefield and Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuges. This is an excellent opportunity to sharpen your birding skills while enjoying Refuge trails. All hikes start at the respective trail head. Space is limited, so please reserve your spot early.
GeoAdventure is a free group activity kit that includes a GPS unit and a bag of clues, designed for ages 12 and up. GeoAdventure is a fun way for your scout troop, church group, club or family to learn to navigate with a GPS unit, practice detective skills with a bag of clues, discover more about Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and learn about local biology or archaeology. GPS units can be checked out for the activity.
Many years before Europeans arrived to the lower Columbia River, the area's rich natural resources such as those found on present day Ridgefield NWR had been sustaining people for thousands of years. Over the last decade, archaeological research on the Refuge - conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in partnership with the Chinook Tribe and Portland State University - revealed fascinating information about the area's ancient environment and the importance of the plants and animals to the native people. Scientists uncovered the remains of a large ancient village bearing testimony to an enduring and intimate relationship between people and the land.
Ridgefield NWR has provided a public waterfowl hunting area since it was established in 1965. At Ridgefield, the waterfowl hunt program is operated in a manner that is consistent and compatible with the purposes and goals of the Refuge and provides a quality experience for the hunter. This program contributes to the continuation of America's traditions and heritage in wildlife conservation and outdoor recreation. Waterfowl hunting of ducks and geese is permitted on approximately 760 acres of spaced blind hunting area on Ridgefield NWR in accordance with Washington State and Federal regulations.
The Refuge landscape provides sanctuary throughout the seasons for waterfowl, shorebirds, raptors, river otter, black-tailed deer, coyotes, herons, and numerous other species of wildlife.
An observation blind overlooking Rest Lake is located close to the half-way point on the auto tour route just before arriving at the Kiwa Trail parking lot. This shelter is covered by a stand of Oregon ash trees and has cut-out windows where spotting scopes and cameras can be set up for close up views of wildlife.
Its 5,300 acres contains a lush mosaic of wetlands, grasslands, riparian corridors, fir forests, and Oregon white oak woodlands. These habitats combined with a mild rainy winter climate provide an ideal environment for migrating and wintering waterfowl. Every fall the Refuge comes alive with thousands of ducks, geese, swans and cranes. These birds depart their northern nesting range and migrate to this area to avoid the harsh Alaskan and Canadian winters. On Ridgefield Refuge, they find resting and feeding areas where they spend the winter months preparing to meet the demands of the spring migration and nesting seasons.
The Carty Unit and its 2-mile Oaks to Wetlands Trails are open year-round during daylight hours. The River 'S' offers the 1-mile Kiwa Trail, which is open for use from May 1 to September 30. The River 'S' Unit also contains the 4.2-mile Auto Tour Route and observation blind that are open year-round during daylight hours. To limit disturbance to wintering waterfowl, visitors must remain in their vehicles along the Auto Tour Route from October 1 to April 30. Enjoy wildlife observation during the winter months as your car serves as your personal mobile observation blind. A portion of the River 'S' Unit is open to waterfowl hunting during the regular waterfowl hunting season.
The Friends of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting educational programs, increasing public awareness and protecting and enhancing the natural and cultural resources of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.
To reach the Carty and River "S" Units of the refuge, take the Ridgefield exit from Interstate 5 approximately 20 miles north of Vancouver, Washington. Drive 3 miles west to Ridgefield, where you will see signs directing you to these units. To reach the Ridgeport Dairy Unit, take the Fourth Plain Boulevard exit from I-5 at the south side of Vancouver. Travel west then north, turning west at Vancouver Lake Park. The road then becomes Lower River Road; follow it to a turnaround at the north end of the road.