What's the Draw? The wildlife refuge is one of the few natural areas of wetlands, grasslands, and oak and Douglas-fir forests maintained for wildlife along the river today. You can spot many species of waterfowl, raptors, painted turtles, great blue herons, sandhill cranes, deer, possibly river otters, and more there. Last week I saw and heard snow geese at the refuge, clumped together in a wetland beyond a row of trees.
Also enjoy the quaint stretch of old downtown Ridgefield and its shops and eateries.
What to Bring: Bring binoculars for spotting wildlife. If you don't have binocs, go anyway. It's still lovely and bucolic there. If you go to the Carty Unit of the wildlife refuge where I went, the northern unit with walking-only trails, wear boots or shoes that you don't mind getting wet or muddy and a good waterproof jacket during the wet season (any time from October through June). A field guide or two would be helpful for identifying birds and plants.
What's the History? Humans have inhabited the site of the wildlife refuge for at least 2,300 years. The Lewis and Clark expedition stopped here over 200 years ago on their way down and back up the Columbia River, when the site was the village of Cathlapotle. Today the Cathlapotle Plankhouse sits perched above Duck Lake (pictured above). This replica of a Chinookan western red cedar plankhouse was built in 2005 and is similar to the 14 plankhouses that Lewis and Clark saw when they camped here in 1806. Today the plankhouse is used for environmental education, resource interpretation, and special events.
|Volunteers working on updates to the Cathlapotle Plankhouse|
|This big old oak tree is home to hanging moss and fern gardens and tree frogs.|
|A great blue heron hanging out on the other side of the pond.|
On the eastern edge of downtown, the Dancing Rabbit gift shop is the kind of cozy and classy little shop that begs a stop. I snagged some great earrings for a very reasonable price and picked up a bag of Kristi's sea salt caramel corn, made right in Ridgefield. Yummers.