Oaks to Wetlands Trail─A slough of birds and delights along the Columbia River

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Old-growth garry oak.

Quick Facts:

Location: Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Clark County

Land Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife

Roundtrip: 2.0 miles

Elevation Gain: 75 feet

Contact: Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

Notes: Dogs prohibited.

Access: From Exit 14 on I-5 head west 3.0 miles on SR 501 (Pioneer Street) to its end in downtown Ridgefield. Then turn right onto Main Ave proceeding 1.0 mile to the Carty Unit of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge and trailhead.

The 5,248-acre Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge is not only a sanctuary for scores of wintering and resident birds in rapidly developing Clark County, but also a haven for local nature lovers. The Oaks to Wetlands Trail is a wonderful kid-friendly path that gently weaves through groves of old-growth Garry Oaks and along sloughs of wapato and wading birds. Plus, this trail travels by a replica of a longhouse allowing modern visitors a glimpse into the past when this area was the site of Cathlapotle, a large Chinook village.

Start by heading over a set of railroad tracks on an arched bridge. Soon afterwards, reach a junction in a field sloping towards 313the Columbia River. Bear right coming to the longhouse and another junction. You’ll be returning on the “Service Road Trail” left; so veer right ambling among stately oaks and Oregon ash. Merge with the “Service Road” trail and cross a small creek reaching a three-way junction.

Bear right heading through thick timber. At .7 mile reach a junction with a short-cut to the “Service Road Trail.” Head right once more coming to Boot Lake; its shallow waters choked with wapato; an arrow-leafed aquatic important to the area’s First Peoples. Continue along the lake reaching the refuge’s northern boundary to begin looping back to the trailhead.

Skirting pools and sloughs bursting with birdlife, pass a side trail (or explore it if you’d like) to a small peninsula. At about 1.5 miles, come to a familiar three-way junction. Head right on the “Service Road Trail’ returning to the longhouse; then follow the main trail back to the trailhead.

For more information on this hike and many others in the greater Portland-Vancouver area consult my Day Hiking Columbia River Gorge (Mountaineers Books) guidebook.Columbia River Gorge Cover

For more information on where to stay, play, eat, and enjoy the attractions of Portland check out Northwest Trip Finder.NWTFmasthead_layers15

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