Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge─Gorge on some excellent bird watching

Steigerwald Lake NWR protects important bird habitat along the Columbia River.

Steigerwald Lake NWR protects important
bird habitat along the Columbia River.

Quick Facts

Location: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Land Agency: US Fish and Wildlife

Roundtrip: 2.8 miles

Elevation Gain: none


Green Trails Map: Columbia River Gorge West No. 428S

Notes: Dogs prohibited; section of trail closed from Oct 1—Apr 30 for wildlife protection.

Access: From Vancouver head east on SR 14 for 18.2 miles turning right just after entering the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area into a large parking area.

Opened in 2009, the Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail in the 1,000-plus acre Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge is a pleasant path meandering through Columbia River bottomlands. One of the unique features of this refuge is its location near the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge, the lowest gap through the Cascade Mountains; allowing birds more associated with the east side of the state to occasionally stray here. Look for kingbirds, phoebes, nighthawks, Lewis’s woodpecker and burrowing owls. Of course there should be plenty of herons, geese, ducks and kingfishers on hand for your visit as well.

Steigerwald occupies former farmland; now gorgeous open space at the extreme western edge of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. It is here where urban yields to rural, bluffs overshadow floodplain, and a multitude of avian residents pass by, mate, nest, and reside.

While designated an art trail (like the one at Willapa National Wildlife Refuge), the refuge has just begun acquiring and commissioning pieces of art to be placed along the way. The trail heads south across wet meadows passing through a tunnel of willows reaching a channel feeding into Steigerwald Lake. Scan the open water and tall grasses and cattails for waterfowl and songbirds. And enjoy the pretty backdrop of gorge sentinels, Mount Pleasant and Oregon’s Larch Mountain.

Continue on the delightful trail coming to a stately row of cottonwoods. Here the trail bends east to travel along Gibbons Creek coming to a junction at .6 mile. The trail left is closed from October 1 to April 30th to protect wintering birds. If closed head right. If open continue straight following along Gibbons Creek for .6 mile reaching the East Dike Trail. Enjoy exceptional views here of the Columbia River, Reed Island and Oregon’s Crown Point.

To continue the loop turn right on the East Dike Trail and proceed for .5 mile reaching the western extension of the Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail. Turn right and skirt Redtail Lake, a shallow body of water usually supporting a heavy concentration of birds.

Then continue over an attractive boardwalk; before heading east along cottonwood-lined Gibbons Creek eventually crossing it to return to the junction with the eastern leg of the trail. Turn left and retrace steps to the trailhead.

For more information on this hike and 99 others in the Columbia River Gorge, check out my new release Day Hiking Columbia River Gorge.

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