What’s to Love: As stated on their website, “The Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge was established (along with 3 other refuges in the Willamette Valley of Oregon) in 1965, in response to a need to establish vital winter habitat for wintering waterfowl with an emphasis on the dusky Canada goose whose nesting areas in Alaska were severely impacted by the violent earthquake of 1964. Ridgefield Refuge is currently approximately 5,300 acres of marshes, grasslands and woodlands.” This Refuge is a must do for young hikers who might enjoy bird watching.
The Refuge is split into two sections: The Carty Unit and The River S Unit. The Carty Unit features a year-long hiking trail with plenty of options for side excursions and birding. The Carty Unit also contains the amazing “Cathlapolte Plankhouse,” which is a replica of a type of Native American shelter. It looks like the roof of a larger building from outside, but once inside, your kids will marvel at the size, open fire pits, and wood beam construction.
The S Unit features a seasonal hiking trail, an “auto tour,” an “observational blind,” and hunting for waterfowl, if that’s your thing. We didn’t get to visit this Unit due to all the planned activities and demonstrations at the Carty Unit. We’ll definitely go back and explore a bit.
Make sure to bring some cash or check for the day-use-fee. Since these fees can change, I recommend checking their website.
Don’t pick the blackberries! They are sprayed with chemicals. There is a warning sign, but many people didn’t know and were picking and eating as they hiked.
Distance from Portland: About 26 miles from downtown Portland. Here is a Google Map.
Recommended Ages: Unless your teens are interested in wildlife photography, this is probably not the place for them. I can’t imagine dragging a bunch of teens to this place without them complaining.
This is a great spot for kids in strollers or backpacks where you can simply walk and enjoy the surroundings. If your younger kids enjoy hiking and exploring, this is a good spot.
Parental Stress Factor: Nothing worrisome around this place. The only way you’ll get stressed here is if you decided to bring your teenager, and they constantly complain about how boring it is.
Physical Difficulty: Easy hiking on flat terrain. The walking paths are partially accessible with compressed asphalt. With an advance request to 360-887-4106, folks with physical disabilities can arrange assistance into the Plankhouse.
Family Fun Factor: Not a family fun destination, but certainly worth your while for a nature outing. If you go during demonstrations, the fun factor will increase. During our trip, we observed “flint napping, traditional archery/spear throwing, friction fires, and more. It was really fun!
Pet Friendly: No pets, even on leashes!
Weather Considerations: Year round access, but you might want to save this for a dry day during the spring or fall.
Insider Info: The Refuge hosts guided hikes, “Bird Fest,” and a bunch of special events. Try to plan your visit when the Refuge is host to demonstrations, or at least when the Plankhouse is open to the public.
When accessing the Carty Unit, you’ll cross a bridge where you can observe Amtrak trains flying by at high speeds. Just sit and wait – it won’t take long before one sails by right under you!
A jogging stroller is fine for the trails here; however, most likely, you’ll have to lift it over the access gate. Be on the lookout for snakes! I was able to catch one for the kids to observe.
Other Posts of Interest...
Washougal River Access on August 1st, 2012
Promontory Park on November 7th, 2007
Horsethief Lake State Park on July 10th, 2012