We need your help! Currently the Plankhouse is staffed almost entirely by volunteer docents and we depend on docents to keep the Plankhouse open on the weekends and to lead school group tours and programs. Read about the benefits and expectations of the volunteers below and see some of the testaments of current Plankhouse docents and volunteers.

No Experience necessary. We provide training, reading materials, ongoing volunteer support, and opportunities for professional development.

The annual Plankhouse Volunteer training is held in April of each year, before the spring programs begin. If you have missed the training, but still want to get involved, contact Plankhouse Coordinator, Sarah Hill, at sarah_hill@fws.gov or call (360) 887-4106 and she can arrange an alternate training plan.






Below are some of the benefits of being a volunteer:

  • Obtaining knowledge of the cultural and historical significance of the Plankhouse and sharing with others.
  • Opportunities to learn native crafts and culture.
  • Various opportunities to visit closed areas of the refuge.
  • Opportunities for group trips to events, activities, and exhibits of neighboring and partnering organizations.
  • Inclusion on the mailing list for information on upcoming workshops, events, and activities.
  • Opportunity to lend individual knowledge and talents to the Plankhouse to help fulfill its mission.
  • Various rewards from the Fish and Wildlife Service based on the level of volunteer hours achieved including pins and an annual pass.



Below are some of the expectations of being a volunteer:

  • Work 4-hour shifts with at least one other docent in our modern replica of a Chinookan Plankhouse.
  • Provide visitors with a safe and educational visit.
  • Volunteer 1 or 2 days a month.
  • Interpret the natural resources, history, and culture of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge including Cathlapotle and its people to walk in visitors and some groups.
  • Perform basic house keeping tasks, including sweeping, picking up litter, and some minor lifting
  • Attend periodic training sessions
  • Follow and abide by refuge policies and procedures.

Below current docents have shared their thoughts and feelings on time spent volunteering at the Plankhouse.

“What I enjoy most about working at the Plankhouse are all the wonderful people I meet. The visitors from the Vancouver and Portland area are great to talk to and are very interested in learning about the history of the Chinooks and their culture. I have also met many people from the rest of the U.S., even Europe, and Japan.”

– Terry Sasser


“I enjoy the fact that the majority of our visitors are engaged in the history and very excited to learn about the project, the visitors make it very rewarding and worth the effort. In addition the history of Cathlapotle is amazing and I find the ability to discuss this with visitors is truly a blessing. Finally the people I work along side with are great.”

– Paul Rea
“The Cathlapotle house is a very good place to volunteer and give back to the community. During your afternoon shift you have the pleasure to share your interpretive knowledge of how the Chinookan people were living their life and hearing the visitors share their own interpretative history of the area.”

– Jac Arnal