Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge
Ridgefield NWR has a total of 5,150 acres of marshes, grasslands, and woodlands. Preservation of the natural Columbia River floodplain is the management objective of the Carty (2-mile self guided hiking trail) Roth and Ridgeport Dairy units. The River ‘S’ (4.2 mile auto tour route and 1.2 mile seasonal hiking trail) and Bachelor Island units are managed to maximize habitat for waterfowl and other wetland wildlife.
The refuge was established (along with 3 other refuges in the Willamette Valley of Oregon) in 1965, in response to a need to establish vital habitat for wintering waterfowl with an emphasis on the dusky Canada goose whose nesting areas in Alaska were severly impacted by the violent earthquake of 1964.
Stately sandhill cranes, shorebirds, and a great variety of songbirds stop at the refuge during spring and fall migrations. Some bird species such as mallards, great blue herons, and red-tailed hawks are year-round residents that nest on the Refuge. Black-tailed deer are the largest mammal on the refuge. Coyote, raccoon, skunk, beaver, river otter, and brush rabbits can also be seen on the Refuge.
Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Complex
The Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Complex is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. There are more than 540 refuges nationwide totaling over 94 million acres of land managed specifically for the conservation of fish and wildlife and their habitats. Refuges serve to protect America’s natural and cultural heritage for all people and for future generations.
The Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Complex is headquartered in Ridgefield, Washington, and oversees the management of four refuges in the southwestern part of the state including: Ridgefield NWR and three refuges in the Columbia River Gorge – Franz Lake, Pierce, and Steigerwald Lake NWR. Visit the US Fish and Wildlife Service website at to learn more about these five refuges including recreational and volunteer opportunities and environmental education programs.
There is a daily fee of $3.00 per passenger vehicle or motorcycle to enter the Carty and River “S” units. Please note that seasonal hiking restrictions apply on the River “S” unit beyond the entrance to the Refuge. A Ridgefield NWR specific pass, valid for one year from the date of issue, may be purchased for $15.00 at the Refuge office at 28908 NW Main Ave. in Ridgefield.
Special rates are charged to commercial groups utilizing the Refuge for commercial tours. For detailed information about the Refuge entrance and recreation fees please click here (this link will take you to the US Fish and Wildlife website for Ridgefield NWR), Entrance and Recreation Fees.
An important feature of Ridgefield’s recreation and entrance fee program allows 100% of the funds collected to remain at the Refuge to be used for recreation related expenses including brochures, signs, facilities enhancement, trail/road maintenance, restoration associated with wildlife-dependent recreation, and public safety.
Periodically, the refuge may be closed for scheduled maintenance or construction projects, or because weather conditions have caused refuge trails or the auto tour route to be unsafe for visitors.
River ‘S’ Unit – ‘RVS’
- Directions to the River ‘S’ Unit – From I-5, take Exit 14, on Pioneer Street, go 3 miles west into the town of Ridgefield and take a left on S. 9th Avenue or Hillhurst Road. The refuge entrance road is located .7 miles up the hill on the right side of the road.
- RVS’ – Drive the Auto Tour Route – The auto tour route is a one-way 4.2-mile loop gravel road (the first mile of the road is two-way). It is open daily to vehicles during daylight hours. In addition to vehicles, the auto tour route is open to foot traffic between May 1 and September 30.
- At times the auto tour route can be busy. Please be a courteous driver and use the turnouts provided to allow traffic to flow. Always observe the posted speed limit and all refuge signs. The roadway is maintained to meet the standards for regular passenger vehicles and for school buses and RV’s. If you are unsure about current road conditions and have a large or oversized vehicle, please contact the Refuge for more information. Bicycles, off-road vehicles, and ATV driving are not permitted on the Refuge.
- ‘RVS’ – Walk the Seasonal Trail – The Kiwa Trail is a 1.2-mile loop trail open May 1 through September 30. It is the only walking trail available on this unit. The path is compacted gravel and accessible to wheelchairs and strollers. The trail passes through an understory of Oregon ash trees and between open wetland areas. Between May 1 and September 30, visitors may also walk the auto tour route.
- ‘RVS’ – Hunt Waterfowl – An area for waterfowl hunting (ducks, geese, and coots) has been designated on this unit and is open by permit only during the regular state waterfowl hunt season. For more information, go to the Waterfowl Hunt Program page on the US Fish and Wildlife website. The Refuge is not open to deer or any other type of hunting.
- ‘RVS’ – Fishing – On this Refuge unit, fishing is allowed only in Lake River and not in any of the refuge ponds, ditches, or sloughs. Visitors wishing to fish on this unit must park in the entrance fee parking lot near the restroom area and walk down the side of the levy to reach the banks of Lake River. There are no fishing piers or launch facilities for motorized or non-motorized boats located on this unit of the Refuge. Frogging is not allowed anywhere on the refuge.
- ‘RVS’ – View Wildlife at an Observation Blind – An observation blind overlooking Rest Lake is located close to the half-way point on the auto tour route just before arriving at the Kiwa Trail parking lot. This shelter is covered by a stand of Oregon ash trees and has cut-out windows where spotting scopes and cameras can be set up for close up views of wildlife.
- ‘RVS’ – Other Visitor Facilities – Stop by the visitor contact station at the entrance and pick up a brochure, map, or wildlife check list. Volunteers staff the station both during the week and on the weekends. If they are not there, pick up information from the dispenser boxes outside.
- There are two vault restrooms located at the entrance of the unit at the visitor contact station. An additional vault restroom is located at the observation blind. There are no picnic areas or drinking fountains available on the refuge.
Carty Unit – ‘CAR’
- ‘CAR’ – Directions – From I-5, take Exit 14, on Pioneer Street go west into the town of Ridgefield until Pioneer Street ‘T’s’ with Main Avenue. Take a right turn on Main Avenue and proceed north for 1 mile. The refuge entrance road is located on the left side of the road.
- ‘CAR’ – Walk a Year-round Trail – The Carty Unit is open daily to foot traffic only during daylight hours. Here you can hike the 2-mile Oaks to Wetlands loop trail. Although maintained, this trail is undeveloped. Many parts of the trail are uneven, rocky, steep, narrow, and may become slippery when wet. Sturdy shoes should be worn and caution should be used to avoid contacting poison oak on some parts of the trail.
- ‘CAR’ – Visit a Chinookan Plankhouse – The Cathlapotle Plankhouse is generally open to the public from noon – 4:00 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday during spring and summer months. It is staffed with volunteer docents who will describe the cultural history of the Chinookan peoples who used the Refuge and tell stories about the construction project that built the plankhouse. Visit the plankhouse website at www.plankhouse.org to learn more.
- ‘CAR’ – Fishing – Fishing is allowed in wetland areas located along the Oaks to Wetlands trail and in Gee Creek. There are no piers or launch facilities for motorized or non-motorized boats on the Refuge. Frogging is not allowed anywhere on the refuge.
- Visitors fishing on this unit of the Refuge are reminded not to litter or leave fishing line or other materials behind. They are a hazard to wildlife. Fishermen should be careful to tread lightly on the Refuge and pack out what is brought in.
- ‘CAR’ – Visitor Facilities – Located near the parking lot is a kiosk with Refuge maps and brochures and up-to-date information on events and the Cathlapotle Plankhouse. There are two vault restrooms located in the parking lot of the Carty unit. There are no restrooms, drinking fountains, or picnic areas on the Refuge.
- ‘CAR’ – Proposed Refuge Headquarters and Visitor Contact Station – The Carty Unit is the future site of the Ridgefield NWR headquarters and visitor contact station. Proposed facilities include a new parking area, information kiosk, visitor contact station, classrooms, and the headquarters office for the Refuge complex. In addition, there are plans to build an outdoor education and wildlife observation shelter, and provide accessible trail and outdoor interpretive facilities.
Ridgeport Dairy Unit
- Access by foot, bicycle, boat, or motorized vehicles onto Refuge property is not allowed on the Ridgeport Dairy Unit.
- While there is no access to the Ridgeport Dairy Unit vehicles may drive to the end of Lower River Road (through the Port of Vancouver) where there is a parking area available at the south boundary of the Refuge for wildlife observation and photographic opportunities.
- There is no hunting, fishing, or visitor facilities on the Ridgeport Dairy Unit. The nearest bathroom is a vault toilet at the Shillapoo State Wildlife Area located 3 miles south of the Refuge on Lower River Road.. Picnic areas are available nearby at Vancouver Lake County Park.
Refuge Rules and Regulations
- Bicycling, horseback riding, ATV’s, and dogs are not allowed on any part of the Refuge. Refer to refuge signs and publications, or contact the refuge manager about current refuge regulations.
- Dogs and other pets are not allowed on the refuge since they are considered to be predators and a threat to most wildlife. Dogs and other pets brought to the Refuge for a drive on the auto tour route must remain inside the vehicle while on the Refuge and should not be allowed to disturb or harass wildlife.
- Releasing unwanted pets and ‘rescued’ animals onto the refuge is not allowed and is considered a health risk or threat to wildlife and their habitats. Please contact the Refuge office if you need assistance with these matters.
- Horseback riding, bicycling, jogging, camping, and any other uses not specifically mentioned are not allowed on the Refuge. Why? These uses are considered non-wildlife dependent and non-priority public uses for National Wildlife Refuges. The purpose of refuges is to provide safe habitat for wildlife making them different from parks and other recreational areas. Public uses must be compatible with the purposes of the refuge. Many refuges are great places to experience the outdoors, but wildlife comes first.
- Remember that all things on the Refuge are protected from the tiniest of feathers to the wildflowers, rocks, plants, animals, and other ‘collectibles’. Removing these items and others such as archaeological artifacts is not allowed and is considered very serious. Please take only photos and memories with you.