- Get Involved
- Cathlapotle Plankhouse
Built in partnership with the Chinook Indian Nation, Portland State University, The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and numerous other community partners and volunteers. This House serves as an education and interpretive center and is used by the Chinook Indian Nation for cultural events throughout the year. Visit the Cathlapotle Plankhouse and connect with local indigenous culture.
Located on the Carty Unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, the Cathlapotle Plankhouse is open to the public weekends from spring to fall. Volunteer docents staff the House to provide tours and answer questions. Our open hours depend on volunteer availability, so please check the calendar to make sure the House is open when planning your trip.
Mid-April through October 2nd
Saturday & Sunday
12pm – 4pm
Each year around 3,500 students visit the Plankhouse and the Refuge for educational field trips. For more information on how to schedule a field trip at the Refuge, please visit our Education page. The Friends also offers busing assistance funds to schools coming out for a trip. Information about this program can also be found on this page.
Other Group Tours
Group tours are available by special arrangement on a limited basis. Contact Plankhouse Coordinator Sarah Hill at (360) 887 4106 or email Sarah_Hill@fws.gov .
Second Sunday Series
The Plankhouse hosts a series of presentations on Chinookan culture, archaeology, and natural history the Second Sunday of every month from April-October. These events include lectures, hikes, and hands on family activities. To view upcoming special events, please visit our events calendar.
The Plankhouse will be open from 12:00 PM-4:00 PM on each of the following days. House tours, kids activities, and naturalist guided walks are included with every event. These events are free with refuge admission. Stop by any time between 12 and 4!
June 11- (1:00 PM) – Colonizing Native History – Dr. David Lewis Dr. Lewis will explore commonly known “Native” oral histories such as the creation of the Bridge of the Gods. He will examine why these stories have been so popular among non-native people in the Pacific Northwest, and how these stories can actually contribute to the erasure of Indigenous histories.
July 9- Oak Appreciation Day Oregon White Oak ecosystems in the PNW are deeply connected with Indigenous Peoples. Learn about human and oak relationships, rare oak habitat at the Refuge, and how you can help these ecosystems.
August 13- Traditional Technologies Day Visit the Plankhouse and learn about tools and techniques that people in Cathlapotle, and around the world, have used since time immemorial. Learn how to throw an atlatl, shoot a bow and arrow, make friction fire, weave, see stone tools be created, and more at this hands on event!
September 10- (1:00 PM)- Traditional Ecological Knowledge & Climate Change Dr. Samantha Chisholm Hatfield Dr. Hatfield will offer new perspectives on how traditional ecological knowledge can be brought to bear on climate change in the Pacific Northwest.
BirdFest & Bluegrass
The Plankhouse season ends with our biggest event of the year, BirdFest & Bluegrass. There are tons of walks, talks, and activities happening by the Plankhouse and throughout town that showcase the cultural and natural history of the region. Visit our BirdFest page to learn more about the event.
The Plankhouse hosts a series of Artists-in-Residence demonstrations of Chinookan arts and culture during the months of April-June, especially for school groups. Past artists have demonstrated basket making, traditional foods and preparation techniques, and paint making with a variety of minerals and clays. To coordinate your school group trip to the Refuge with the Artist-in-Residence Series fill out the education form on the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge’s education page, and request Artist in Residence on the form.
May 14 – 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Along the Columbia River Indigenous women tended to plants important for food, medicine, and trade. This Mother’s Day, bring mom out to the Refuge to learn about these plants and about plants you can connect with in your neighborhood.
Tours, Kids Activites, and Wild Tea Samples (while supplies last)
1 PM – Tending the Wild walk and talk – Discover ways women in Cathlapotle cared for their plant relatives
2 PM – Family Nature Walk
3 PM – Soothing Herbal Salve Making Demonstration
Free with Refuge admission: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Ridgefield/visit/entrance_fee_and_passes.html
(click to view larger or download)
Volunteers are the bedrock of the Cathlapotle Plankhouse. Volunteer docents greet visitors and interpret the Plankhouse on the weekends, help guide school groups through the House during the week, represent the Friends and the Refuge at community outreach events and work on special projects during the winter.
How to become a Volunteer
New docent training is held in April of every year, though you can join the docent team at any time. Contact Sarah_Hill@fws.gov to learn more about how to get involved and to arrange an alternate training plan.