- Get Involved
- Cathlapotle Plankhouse
Ridgefield NWR has over 5,000 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 severely 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, and the threatened White-tailed deer are the largest mammals on the refuge. Coyote, raccoon, skunk, beaver, river otter, and brush rabbits can also be seen on the Refuge.
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.
In the case of extreme weather, including high heat, the Cathlapotle Plankhouse, located on the Carty Unit, may be closed- for the most recent updates on closures, check the Friends of Ridgefield NWR Facebook page (you do not need to have Facebook to check this information).
An important feature of Ridgefield’s recreation and entrance fee program allows 80% 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.
Day Use Fee
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. You can also purchase a variety of other passes that grant you access to federal lands at the Refuge office. For a complete listing of federal passes available, visit the Ridgefield NWR website.
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/S. Hillhurst Road. The refuge entrance road is located .7 miles up the hill on the right side of the road.
Auto Tour Driving 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.
The Kiwa 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.
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. The Refuge is not open to deer or any other type of hunting.
Waterfowl Hunt Program page on the US Fish and Wildlife website.
On the River ‘S’ 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.
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.
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.
The Carty Unit is located at: 28908 NW Main Ave, Ridgefield, WA 98642
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.
The Carty Unit is open daily to foot traffic only during daylight hours. Here you can hike a 2-mile loop on the Oaks to Wetlands 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.
Visit the Cathlapotle Plankhouse
The Cathlapotle Plankhouse is generally open to the public from 12:00pm – 4:00pm on Saturday, and Sunday from April – October. It is staffed with volunteer docents who lead tours
Visit the Plankhouse page link below to learn more.
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.
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.
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 to provide accessible trail and outdoor interpretive facilities.