I’ve driven past the entrance to the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge a number of times. Until joining a walking group there last week, I didn’t realize what an undiscovered gem the preserve can be.
Once a dairy farm, the Steigerwald refuge lies on 996 acres ten miles east of Vancouver, Washington. The refuge, on the Columbia River, is primarily flood plain habitat so you’ll encounter marsh birds and turtles.
As we walked we encountered groups of birders, enthusiastically recording their sightings for the day. The day I was there, the parking lot was crowded (mostly the birders). But a female deer happened upon us, looked at us quizzically and then bounded off into the brush.
We enjoyed the Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail with metal sculpture installations that will surprise you at every turn. The informational art adds interest to the wildlife you will discover at the refuge. The 2.8 mile Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail loops through the refuge. Part of the loop is closed for wildlife from October 1st to April 30th but you can extend your walk by heading out to the dike trail along the Columbia River.
Our visit was in Spring so the full trail was open. As we approached the fish ladders on the Columbia River, we saw nesting Purple Martins in the white hanging gourd houses built for them.
This refuge lies partly within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, and has been designated as the location for a “Gateway to the Gorge” visitor center. This facility is currently in the planning stage with a portion of the construction funds already secured.
But now the refuge is a haven for birds and animals and provides a great opportunity for people to view them and enjoy the habitat. Because it is a refuge no pets, bicycles or jogging is allowed on the trail. The dike trail which runs from the parking lot at the Washougal Pendleton Woolen Mills to just past the preserve is open to these activities. It is also worth a walk or bike ride. More Information.
To find the preserve, drive east on SR-14 past the Washougal exits to the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge on the right side of the highway just past Mile Post 18. There is no fee for parking and access hours are posted.
Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Art Trail Images
Note: Thank you to the All Weather Walkers Volkssport Club for arranging this guided walk through the preserve.