Where wildlife abounds in the Northwest, there too are humans with cameras, scopes, and binoculars. Thrilled by glimpses of free-range wildlife, Clark County enthusiasts are fortunate to have so many destinations to view so many species of wild creatures in their natural habitats. Though many of these sites are currently closed or operating with limited services, we can still make plans to visit these great destinations once the public health order is lifted. For the natural sites remaining open, visitors are recommended to follow the posted safety guidelines.
Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge
Physical address: 28908 NW Main Ave, Ridgefield
River S Auto Route: 1071 S Hillhurst Rd, Ridgefield
Just north of Vancouver is Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge was established in 1965 as a wintering habitat for subspecies of Canada goose. Now the refuge has been expanded to over 5,300 acres of diverse habitats for dozens of species of birds, waterfowl, and mammals with visitor activities, trails, an auto tour route, and many learning, observing, and photography opportunities. Also on the refuge is the Cathlapotle Plankhouse located on the most intact archaeological site on the lower Columbia River. The plankhouse was built in 2005 as an interpretation for visitors of the history and culture of the original human inhabitants.
Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge
35001 Lewis and Clark Hwy, Washougal
Just east of Vancouver and situated at the gateway to the Gorge is Steigerwald Lake Wildlife Refuge in Washougal. The 1,049 acres is known as an excellent birding destination and provides wonderful opportunities for hiking and connecting with nature. The 2.75-mile Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail takes visitors through a variety of habitats and viewpoints with natural and man-made art to be discovered along the way.
70543 NE Herman Loop, Cascade Locks
The Bonneville Fish Hatchery in Cascade Locks is a worthy stop while exploring the Columbia Gorge. Here visitors can buy fish food to feed trout in the display ponds and see sturgeon young and old in the Sturgeon Viewing Center. The star attraction is Herman, a 10-foot long white sturgeon weighing in at 500 pounds and over 45 years old. There are also abundant waterfowl, birds of prey, wading birds, and songbirds to view in and around this destination. Over at the Bonneville Dam there’s a viewing window where visitors can watch adult salmon swimming through the fish ladder.
Willapa National Wildlife Refuge
3888 State Route 101, Ilwaco, WA
Just over an hour away at the coast is one of the most pristine estuaries in the US. Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, located on Willapa Bay, is a place where visitors can see Roosevelt elk, waterfowl, and shorebirds within a number of unique ecosystems included salt and freshwater marshes, grasslands, muddy tideflats, old growth forests, coastal dunes and beaches. Visitors can experience wildlife in a dynamic natural setting spanning 17,000 acres.