Yesterday Marilynn and I went to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge for the first time. It’s a large piece of land across the Columbia River in Washington. One section of the refuge called “Unit S” is pretty unique because you see the wildlife from inside your car. There is a 4.2 mi road on the banks of sloughs and levies around large, flooded, shallow lakes. You’re not supposed to get out.


There are pluses and minuses to automotive wildlife exploration. The birds and other animals seem to be pretty unafraid of the cars creeping along at 5 mph (maximum 15 mph), so they’re not far away. There was plenty to see yesterday although the big migrating flocks of geese and ducks have already gone north. There were turtles sunning themselves on logs in the sloughs, nutria waddling around, raptors circling over head, and swallows skimming the water.


The downside is that it’s hard to take pictures out the window of a car. There are things popping up on both sides and it’s frustrating no matter which side you’re on. You can’t get out for a better angle or back up because something has gone out of view. I kept thinking about what I must be missing because I couldn’t go for a walk. There are signs posted along the route that say, “If you stay in there, they’ll stay out here.” Obviously some people just can’t resist jumping out now and then.


There is a lot to see, and there are walking paths in other parts of the refuge open after May 1. So we’ll be going back again.



  1. David –

    I’ve just started volunteering at RNWR. as well as the other places I volunteer for .. like Tryon Creek SP, TRNWR and Friends of the Columbia Gorge (FoCG). I have a deep interest in Chinookan culture and have just begun volunteering at the Plankhouse on the Carty Unit. I volunteered for a FoCG program at Steigerwald Lake NWR (just E of Washougal, WA) in early June (and met the RNWR folks that way, since SLNWR is part of the RNWR Complex. As a result, I’m leading the two nature hikes at RNWR on Sunday, Oct 5 as part of their huge Bird Fest event. You may be very interested in it …

    Since the RNWR refuge lands have been protected since 1965, the result is a quite varied habitat …The Oaks to Wetland trail is especially interesting .. since most of it is not graveled and one can thus move more quietly along the trail. It is also very peaceful there .. with the exception of trains. One can hear no sounds at all of traffic on the Carty Unit (named for the family that owned the land since 1840, before the FWS bought it in the early 1960’s).

    Gettin’ hungry. Discovering your blog has managed to evaporate the latter part of my afternoon. Thank you…. :-) ~roland

    1. Great! My wife and I have been to RNWR only once and that was on the drive-through. Even that was pretty spectacular. But it’s kind of frustrating because you want to get out and get a closer look or just linger. I’ve put the date of their bird festival on the calendar. I’d like to go one day if I can fit it in. September is pretty busy for me because of some commitments.

      Roland, it seems like you’re at all the wildlife spots around Portland. You ought to write an newsletter so we’d all know more about what’s going on beyond TRWNR.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s