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Cathlapotle Plankhouse

Plankhouse - Ridgefield NWR Friends_512x219

Built by more than 100 volunteers over the course of two years, this modern full-scale Chinookan plankhouse was built based on findings from the archaeological village site of Cathlapotle. The Plankhouse and the objects inside of it offer a tangible link to those who lived here in the past and provide a unique site for the interpretation of the natural and cultural heritage preserved on Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Washington. The US Fish & Wildlife Service and the Friends of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge partner with the Chinook Nation to offer an accurate representation of Chinookan culture both past and present.

  • Visit

    The Plankhouse will be open every Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 4 (pending volunteer availability) until October 2nd.  Before you make the trip out be sure to check the Friends of Ridgefield NWR Event Calendar to check on special events and last minute closures.  

    For more information on tours for educational groups see the For Educators page.

    Access for those with disabilities: Special arrangements can be made for people with qualified disabilities to access the Plankhouse.  Please call the Refuge in advance during regular business hours to arrange this.  360-887-4106

  • Second Sunday Series

    Join us every Second Sunday through September for a special presentation, kids' activities, tours and more! 

    July 10th: Contemporary Masks inspired by the Native Cultures of the Columbia River

    Presentation at 1:00 pm

    Ethnobotany Hike at 2:00 pm

    When renowned Native American artist Lillian Pitt challenged her friend Bill Rutherford, a Portland artist, to creatively explore his Native American heritage, neither knew what would emerge. While he is part Chickasaw, Bill drew inspiration from his childhood visits to Celilo Falls and reading about Chinookan legends to create a group of nine masks. These artworks, as well as pieces by Lillian Pitt, will be on display Sunday, July 10, at the Cathlapotle Plankhouse. The artists will talk about how they were inspired by local Native cultures and why they use masks to express themselves even though masks are not typically a part of Chinookan culture.

    August 14th: Traditional Technologies Day

    Ethnobotany Hike at 2:00 pm 

    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 11th: Indigenizing Curatorial Practice in Art Museums

    Presentation at 1:00 pm

    Ethnobotany Hike at 2:00 pm

    Several initiatives over the past five years at the Portland Art Museum have brought Native American Art to the forefront of exhibitions, programs and National curatorial practice. Dr. Deana Dartt will present an overview of these efforts, her hopes for Native Collection at PAM moving forward, and her own plans as she prepares to leave the Museum in September.


    The Second Sunday Series is brought to you through a partnership between the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Friends of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.   

    Learn more about this event and other programs on the Refuge that are presented in collaboration with the Friends. 

  • Volunteer

    The Plankhouse is staffed almost entirely by volunteer docents and we depend on those volunteers to keep the Plankhouse open on the weekends and to lead school group tours and programs. This rewarding volunteer position takes no previous experience and is open to all that are interested and enthusiastic about local culture and the environment.

    This year's formal volunteer training has passed but it is never too late to get involved.  For questions about volunteering and how to get started contact Sarah Hill at 360-887-4106 or email Sarah_Hill@fws.gov.  

  • History

    The Cathlapotle Plankhouse is a full-scale Chinookan Plankhouse located on the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. It was built based on archaeological evidence from the Cathlapotle archaeological site located on the refuge property. This archaeological site is what remains of the town of Cathlapotle, a Chinookan town encountered by Lewis and Clark on their expedition.

    Learn More
  • Additional Information

    The Friends of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge is the not-for-profit group that supports the Refuge in many ways including Plankhouse programming.  Workshops, lectures, demonstrations, hands-on student experiences, and cultural events interpret and emphasizes the tangible connection between environment and people. Find out more about the Friends, these programs and sources for additional cultural information on their website.

    Learn more

Last Updated: Jun 13, 2016
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