Urban Wildlife Refuges

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National Wildlife Refuges are natural places to build relationships. The four Refuges that comprise the land base of the Portland-Vancouver Urban Refuge Program are well-situated to the Metro Area in all directions, creating great opportunities to get to know the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service close to wherever you call home. Below you will get a snapshot of each refuge and what they offer to the people and wildlife of Portland-Vancouver.


Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge

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Nestled between King City, Tualatin and Tigard to the north and Sherwood to the south, Tualatin River NWR is one of the Refuge System's original Urban Refuges. In fact, one of the motivating factors in creating the Refuge was it's proximity to the Portland-Vancouver area and the opportunity it presented to introduce large numbers of people to local wildlife and plants, the Refuge System, and the conservation work of the USFWS.

In addition to restoring and maintaining healthy habitats for birds, mammals, fish and many other creatures, the Refuge has long been a place for people to seek physical, mental and spiritual health through a wide variety of nature-based activities.


Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

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An easy 20-minute drive north from Vancouver, WA on I-5 will get you to a community that is redefining what it means to be integrated with nature. Together, the City of Ridgefield, the Port of Ridgefield, and the Refuge are working to create a seamless flow between town and nature.

At the north end of the Refuge, the Carty Unit welcomes you with a pedestrian gateway bridge that transitions you from city to nature. The bridge, universally accessible to people of all abilities, offers sweeping new views of the Refuge and connection to the cultural history of the Cathlapotle Plankhouse, the paved Oaks-to-Wetlands Trail, and countless natural wonders just waiting to be discovered.

At the south end of the Refuge, the River S unit offers the opportunity to use your car as a wildlife blind on the auto tour route. Seasonally, there are pull-offs with trails along the route.

The Refuge, the City of Ridgefield, and the Port of Ridgefield are looking to the future together, with comprehensive plans for trails that will create a continuous loop connecting new housing developments, schools, and commercial centers to the Refuge and other cherished natural resources. As the city grows, so does its recognition as a critical link to nature for the entire Portland-Vancouver Metro Area.

Visit the Ridgefield NWR website

Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge

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At the gateway to the Columbia River Gorge on Highway 14 next to Washougal, WA, Steigerwald Lake NWR is an amazing place to experience wildlife close to home. Over 200 of the 300 species of birds found in Clark County have been observed at this intimate and accessible refuge. It is also home to over 20 species of mammals, 15 species of amphibians and reptiles, and a wide variety of insects, fish, and plants.

The Refuge invites your sense of curiosity and discovery along its three-mile interpretive art trail. Sharing ideas and perspectives about wildlife and conservation through three-dimensional art pieces, the Gibbons Creek Trail comfortably meanders through grasslands, wetlands, and woodlands along the Columbia River.

The Refuge is well-connected to Washougal via the Columbia River Dike TrailFor those seeking a more intimate connection to the Refuge through volunteer and other direct support opportunities, be sure to check with the Columbia Gorge Refuge Stewards who coordinate volunteer and educational opportunities.

Visit the Steigerwald Lake NWR website

Wapato Lake National Wildlife Refuge

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The newest to the Urban Refuge family is Wapato Lake NWR, having been designated a National Wildlife Refuge in 2013. It sits next to the town of Gaston and a few minutes south of the western Portland suburbs of Forest Grove, Cornelius, and Hillsboro.

As is the case with many new refuges, Wapato Lake NWR will undergo a transformation - in this case from agricultural land to wetland, influenced by natural, seasonal floods. Wetlands are incredibly beneficial habitats for people and wildlife, holding overflow from floods, filtering contaminants from storm runoff, and providing food and nesting areas for wildlife.

During this transition period, Wapato Lake NWR is not open to the public beyond some views from the road as you pass by or visit Gaston. What the Refuge does provide to the Portland-Vancouver community is an opportunity to see the restoration process in action. We invite the community to learn along with us and our partners as we witness the natural cycles of the lakebed and plan habitat restoration activities to mimic those cycles.

Visit the Wapato Lake NWR website