Students planting at Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge

Come join us on-site for an accessible way to get young people to interact with nature and wildlife. Our staff can lead nature walks and help students learn more about the natural world through engaging activities and refuge projects.

Self-Guided Activities, Guided Tours, and Classroom Visits

Self-guided activities and groups

If you are coming on your own to the refuge, but want something to engage with while you are here, you can find self-guided activities for a variety of ages, at the bottom of this page or in our front office. These can be used individually, with families, or groups you are bringing to the refuge. If you are bringing a group larger than 15 people, please email us at RidgefieldEducation@fws.gov so we know you will be on-site! We also would like to be able to alert you if there is a closure of any kind.

School groups 

We are excited to offer on-site programming for school groups, beginning with groups of 30 or less on March 18th, 2024,and groups larger than 30 on April 22nd, 2024. We will offer education programs through June 14th, 2024

Field trip dates are first-come, first-serve. The request form is now closed, as our calendar has filled for the season. If you have questions, visit our Frequently Asked Questions section below, or email us directly at RidgefieldEducation@fws.gov

Other community groups, including college/university classes, community nature organizations, etc.

We can offer limited programming to groups of 15 or smaller. Please use this form to submit a request for engagement with staff. You will find different levels of staff engagement that you can request, the more involved, the more limited it will be due to limited staff availability. However, please submit what you are looking for and we will do our best to make it work!

Frequently Asked Questions

Please review this page for site and trail information.  

Are there bathrooms on the refuge?

Both Ridgefield and Steigerwald Lake have bathrooms by the parking areas, but not deeper in the refuge. Plan for your group to use the bathroom before coming or as they arrive. For education programs, we do provide opportunities to use the bathroom during lunch time and towards the end of your visit.

Is there a spot for us to eat lunch on the refuge?

While there are not clear designated spots for lunch on either refuge, both refuges have spots with plenty of room on the ground to sit. Locations are flexible and can be adjusted the day of your visit as needed. Tarps, pop-up tents, and tables can be provided by the refuge in case of rain or individual needs. There are a few benches around that can seat 1-2 people for anyone who has trouble sitting on the ground.

Are there trash cans on the refuge?

All trash you pack in, pack back out!

Where do I, or the buses, go on the day of our visit?

If you are planning to do a walking tour at Ridgefield NWR, visits begin at the Carty Unit: 28908 NW Main Ave. Ridgefield, WA 98642

If you are taking a drive around the auto tour route at Ridgefield NWR, River S unit: 1071 S Hillhurst Rd. Ridgefield, WA 98642

If you have a visit at Steigerwald Lake NWR, visits begin at the trailhead: 34301 Lewis and Clark Hwy, Washougal, WA 98671

Is there a limit to how many people can come with my group?

To ensure quality experiences for your group and availability of our staff and volunteers, all field trips between March 18th and April 21st will have a maximum of 30 youth participants, or 1 class, on-site at once. Any field trips after April 21st will have a maximum of 70 youth participants, or 2 classes, on-site at once. If your group is larger than this, it will need to be split into multiple days. If you have a group larger than 70, there are ways we can accommodate this, but please email us directly at RidgefieldEducation@fws.gov.

What is expected of my group during our visit?

We want our educational groups to enjoy their time on the refuge! We want students to feel free in outdoors and be excited about what they are seeing. We will talk to your group about how quietness encourages more animals to appear, but being silent is not a requirement. We are happy to meet the students where they are. Our hope is to give your group a positive experience in the outdoors, whatever that may look like on that day. Because the animals, plants, and rocks are part of the refuge we are here to protect our main requirement is that anything in the refuge stays there. 

How many chaperones do we need?

Ideally, we like to encourage a 1:5 adult to student ratio. We are flexible based on the resources you have available for your group. If you have a surplus of chaperones that want to come along with the group, the more the merrier! We encourage you to bring as many as you feel is necessary to meet the needs of your specific group.

What will we be doing during the educational visit on the refuge?

We are super flexible in the activities we offer on the refuge. If you are a school group, we strive to tie the visit into your curriculum however we can, so activities can be created or adjusted based on topics you want to highlight. For 2024, we are offering a nature walk coupled with an activity of your choice including: a guided art activity, food web scavenger hunt, nature journaling, or your own activity. Your group will be split into smaller groups and then rotated between the nature walk and your chosen activity. These rotations may change in length based on the timing of your visit. Rotations help us manage larger groups with limited staff.

Here is a sample visit schedule:

10:45                   Arrive

11:00                   Welcome

11:15-12:00         Rotation 1

12:00-12:30         Lunch

12:30-1:15           Rotation 2

1:15                     Reload

1:30                     Depart

Is there parking at the site?

Both sites have parking for buses and individual cars. Ridgefield has plenty of parking for individual cars in two parking lots shared with the public. Steigerwald Lake has a smaller parking lot that is also shared with the public, so carpooling is encouraged.

Do I need to come to the site before the visit?

It is required that you visit the site beforehand. Whether that is meeting up with refuge staff on site or simply viewing it on your own time. We have found that if you are able to see the site beforehand, the logistics of the visit are much smoother. If we can coordinate a meet-up on site, it is also great to talk in person about what to expect and what you hope to gain from your visit. We are all about building connections with people and would love for you to visit more than one time! If you are not able to meet with us ahead of time, don't worry, we understand limitations of scheduling. You can visit on your own time and then talk on the phone with us later.

Are there safety measures we should take before coming to the refuge?

Dress for the occasion! Make sure students are wearing clothes comfortable for the outdoors, taking the weather into account (rain jackets for rainy weather, coats for colder weather, light clothes for the heat) The trail at Steigerwald is very exposed to the elements, including sun, wind, and rain.

During the summer, make sure students bring water and sunscreen so they can properly enjoy the refuge without concern.

During the warmer months, your group should be aware of ticks and mosquitos and take proper precautions.

Wear long sleeves and long pants. Lightweight material will keep students cooler and lighter colors will make ticks more visible. Use an EPA-registered insect repellent.

More from the CDC on preventing tick bites . More from the CDC on mosquitoes.

Do I need to pay?

Any pre-registered educational group will have their parking fee waived for all participants and vehicles at Ridgefield. Steigerwald Lake always has free parking. If you have questions, contact refuge staff.

Is there running water at the refuge?

During regular business hours, the front office at Ridgefield has running water and water bottle filling stations. There is no place to wash hands on site or to provide water to large groups while on either refuge. Make sure your group has hand sanitizer and drinking water. On exceptionally hot days, the refuge can provide extra drinking water, so no one gets dehydrated! 

Does the refuge provide any special accommodations?

Access to main trails on the refuge is wheelchair accessible for both refuges. Translation services can be provided with a two-week notice to give us time to coordinate translators. We are happy to troubleshoot or discuss any accommodations you may need to come to the site. We want everyone to be able enjoy the refuge, so please contact refuge staff so we can help! 

If you are local to the Ridgefield or Washougal area and need transportation to the refuge, visit here to learn how to use C-Tran's $1 on-demand rideshare service, The Current.

If any of your questions remain unanswered, please feel free to contact us at RidgefieldEducation@fws.gov or 360-887-4106.