Just 30 minutes north of the state border, the sloughs and marshes of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge offer spirited paddling along green pastures, thick marshes, and serene wetlands—serene, that is, except for the cacophony from nesting Canadian geese and the myriad other birds that call the refuge home. Established in 1965, these wetlands are a chief winter roost for migratory waterfowl; one of the largest colonies of great blue herons in the Pacific Northwest even calls the flat, expansive fields home.
ROUTE: To get the best view of the wildlife, launch at the Port of Ridgefield Marina and circumnavigate Bachelor Island via Bachelor Island Slough and Lake River; if you start feeling peckish, just pull ashore and forage for succulent blackberries. For a full-day adventure, paddle across the Columbia River to Sauvie Island and explore Warrior Rock Lighthouse. Built in 1889, it boasted the first fog bell in the Pacific Northwest. If there’s still time on your return home, take a small detour to the Carty unit (see map) and check out the Cathlapotle Plankhouse, where 2,300 years ago, Chinook Indians built roosts of their very own. Maps: www.fws.gov/ridgefieldrefuges.
DIRECTIONS: From I-5 north take SR 501 west, following signs for Ridgefield.