When he camped here in 1805, Captain William Clark scribbled this note: “I slept but very little last night for … the swans, geese, brant, and ducks … they were immensely numerous, and their noise horrid.” Thankfully, not much has changed. The Ridgefield wildlife complex includes more than 5,200 acres of marshes, ponds, sloughs, and lakes—a welcome sight to a staggering array of migratory birds. Along the year-round Oaks-to-Wetlands loop, scan the spikerush and grass around Duck Lake for great egrets and American bitterns. Overhead, watch herons and dusky Canada geese glide between Oregon white oaks and bigleaf maples. Just don’t expect a quiet afternoon. Ridgefield’s winter decibel level spikes when thousands of honking tundra and trumpeter swans arrive.
DON'T FORGET: A 4.2-mile auto tour route explores Ridgefield’s bird-rich River “S” Unit, off-limits to hikers. Download a tour podcast at ridgefieldfriends.org.
POST-HIKE WATERING HOLE: Pioneer Street Café. Sink into a booth inside this downtown storefront and fill up on comfort food like thick chicken-fried steak topped with a meaty sausage gravy. Dump the locally made “Huffin-n-Puffin” sauce on everything. Then douse the flames with a Black Butte Porter. 207 Pioneer St, Ridgefield, Wash; 360-887-8001
TRALHEAD DIRECTIONS: From Portland, drive north 19 miles on I-5 and take exit 14 for WA 501. Drive 2.7 miles, through the town of Ridgefield, and turn right on Main Street. Continue one mile and look for the trailhead on the left. $3 parking pass required.