Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge


by Wilson Cady   gorgebirds@juno.com

(Edited and updated by Sherry Hagen. Photos by Sherry Hagen [above: Marsh Wren])

Restricted to Car Viewing

The River “S” Unit is located south of Ridgefield and can be reached by turning south on 9th St. and following it til it turns into NW Hillhurst Road. Watch for the refuge signs  This unit consists of a 4 mile auto tour on a dirt & gravel road that loops through part of the unit. Only the first part is a two way road. There is a large viewing platform partway through from which you can  observe the wildlife and the newly opened Kiwa Trail.  During the winter months you are restricted to vehicular observation only except for the viewing platform area.. A Red-shouldered Hawk has spent several winters in this unit. With the improvements to the wetlands, several species have made Ridgefield their new home. Black Terns, Black-necked Stilts and Yellow-headed Blackbirds nested in the spring of 2001. Great Egrets were seen into the summer months. A flock of White-faced Ibis were seen for several days. You never know what to expect at Ridgefield these days. 

Carty Unit TrialCarty Unit TrailCarty Unit Entrance

The Carty Unit is located north of Ridgefield. Follow Pioneer west to Main St. and go north to the entrance.  Park in the parking lot provided and walk the trail down to the bridge and over the railroad tracks. The trails are extensive and provide viewing areas for a variety of species from ducks to passerines. A female Vermillion Flycatcher spend the winter here in 1995-96 and again in 2011-12.

Carty Unit Entrance

There is a $75.00 fine for getting out of your car in restricted areas.

River "S" UnitKiwa TrailKiwa Trail wetlands

The Kiwa Trail has become a popular site since it’s opening in the fall of 2000. Open to foot traffic from May to October. It is a newly created wetland where waterfowl and shorebirds can be easily seen. American Bittern are quite common on the trail and also on the River “S” loop. Lingering shorebirds and waterfowl are easy to see.  Watch for nesting Virginia Rails.

Kiwa Trail Sign

      Established December 1975

      There are several units in the refuge and some of them are closed to the public from October 1 through April 15 including a portion of the River “S” Unit, the entire Roth Unit and Bachelor Island to protect wintering waterfowl from distrubance. Obeying Closure Signs is a must since birds use up vital energy reserves escaping your presences if disturbed. A portion of the refuge can be viewed from Lower River Road along the Columbia River near Vancouver Lake and is discussed in the Vancouver Lake Area Guide. (go to Birding Vancouver Lake Area)


     Ridgefield NWR can be reached from I-5 by taking the Ridgefield exit and traveling 269th St. west as it turns into Pioneer Ave. Two units accessible from Ridgefield include the Carty Unit and the River “S” Unit.

     The Ridgefield NWR is located on the Columbia River floodplain adjacent to Ridgefield, Washington and provides 4,615 acreas of vital migration and wintering habitat for Pacific Flyway waterfowl. The winters are rainy and mild. The abundant wetlands create ideal resting and feeding areas for ducks, geese and swans. The variety of the refuge habitats help support a diverse and abundant wildlife.  Over 180 species of birds have been identified on the refuge since its establishment in 1965. Bird populations vary greatly according to the seasons. Some of the best times are September through March, although some birds are present on the refuge year-around.


River “S” Unit

Driving the River “S” Unit Drive is different ever time you travel it. Yellow-headed Blackbirds now nest on the unit regularly along with Cinnamon Teal, Great-horned Owl, Virginia Rail, American Bittern and many other species.

Great Blue Heron

American Bittern

Northern Shoveler

Great Egret

Northern Pintail

Great Horned Owl

Sandhill Crane