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Welcome to Ridgefield, Washington! Just north of Vancouver and Portland, easily accessed on I-5, this sweet small town has a lot to offer!
The main attraction in Ridgefield is the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge is amazing, and admission is only $3 per car for the whole day! With 5,218 acres of marshes, grasses and woodlands, you’ll see a wide variety of birds and other wildlife.
There are two sides to the Refuge: the Carty Unit and the River S Unit. My two children and I spent the first part of the morning at the Carty Unit.
We paid our $3 entry fee after we parked. There are envelopes that you fill out and deposit into a slot.
The whole area is pretty accessible (my kids are 2 and 6), but the bridge over the railroad tracks is quite steep on both sides if you’re bringing a stroller or wheelchair. They are working train tracks, so it might be really loud when trains pass by!
The Oaks to Wetlands trail is open year-round, and it’s a two mile long loop. The first part of the trail is easily navigable and you’ll see plenty of wildlife. The rest of the trail is maintained, but it might be a little slippery or rough, depending on the time of year.
A short walk from the trail entrance is the Cathlapotle Plankhouse. It’s a replica building, traditionally constructed in the style of a Chinookan Plankhouse. They have a lot of activities during the year, and the calendar is available here.
The kids really like the child-sized door!
The trail is great, but the kids weren’t in the mood to walk too far up it. Might have been the six (harmless) snakes we saw on the route! Here’s one of them:
They do guided birding hikes on this trail, but you need to register early, as they’re quite popular.
Next we drove back up through town so we could visit the River S Unit.
It has a 4.2 mile auto tour, which is great for small children, as you can see many birds without even leaving your car. They say to allot 30 minutes or so to drive it; you can do it faster or a lot slower, depending on your mood and the pace of the cars in front of you.
You’ll see loads of birds at the Refuge, usually starting with ducks. These are cute little black ones (seriously, I don’t know beans about birds, but I like them a lot).
And a closer view of some other ducks.
Here’s a heron that was pretty close to the car.
We also saw a woman sticking her head out the sunroof for a better view. Hee hee!
And here’s a . . . brown bird (told you I didn’t know about birds!)
We only saw this animal for a minute or two, so we couldn’t see if it was a nutria or beaver. My daughter said otter; it was a good discussion.
These geese looked like they were arguing, which cracked us up. “That’s not what I said!”
“Oh, man! You never listen!”
On other trips there, we’ve seen bald eagles, rare sandhill cranes, swans, and much more. It’s pretty amazing. When we have time, we park to visit the blinds so we can see the birds even closer.
From May 1 to September 30, the Kiwa Trail on the River S Unit is open, and it’s a great walk at about 1.5 miles. Easy to navigate, even with a (sturdy) stroller or wheelchair. Bring bug spray!
If you’re feeling hungry, Ridgefield has some excellent places downtown to visit for snacks or meals.
The Old Liberty Theater is a restored movie theater with a coffee shop in the lobby. Great place to stop for hand-scooped ice cream or a latte!
If you drive a little bit out of town, Pacific Northwest Best Seafood has some excellent seafood choices in a casual setting. Baskets with fried fish, shrimp, and more can be eaten outdoors or taken to go—yum! They also sell fresh seafood if you want to buy some to cook at home.
There are many other great activities in Ridgefield if you have time!
Ridgefield Community Library is a very small library, but if you have preschoolers, they have a children’s area with lots of toys for creative play. And in the lobby of the community center is a bookshelf with books sold by Friends of the Library, as low as a quarter and nothing more than a dollar. Great deal!
Kayaking and canoeing are fantastic activities, and you can even paddle down along the refuge for truly amazing views of wildlife. Kayak rental is available at the marina from Ridgefield Kayak.
In spring, summer, and fall, Ridgefield Farmers’ Market has a selection of local produce and goods. There are usually bands or other activities going on, and they do a drawing each week for a special prize.
And the Downtown Shopping District has many cute small shops within walking distance, including Alcove Art Gallery (the person helping you at the cash register is probably a local artist!), and Lily Wiggans Antiques (with an old-fashioned selection of candy!). The Ridgefield True Value Hardware Store has been around since 1914.
Marie Bouvier lives in Ridgefield and loves the small town atmosphere. She really has been meaning to learn more about birds.
Ready to discover (or re-discover) Portland? From the coast to the Gorge, from Clark County to Salem, The Ultimate Guide to Portland Family Fun will allow you to experience the awesomeness this area has to offer!
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