This wildlife refuge is the perfect get-away without a long drive. The refuge includes mixed wetlands and pastures with riparian strips lined with cottonwoods and white oak trees. More than 200 species of waterfowl and songbirds have been recorded here, making it the perfect place to slow down and enjoy nature.
On May 1, 2022, Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge reopened after a two year, $25 million project to restore 965 acres of habitat. Gone are the wide-open grassy areas, straight trail and old levees. Visitors are now greeted with more wetlands, a longer trail system, new bridges, interpretive features — and a much greater diversity of wildlife.
The restoration project included a complete reconfiguration of the existing levee system, reconnecting the refuge and Gibbons Creek to the lower Columbia River. The trail system is now 2 miles longer, and it’s also a lot more diverse. Instead of just walking along the river, the trail now weaves into and out of the refuge and crosses a couple of channels with new bridges.
The hiker-only Mountain View Trail starts at the parking lot and follows the top of the west levee for one mile one-way, out-and-back to the Columbia River where it intersects with the Refuge River Trail. The trail is 12 feet wide compacted gravel and provides views of Mount Hood on a clear day. This elevated trail is great for wildlife observation and photography. It is part of a larger trail network. There are no shaded areas or wind protection on this trail.
The Refuge River Trail is open to hikers, joggers, horseback riding, bicycles and dogs on leash. This out-and-back trail follows the dike top along the Columbia River. The trail can be accessed from the western entrance of the Refuge near Index Street at the east end of William Clark Park or by the hiker only Mountain View Trail. From Index Street, this trail meets up with the Mountain View Trail after about a mile and continues east for 2.5 miles more. This trail parallels the Columbia River and then meanders further into the refuge. Two large foot bridges and a viewpoint overlooking the river allows you different ways to connect and view the refuge. The trail surface is mostly compacted gravel except for .3 mile of soft sand between the Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail connection points.
The hiker-only 1 mile Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail is accessed from the Refuge River Trail, 0.3-mile east of its intersection with the Mountain View Trail. It wraps around Redtail Lake and over two bridges before reconnecting again with the Refuge River Trail. You will not find signs to read, but art to discover as you explore. Look for quotes hidden among the stone benches, unique sculptures, and wildlife cutout bike racks. A small out and back trail heads west off the second bridge to a short dead end looking out over a wetland. The return hike along the Refuge River Trail to reconnect with the Mountain View Trail is 1 mile.
Get a trail guide and map from the Department of Fish and Wildlife's website.