Swing into downtown Washougal from Highway 14 to get fortified with a delicious meal. Use your Washougal Discover Guide to find a great place to eat.
Your first stop is Steamboat Landing Park, 100 Washougal River Rd, just across Highway 14 at the entrance to Washougal at 15th Street. The park has a floating fishing dock where you can scan the Columbia River for loons, grebes, and diving ducks along the rock shore. The parking lot provides access to the west end of the Lewis and Clark Heritage Trail (known locally at the Dike Trail) that leads all the way to Steigerwald Natural Wildlife Refuge (about a three-mile walk one way).
Next, either drive or walk along the trail to Captain William Clark Park, 3333 Index Street. At the entrance you’ll see a large open wooden structure and simulated canoes. Pause there to read historic information and learn about Lewis and Clark’s connection to this area and their six-day stay in 1806. Follow the path toward the water for a walk in the sand of Cottonwood Beach that stretches along the Columbia River. Keep your eyes peeled for birds nesting along the shore, in the thick riverside grasses and in the tall cottonwood trees.
Back on the trail, as you head east, you’ll see Reed Island, an undeveloped State Park. Check the shallow protected waters between the island and the dike for great blue heron, eagles, loons, grebes, and diving ducks and the open fields for geese, cranes, and raptors. Along the dike there are white posts with mileage marks on them, the barns at mile 1.25 often have wintering sparrows around them.
Continue on the trail to Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge http://www.vancouveraudubon.org/steigerwaldnwr.html or return to your car and drive east on Highway 14 to its official trail head. This formerly seasonal floodplain lake, located on the eastern boundary of Washougal, is the southernmost spot in the state. Over 200 bird species have been recorded on this 1,049-acre refuge including White-faced Ibis, Surf Scoter, White-tailed Kite, Red-shouldered Hawk, Gyrfalcon, American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, Gray Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Sage Thrasher, and Lesser Goldfinch.
You will enjoy an easy walk on flat gravel paths that wind along the shallow lake and through the trees. The Refuge is open every day during daylight hours. Closing times for the automated gate are posted on the gate at the refuge entrance. There is no pedestrian access allowed after dark. The eastern segment of the trail closes from October 1 to May 1 to reduce disturbance to wintering waterfowl. Keep your eyes open for more than 200 species of birds who call this area home at various times of the year.
To continue your birding adventure and keep discovering, you may want to continue with a drive east on Highway 14 and check out the overlook at the Franz Lake Natural Wildlife Refuge. https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Franz_Lake/about.html It is the largest and most intact wapato, spikerush and bulrush marsh remaining on the lower Columbia River and is known for its seasonal abundance of tundra swans. These and other migratory birds can be seen from an observation platform.
Any trip to Washougal should begin with a look at the Washougal Discover Guide. It provides a map to featured attractions, great food, beverages and coffee shops. You can find them at the Best Western Inn, City of Washougal, Two Rivers Heritage Museum or download a copy at visitwashougal.com/discoverguide.