The Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge makes up a huge area on the western side of Ridgefield, between the city and the river. The actual area covered is very large. I have never been able to visit the "River S" unit, which is by far the larger of the two publicly accessible parts of the refuge. Therefore, keep in mind that this review of teh Carty Unit is only a very small part of what is sometimes called the "Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge Complex".
The Carty Unit is also the home of the Cathlapotle Plank House, which is worthy of its own separate entry.
The Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge, Carty Unit has several miles of hiking trails, and if you are willing to be patient you may very well see some interesting bird life here. Unfortunately, a significant portion of the refuge has been overrun with non-native blackberry vines. Much of the bird life here are water birds, and if it is a bit dry you will find that they are beyond the reach of many of the hiking trails. It is best to visit during the high water periods.
How is the best way to memorialize someone who appreciated wildlife, and particularly bird life? One way would be to do something that helps move their lifelong goals even further forward.
Thus the David Dynes Memorial Bird Blind, located about half way through the auto-tour route in the River S section of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.
"Ducks, geese, swans galore land right outside my door
They come and go both day and night, thinking not about their flight
The urge that stirs within their wings takes them away and back again.
They leave in the spring, return in the fall.
I watch and listen for their call
As I one morning leave my door, I hear the sound I've heard before.
I stop, look, and listen for a while, and then realize within,
What started then has come again."
- David Dynes, Ridgefield Washington, 2002
as quoted on one of the two plaques that sit on the entrance trail outside his memorial bird blind.
Not just a memorial, the bird blind is blessed with the only toilet facilities on the River S Unit auto-tour route except for those at the main entrance to the River S unit itself. It is the only place in the entire River S unit with a concrete parking lot (everything else on refuge land is gravel) and a paved trail leading to it.
The bird blind allows for an expansive view of one of the larger all-seasons bodies of water inside the refuge that is available for public viewing. However, you will want to bring strong binoculars and a telephoto lens as much of the wildlife prefers to spend a very long distance away from the bird blind.
Photo 5 shows the parking lot and entrance to the short trail that leads to the bird blind. The rest rooms (standard National Wildlife Refuge issue pit toilet facility) is behind the truck on the left, and only slightly visible.
Running in a 1.2 mile loop in the center of the River S Unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, the trail allows visitors to view a number of wetlands areas. These marshes are a home to a number of different birds (and the variety and number changes with the time of year), which is further encouraged due to nearby small forested areas.
This trail is only open from May 1 to September 30. There are exceptions for those with hunting licences and reservations to use the hunting blinds.
The trail is mostly compacted gravel, and supposedly it is possible for wheelchairs to use it. However, I would suggest getting some experience in knowing how your wheelchair performs in somewhat rough conditions before trying this. To me (who is not a wheelchair user!) this looks a bit difficult.
There is no elevation gain on the trail.
Restrooms are located at the entrance to the River S unit, and also at the Bird Blind that is on the auto tour route just before you come to the Kiwa Trail parking area.
The parking area for the trail is located about half way through the gravel road that makes the River S Unit Auto Tour Route, so be sure to include time for the auto tour route as well since you will have to drive the entire route to get to the trail head. The road makes a sharp right turn at the parking area for the David Dynes Bird Blind and after passing through a small forest area arrives at the parking area for the trail.
Be sure to check the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge web site (below) for the latest information available about route closures and other local information.
Due to the distance at which many of the animals are from public trails or viewpoints, telephoto equipment (not just camera lenses, but also binoculars, spotting scopes, etc.) will be very helpful. None of the view points or public access trails have permanent spotting scopes, as some refuges have.
Please see my Telephoto Equipment Tip which is located at
http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/tp/201dc1/ for some of the equipment that I have found helpful, and is available in a number of stores in North America. Your local availability may vary.
You can see a lot of things without the equipment, but it is much easier to view and appreciate many of the birds as well as other wildlife if you are able to get a close look at them.
It has been known since the journals of Lewis and Clark that somewhere in the area that is now the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, there are the remains of a Native American village here.
There are thought to have been some 1,500 or so people in the village at the time of Lewis & Clark. However, by the 1850s the remains only appeared on maps of trails in the region.
It is thought that one of the great malaria epidemics of the 1830s killed most of them, though there is considerable evidence that the village was abandoned in an organized fashion.
Recent archeological digs have unearthed some 100,000 artifacts here. These are now at Portland State University, and it is hoped that one day they will be relocated to a museum. Of interest is a piece of iron dating from 1000 years ago, indicating some contact with European or Asian traders that far back in time.
You can come here with an organized group when such trips are offered, but otherwise telling people where this is located opens the remains of the village up to looters.
Thus, it should remain off the beaten path!
Also, I would point out that for the purposes of additional protection from looters, the location is allowed to grow into thick thorn bushes and is impossible to see. Before groups from the outside visit, as they do during certain special events at the refuge, these are all trimmed back. However, once the event is over the location is allowed to return to thorns again.
The Cathlapotle Plank House is an acknowledgement of sorts to the original human occupants of the refuge.
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