There is a very small pull-out on Highway 14 at Cape Horn. It provides a great view of the Columbia River Gorge, but it is only accessible going eastbound, and it is so narrow and close to traffic that anyone in any vehicle wider than a standard auto will have trouble getting out of their car here.
It is much better to walk the extra little ways and get away from the traffic, and visit the viewpoint at the top of the hill accessible from the lightly traveled side road. See my Cape Horn Viewpoint Tip.
Early morning on very bright days will not yield good photos from here as it looks directly into the sun - in fact if you use a digital camera here under those conditions it will likely burn out some of the sensors on the camera and you will be left with dead pixels. If you must take sunlight photos here, it is best to use film, and use protective eye covering when looking through the camera viewfinder. Sunrise may be OK, and two to three hours before sunset (depending on the time of the year) with the light streaming west should be good.
Update: March 29, 2013: The refuge main entrance after the fire last August destroyed the boardwalk closest to the entrance. New additions to the refuge include a dry erase board mounted to the restroom building for wildlife sightings.
Located on the east side of Washougal, between the town itself and the entrance to the Columbia River gorge, this National Wildlife Refuge is located on a fairly extensive seasonal wetlands that attracts a number of birds, particularly during the migration season. Over 200 bird species have been recorded here.
That is actually quite a large nubmer, when you consider that the refuge had very limited public access and thus very limited possibilities for bird watchers to actually see and record birds. Until June 14th, 2009, the only way to see the wildlife here was to walk along the busy and dangerous highway 14, or walk along the Columbia River Dike Trail. Neither option allowed very good viewing of what was actually in the refuge.
On June 14, 2009, a new trail through the refuge, as well as a visitor parking area, restrooms, and viewing platforms were opened to the public in a special ribbon cutting ceremony attended by the mayors of Washougal and Camas, and a number of other people involved in helping to create this new facility.
This new trail, called the Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail (the trail is having various artworks added along it) connects the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge with the Columbia River Dike Trail and allows for a larger recreational walk, as it is possible to use the Dike Trail to form a short loop through the refuge, or it is possible to walk for several miles along the Columbia River in either direction.
Bring Mosquito Repellant if you visit during the summer months. The rest of the year I have not had problems with mosquitos, but certainly during the summer months they are voracious. Some people complain of them during various other times of the year but I have not had this problem.
While there is parking at the entrance to the refuge, it has quickly become a very popular place, and many nice weather days see the parking area completely filled. If that is the case, it is possible to access the refuge by going to Captain William Clark Park and walk along the Dike Trail to the entrance to the refuge from that trail. This only added about 3/4 of a mile (1 km) to the walking distance, and is pretty much flat if unpaved.
In fact, if you like to walk, the new Tunnel Under Highway 14 connects the Dike Trail to downtown Washougal at Steamboat Landing Park, so that now with a bit of walking all of these areas are now connected to points in downtown Washougal.
As they disturb the wildlife on the refuge, pets and horse riding are not allowed on the refuge trail (they are allowed on the dike trail, as that is operated by the city of Washougal). Also, bike riding or jogging is not allowed as the fast and quiet movement disturbs the bird life if it were to happen too often.
The refuge entrance only has pit toilets at this time, but if you visit during the months that are not in the depths of winter there are flush toilets available in Captain William Clark Park.
Bald Eagles frequent the area and great blue heron are fairly common. Various water and marsh birds including coots, hooded mergansers, ring necked ducks, wigeons, and many others visit here seasonally. Kestrels, hawks of various types, and northern harriers hunt what they can, including the various birds. Kingfishers visit here, but are most common along the Columbia River. The most elusive of the birds that can be found here are the all year resident bitterns, as they enjoy hiding in the tall grass along the water edges. Woodpeckers, from the tiny downy to the crow-size pileated are reasonably common in the forest. From time to time great horned owls will even make a showing during daylight hours.
Probably the most elusive of things to see are the mammals. I have only once seen the river otters that enjoy splashing about where the creek going through the refuge joins the Columbia River. Deer make an appearance, and I have seen them once or twice. I think I have seen the coyote once. In almost all cases these have been too far away to get good photographs of them.
Check the travelogues for the various photos I have been able to get on the refuge.
There are several different viewpoints at the large rock called "Cape Horn" but one of the most scenic, and one of the lesser known ones, is available to anyone that can walk about 3/4 of a mile downhill, and then walk back.
This was the sight of a bitter land use conflict for many years, when a large house was constructed at the site without the necessary permits. The house builders made many appeals due to their house having already been built, but the problem is that allowing such a structure to exist without having the proper permits in place would have set an unfortunate precedent for the future. Considering the huge development pressures already on the Columbia River Gorge, it is hard to imagine what allowing this house would have produced.
Today, the now vacant land is owned by a non-profit group that is working to restore it to its natural state, and does occasional replanting work here.
There are currently no restrooms on the upper trailhead or upper segment of the trail.
What is here, however, is one of the most spectacular viewpoints you can get to in the Columbia Gorge without having an extremely long hike to get to it. After approximately 3/4 of a mile (1 km or less) the gravel trail ends at a stone overlook, which looks east through the entire western edge of the Gorge. This view is shown in the main photo here.
Other than a very small sign, about the size of a playing card, there is little to mark this location as a trail head. However, in order that you may know the location of the trail head, the parking area is shown in photo 2. You then walk down a well maintained gravel trail (photo 3) that is graded at the required grade for disabled access, but as it is not yet paved is not easily accessible in a wheelchair.
The meadow shown here is full of wildflowers in the right spring season, but unfortunately the correct time to come is sometime in May or June depending on the weather that year. Therefore, it is hard to really give a good idea of when it is best to arrive.
The spring weather does make certain features of the gorge stand out a bit better. See photo 4.
If you continue down the hill a little ways, it is possible to hit several other viewpoints. However, they are more of your typical unprotected Columbia River Gorge trail viewpoint, and you need to be careful of children and pets that they don't fall over the edge, or go over the edge and pull you with them. See photo 5.
Having a base in the Pacific Northwest since 1863, Pendleton Woolen Mills is now a fairly good sized corporation, though it is still family owned by the same family that purchased the company around 1912.
At that time, not only did the current owners purchase Pendleton Woolen Mills, but they also purchased this fairly new woolen mill that had been built by the city of Washougal.
The plant tour gives you the complete picture of what is needed to make one of Pendleton's woolen blankets, as almost the entire wool process, from raw material to manufacturing, is handled at this mill. There are only two processes that are not handled here:
+ the shearing of sheep and the first layer of processing, where field dirt and other impurities are filtered out of the wool.
+ garment fabrication is handled overseas, due to the competitive pricing of all of Pendleton's competitors having moved their operations to other countries as well. Blanket manufacturing, however, is still carried out here in Washougal.
The plant tour takes you through the whole process, from receiving the raw wool to dyeing to spinning into yarn, which is then woven into fabric, which is then shrunken to make it washable, and inspected for defects, and making the wool into blankets.
NOT ALLOWED ON THE TOUR: you are not allowed to have your cell phone turned on, nor are you allowed to take any photographs of the mill interior or exterior from Pendleton property (this is why all of my photos of the plant feature the plant as seen from nearby public throughfares). You are not allowed to touch anything other than the floor, and wool samples that are specifically for touching by the tourists. You are especially not allowed to use the employee's facilities of any type, including the vending machines or the toilets.
While most of the buildings have been updated to look very modern, there are a few that still retain their old historic appearance. This includes the two brick buildings on the north side of the building, which appear to be the steam plant buildings. As interesting as they may appear, you are not allowed to get closer than about 70 feet from them. The brick work appears to be very ornate, and typical of what would have been seen around 1912.
The plant still celebrates the fine old American factory tradition of the noon steam whistle, which blows a second time at 12:30 to mark the end of lunch time.
The web site states that the Washougal mill shuts down for two weeks in August and two weeks in December, and that visiting plans should include that if they want a factory tour. However, this month they will only be closed one week rather than the normal two, so it pays to plan ahead and call them to find out what their production schedule is like.
Tours are offered Monday through Friday at 9, 10, 11, and 13:30, with possible other times offered if a large tour group wants to tour the plant and there is enough staff to handle an additional tour. I highly suggest the 9:00 tour, especially if you are visiting in the summer months, as it gets hot in the building. I took the 10:00 tour, and found that while there was lots going on, there were some employees that were at their mid-day break. I have a feeling that the 9:00 tour would have had a little more action, but the fact is the machinery here must run all the time, and so even on the 10:00 tour there was quite a bit to watch - it's just that if you have a choice, the 9:00 tour seems like it would feature more comfortable temperatures in the summer, and slightly more activity.
Tours start at the retail counter in the Mill Store, so go into the store, ask about the tours at the cash register, and there will be someone there to help you. The tours are operated on a special schedule, free of charge, and it should be noted the plant is subject to shutdown for two weeks in December and two weeks in August. The web site below is for the Pendleton corporation, but getting to the Washougal plant tours is quite complicated from there. It is much easier to simply type "Pendleton Woolen Mills Washougal Plant Tour" into Google, and the first result or two will include the page that describes the Washougal plant tour, gives you phone numbers, and other information.
Tour guides hand out radio headsets with a cordless microphone so they can be heard over the plant noise, so you may want to bring your own headphones to plug into the devices (do they allow that? I don't know).
The web site below is for the company, and finding the Washougal operation from their web site is a little cumbersome. Hit the "Store Locator" and into the Store Locator type "Washougal, Washington". You will then come up with a web page for the store that is just outside the Pendleton Washougal plant.
The tour is currently free of charge.
Finding the place is reasonably easy due to the large Pendleton Woolen Mill sign on one of the buildings facing Highway 14.
The pedestrian tunnel under highway 14 that connects Steamboat Landing Park with downtown Washougal comes out on the south side of the company store.
While located well outside the Vancouver city limits, this little park is listed on the city of Vancouver's web site as part of their parks system.
A large portion of the park is a dedicated parking area for those fishing from the floating walkway over the Columbia River. You will find that this is a very popular location for fishing, and thus the parking lot is quite full sometimes. There is a floating walkway right on the water that is extremely popular with fishing, and there is also a wooden observation deck that is elevated above the normal water level, which gives a pleasant place to relax and watch the river.
For many years, this was also the start of Washougal's Columbia River Dike Trail. In February of 2010, a new pedestrian tunnel linking Steamboat Landing Park and the Columbia Dike Trail now allows for an obstacle-free (except for local streets in downtown Washougal that aren't too obnoxious to cross) walk from downtown Washougal, through Steamboat Landing Park, and all the way along the Columbia Dike Trail, through Captain William Clark Park to the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge. This new pedestrian tunnel also features Native American inspired artwork, but you need to see the tip about the pedestrian tunnel for a few photos of this artwork.
Photo 1: People Fishing from the Floating Walkway
Photo 2: Start of Columbia Dike Trail in Steamboat Landing Park
Photo 3: Gravel Parking area South of Highway 14 and 15th Intersection.
Photo 4: Gravel Trail out to Wooden Observation Deck over River
Photo 5: Fishing Crowds on Floating Walkway during Fish Run (this looks almost identical to photo 1, but is from a slightly different angle and through some tree branches).
(Note: The Following Photos are kept elsewhere on my Washougal Page, not inside this tip, as it is only possible to have five photos per tip on VirtualTourist.)
Photo 6: Looking east into Columbia River Gorge from Steamboat Landing Observation Deck
Photo 7: Walkway connecting Observation Deck with Floating Fishing Platform, taken from the start near the parking lot. This shows a little better the extent of the floating walkway than the above photos do.
Photo 8: Looking west (downriver) from Observation Deck
Photo 9: Entry to Tunnel connecting Park to Downtown Washougal
Photo 10: An Osprey which flew overhead on August 5th, 2010.
Photo 11: A Great Blue Heron which was hunting in the grass next to the river in the park.
In addition to these I have an entire travelogue of photos of August, 2010 when the Purple Martins were Fledging from nests right next to the floating walkway.
Running along the Columbia River in Washougal's industrial area, this park has several reservable picnic areas, and in the summer beaches are exposed due to the low river level. This makes it a popular location for swimming and other local family outings. The Columbia River Dike Trail runs through the entrance area to the park.
A few of the trails are compact gravel or paved, so that access to some parts of the park is reasonably good for those with mobility limitations.
The area is of significance historically, as it is thought that this is the location of the "Cottonwood Beach provision camp" where the Lewis & Clark Expedition expected to stay about two days in very late March, 1806.
However, they were presented with bad news:
1. They had not managed to "discover" the Willamette River, so the Native Americans pointed out that a very important river existed called the Mult-no'-mah, which would be important for anyone traveling in the area. As they were responsible for exploring such important features of the land, further exploration of this important waterway would really be in the best interests for the future of the USA.
2. The spring Chinook fish run had not yet started, and therefore they could not purchase food for continuing the journey further east - there was none to be found. Instead, they were presented with a fairly continuous flow of hungry families coming down the river who themselves were hoping to find food anywhere in the flat lands close to the Willamette Valley. By April 3rd, things were looking very grim on quite a number of different quarters.
Without the possibility of going further due to lack of food, Clark and six men went back downstream and explored the river that would one day be known as the Willamette. The rest of the party made hunting trips into the hills surrounding the camp in order to collect food for the journey home.
To mark the historical significance of this location, large wooden sculptures resembling the canoes of the era have been created and placed in the park in a few locations, most of which are near the beach.
The "gateway" to the park is marked by a wooden structure made from the remains of huge trees unlikely to be confused with anything else in the area.
Several picnic shelters are also located in the clearing close to the river, and there is a very small beach near the concrete canoe sculptures where it is possible to explore the river a little bit. The river level changes drastically depending on the time of year and the hydroelectric dams upriver, and so the amount of beach that you see on the river will depend quite a bit on a number of different factors.
The main body of the park and the parking area is separated by the Columbia River Dike, on top of which is the Columbia River Dike Trail, mentioned above. Going west on this trail connects the park to downtown Washougal through the new Pedestrian Tunnel as well as Steamboat Landing Park, while eastward on the trail is the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
With a long running history going back to the days of Native American communities along the Columbia River, what came to be called Parkersville had several other names before it became known by that name. It was documented by the Lewis & Clark expeditions, but even before then was noted by British explorers that ventured up the river by ship.
However, it's long history as a trading center, starting with the Native Americans and running all the way through British fur traders and French-Canadian trappers, came to an end with the arrival of the larger steam boats on the Columbia River. These boats could not access this trading center due to the location and depth of the river here.
Thus, what is now called Washougal was established one mile upstream from Parkersville, and the place called Steamboat Landing Park was the new center of commerce for the surrounding region, as the name implies, as that was a place the steamboats could get to.
Into the 1960s, there was a historic homestead at this location, and the lineage of ownership could be traced back deep into the past of Clark County. In the 1970s efforts were made to convert the homestead and its surrounding land into a historic park, but before those efforts could be completed the homestead burned.
Today, there is a small park located on the grounds of the former homestead with commemorative signs recognizing the long history this spot had and its significance to the surrounding region. There are several rose trellaces, and some of the rose bushes appear to be of the type that would have been common in the 1800s. There are scattered picnic tables around the park, and a number of shade trees. Towards the edge of the river, there is an open grass area with an observation deck overlooking the river, and a paved pathway that is 750 feet long, so that seven times around the pathway is one mile. There are two large memorial stones that are dedicated to war veterans.
There are interpretive signs that give the history of this location, and a Native American inspired stone sculpture, but they are on the north side of the park and appear to be relatively less visited.
Considering the long history of the spot, and its registry on several historic places list, I would have expected a little bit more here. Lewis & Clark Expedition / Corps of Discovery fans will probably prefer to visit Captain William Clark Park as much of that location appears in a natural setting, and is somewhat easier to imagine the expedition meeting with Native American tribes.
The small set of interpretive signs are located on the north side of the park, in the western corner, in a small combination of trellace and historical display. The signs are good, but not obvious from the outside that is what they are.
The majority of the traffic at this park is outside the small historic preserve, where a fairly substantial gravel parking lot serves a fairly significant number of pickups with boat trailers, but that gets into the second part of the Parkersville Tip.
The park is owned and operated by the Port of Camas - Washougal, on whose web site the page below is hosted.
A huge portion of what was once Parkersville is now a gravel parking lot that serves the boat ramp and marina complex operated by the Port of Camas - Washougal. It will be somewhat disappointing if you are expecting the park to live up to the indicators that say this as a site of significant interest for history in the region, as there really isn't that much of the historic aspects of the property that remain.
However, if you are interested in boating, fishing, or other water activities, this is a site of primary interest to you. The facilities for boat launching here are far more extensive than they are down the road at Steamboat Landing Park, and the parking lot for trailers of various sizes is larger.
There is a fee station fairly close to the boat launching ramp as this is a facility that requires certain fees for certain activities. Also, if you are planning to go over to government island and spend the night, there is a fee for camping on state park lands. The fee station is self-service, though during some high-traffic days there is also an attendant on duty.
The open grass section of the park along the river features a walking loop for exercise, and several monuments to recent wars. Historical displays are located in the historical section of Parkersville, in the northwest corner of the park, and hard to find.
There are also special events, such as outdoor concerts, here. Check the Port of Camas - Washougal web site for a calendar of events.
Running along the banks of the Columbia River is a berm of earth that is supposed to help prevent flooding of the land when the river runs a bit full. Flooding along the Columbia used to be a very common occurance, and caused much damage and occasional loss of life over the history of settlement along its banks. Thus, the construction of the Columbia River Dike in Washougal.
In Washougal, the Columbia River Dike has a gravel trail constructed on top of it, which is a popular place for walkers, joggers, and bikers. It is also occasionally used by horseback riders.
There are now several points of access for the Columbia Dike Trail. One of the most popular locations to start from is Steamboat Landing Park. It is also possible to access the trail by getting to Steigerwald Lake Wildlife Refuge, and using the Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail to go between the parking area of the wildlife refuge and the Columbia Dike Trail.
About halfway between these two access points is Captain William Clark Park, which also provides access to the Columbia Dike Trail, while also providing a way to access the beach along the Columbia River at that location.
Photo 1: near west end of trail, a view of the Columbia River. Rising steam is from the Camas paper mill in the distance. Outside the photo, on the right, is highway 14. Behind the woman with the baby carraige a short distance is Steamboat Landing Park.
Photo 2: indistrial land on the north side of the trail, including the Washougal sewage treatment plant, do not add much to a visitor's positive impression on the west end of the trail. However, much of the Columbia Dike Trail is quite scenic.
Photo 3: the Columbia Dike trail approaching the Columbia River Gorge, and near the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
Photo 4: a view of the Steigerwalk National Wildlife Refuge from the Columbia Dike Trail. Washougal is in the background.
Photo 5: another view of the Columbia River gorge from the Columbia Dike Trail. In this view, you can see the Vista House on the Columbia River Highway on the Oregon side of the river, towards the center of the photo.
Pedleton Woolen Mills
Come take a guided tour through the woolen mill. It really is interesting.The free tour takes you from the dye house to spinning and weaving rooms and then to the finishing room. The blankets are absolutely beautiful.
Tours meet at the Mill Store.
Tours are Monday thru Friday at
9:00,10:00, 11:00, & 1:30
This little museum has been around for about 20 years and a new addition added in 2001.It is a source of information about the local area and has many artifacts. Each August the museum sponsers Two Rivers Heritage Day with displays and demonstrations.
Washougal River is a great place to swim,fish or raft in the lazy days of summer.
At the lower end you can wade or swim at any of the swiming holes along the winding river road. As you drive further up there is plenty of fish to attempt to catch. Ok sometimes they just swim along and laugh at you.Further up are the falls and just below is a fun place to do a little river rafting.