Experience Carty Lake Like Never Before

Carty Lake is known for its high concentrations of tundra swans. Photo by USFWS

Carty Lake is known for its high concentrations of tundra swans. Photo by USFWS

Guest Author: Chris Lapp, Project Leader at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

In partnership with the Port of Ridgefield, the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge is excited to announce the long-awaited opening of the new Carty Lake Trail on May 1st, 2019. As the Port waterfront transformed into a family-friendly walking space, the Refuge recognized the area as an important opportunity to work side-by-side and build upon that experience. During the past two years, we've added over a mile of new trails, constructed an entry plaza, and built a trailhead kiosk to welcome people into the Refuge.

With the connection between the Port trail and Refuge trails now in place, we have taken an important step in our shared goal of connecting the community and its visitors to immersive nature experiences, no matter what popular community space marks the start of your journey.

Get a taste of the Refuge before you go all in

The beginning of the approximately one-mile trail system offers Port visitors a year-round loop that can be accessed without paying the Refuge's $3 daily fee. This special loop travels through restored woodlands and offers gorgeous views of wildlife on Carty Lake and Lake River.

When you're ready to take the next step

From the free loop, you're invited to venture further into the Refuge on a new seasonal trail. This trail marks the beginning of the $3 daily fee area. The nominal cost supports public programming at the Refuge and gives you access to the rest of the Carty Unit and the River S Unit, home of the Auto Tour Route and Kiwa Trail.

On this seasonal trail - Open May 1st through September 30th - you'll meander along Carty Lake, over Gee Creek, and slowly rise out of the floodplain where you'll encounter massive oak trees and arrive at the Cathlapotle Plankhouse. From here, you can connect to the Oaks to Wetlands Trail System or head over the footbridge to Refuge Headquarters.

Along the trail you might take a page out of the great blue heron’s playbook and pause for quite reflection. Photo by USFWS

Along the trail you might take a page out of the great blue heron’s playbook and pause for quite reflection. Photo by USFWS

Up next: The completion of a 5-mile dream

This summer, construction begins on the Main Street Access Project that consists of a trail connecting downtown Ridgefield to Refuge Headquarters. That segment is expected to be completed in the fall of 2019. When you add that segment to the new Carty Lake Trail, what you'll have is a 5-mile loop trail system through the Refuge, City of Ridgefield, and Port Of Ridgefield. Just imagine the connection you'll have to wildlife and their habitat, all nestled in that small community feel that is such a great source of pride for Ridgefield.

Connecting how you experience the outdoors with our mission to protect wildlife

Here at the Refuge, we sincerely hope you, our community neighbors, take full advantage of the unique recreational opportunities just outside your front door. It's also important to remember that a National Wildlife Refuge is still, as the name suggests, a home for wildlife. Just like your home, there are certain activities that work and certain activities that don't. Please enjoy the opportunity to walk - in the way you define walking - and observe wildlife along our many trails. Activities outside of this, like biking, jogging, and dog walking, are still prohibited on all Refuge trails as they are a disturbance to wildlife.

This is the beauty of a network of connected trails that each offer their own opportunities. Collectively, you can safely enjoy the outdoors in a way that speaks to you, even if one portion of the trail has a few important restrictions to benefit your "wild" neighbors. Working in partnership with the Port of Ridgefield and the City of Ridgefield, we are proud to provide residents and visitors alike a unique outdoor experience that highlights the wonders of Ridgefield, a place where connecting with nature is a way of life.

The Carty Lake Trail will get you closer to magic moments, like this uncommon flock of visiting pelicans. ©Terry Anderson

The Carty Lake Trail will get you closer to magic moments, like this uncommon flock of visiting pelicans. ©Terry Anderson