Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge was one of our favorite stops during our third annual Portland field trip last month. Located just 2 hours south of Tacoma, Ridgefield consists of over 5,000 acres of marshes, grasslands, and woodlands. I wanted to stop there because we just spent the year studying flying creatures and knew we'd see plenty of birds there; however, I never suspected just how fun it would be. The kids even appreciated the stop, especially Mika.
We specifically stopped to drive their River S Unit Discovery Tour. This 4.2 mile gravel loop wanders through one section of the refuge and provides you with plenty to see. The posted speed limit was 15mph, but we found 5-10mph was as fast as we wanted to travel. There was too much to see and hear to drive through it fast!
We thought we were in a heaven place just driving to the refuge. This is just the road leading down to it. It was green and gorgeous.
Then you come to this one lane bridge. It looked quite worrisome to me because it looked like you needed to drive on only certain parts of the bridge. The other parts were recessed a bit. As you get half way across the bridge, you get an idea of how beautiful the refuge is; just don't roll down your window yet because the river stinks.
Drive on down to the visitor's center; there's a $3 fee per car to visit. Volunteers staff the booth during the week and weekends, so you can pay there, pick up a brochure or list of animals that visit the refuge, or borrow a CD audio tour. Each track on the CD corresponds to numbered signs along the drive. If there are no volunteers at the time of your visit, pay you fee with the provided envelopes and pick up your brochure.
Then hop in the car and start driving. This is the beginning of the auto tour. Take note of the posted time. The gate closes automatically at that time, and you don't want to get stuck on the wrong side of the gate. The only way out is to call the local police department. Expect the drive to take at least 30 minutes; it took us 45 minutes.
Not far down the road, we say turtles sunning themselves. It was so exciting that I stopped the car and hopped out to get a photo. During the summer months (May 1 through September 30), this is okay. During the rest of the year, you must stay in your car.
Not too much farther, we stopped to talk to a photographer and he mentioned the owls down the road. They weren't hard to find because all the other cars were stopped there.
According to the photographer it was a Great Horned Owl and her owlets. See the owls?
No? How about now? They were a bit far for my camera to get a good photo but it was cool seeing them there.
Here's some scenery we drove past. As we were driving, we could here all kinds of chirps, croaks, and calls. We stopped the car for a minute just to listen.
We saw lots of red-winged blackbirds. They were pretty.
This guy was only a few feet from my window and was chirping at us. If only we understood what he was saying.
There are three different kinds of ducks in this photo...and more beautiful scenery.
We eventually made it back to the visitor center and found this little guy sitting on a post. I think he's a barn swallow.
The kids and I enjoyed our visit so much that we planned on coming back before we even left. We wanted to bring Daddy, a picnic, and walk along the walking trail. It's evident that our year spent studying flying creatures was a year well-spent; the kids both said that they appreciated the visit more because of their studies.
We definitely recommend this place to anyone who likes nature and birds. It was awesome!