"Gateway to the Wetlands" Ridgefield by glabah

Ridgefield Travel Guide: 9 reviews and 41 photos

For decades Ridgefield has been regionally known for the large wildlife refuge that occupies the swampy wetlands on the city's western edge, between downtown and the Columbia River. However, VirtualTourist has the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge as a separate location now, so all of my tips that relate to this Wildlife Refuge may now be found in my Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge section.

The importance of the wildlife refuge, and the efforts of the city to use it as a way of attracting people to visit the downtown area, is behind the annual Birds and Bluegrass Festival, which brings music in multiple locations through the downtown area together with special open house activities at the wildlife refuge.

The city's downtown is located off Interstate 5 quite a bit because of the location of the railraod line. Until recently it was all farmland between the freeway and the edge of downtown. In recent years a real estate boom has happened here, and the city is becoming a bedroom community for Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA.

This means that the downtown area is mostly very pleasant and quiet because no one is in a big rush to get through downtown to some other community. There's no highway through town on its way somewhere else. It also means that the downtown has kept some of its older buildings, so that the town is nearly void of the plain "modern Pacific Northwest" architecture that has been so popular over the past 15 years in this region. Instead, the buildings and businesses around the downtown area here are almost completely local (out by the freeway it is a different story!) small town businesses whose brand appeal is familiarity to the locals, and not chain brand name.

Then Came the Plankhouse

The area now occupied by the wildlife refuge has also been found to be the old site of a Native American settlement. The big traditional cedar longhouses may have been destroyed, but substantial timbers like those used to make the traditional Chinook dwelling don't just vanish.

In March of 2005, after years of work to get permission to construct this building in a National Wildlife Refuge, the Plankhouse was dedicated. As much as possible given modern working conditions, this building represents traditional Chinook (and in general Pacific Northwest Native) living quarters.

Quiet Streets

Except for the two main streets in the city, Ridgefield has really nice quiet neighborhoods and is a fairly walkable city. Unfortunately the route between downtown and the Carty Unit of the wildlife refuge is along one of the really busy roads where people drive fast and has no sidewalks. Other than the 500 feet of somewhat hazardous road, walking from downtown to the Carty Unit of the wildlife refuge is quite easy. Unfortunately, the same is true about trying to get from Ridgefield to the River S unit of the refuge: the distance is short but the road is a hazard to walk on.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Big wildlife refuge, very pleasant downtown
  • Cons:Small town, so the various other options are limited
  • In a nutshell:Typical small town Pacific Northwest, with wildlife attractions
  • Last visit to Ridgefield: Oct 2007
  • Intro Updated Oct 12, 2008
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