The Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge reopens May 1 after a major restoration project that included reconnecting the natural floodplain to the Columbia River.

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“We are proud to be part of the stakeholder team helping fish regain access to nearly 1,000 acres of feeding and rearing habitat.”

Scott Armentrout, BPA executive vice president of Environment, Fish and Wildlife

Looking for a place to connect to the natural beauty found in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area?

Look no further than the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge just east of Washougal, Washington. The area closed in 2019 at the start of a major restoration project funded by Bonneville Power Administration and is reopening May 1.

Established in 1987, the refuge is part of the Columbia River estuary and a vital feeding and resting area for juvenile salmon making their way to the Pacific Ocean. In just a few years, Steigerwald has undergone a major transformation as workers completed multiple updates:

  • Removed 2.2 miles of levee, connecting the river to its historic floodplain for the first time in more than 50 years.
  • Expanded the refuge by 160 acres.
  • Restored salmon-bearing Gibbons Creek to its natural channel and removed the fish ladder at the confluence of the creek and the Columbia River, providing unobstructed access for salmon and lamprey.
  • Created more than 100 acres of wetland and reforested 250 acres of riparian habitat.
  • Added just over a mile to the existing trail that meanders through the refuge.

BPA’s $24 million investment in the Steigerwald Reconnection Project makes it the largest agency-funded estuary restoration project to date. Its accomplishment is the result of partnership with the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, city of Washougal, the Port of Camas-Washougal and many other groups and organizations invested in the region’s environmental health.

“We are proud to be part of the stakeholder team helping fish regain access to nearly 1,000 acres of feeding and rearing habitat,” said Scott Armentrout, BPA executive vice president of Environment, Fish and Wildlife. “We, like our partners, are working to improve conditions to support a resilient and sustainable population of native fish. We have learned through the decades that we can achieve so much more when we work together for fish and wildlife impacted by the construction and operation of the federal hydropower system.”

The Steigerwald Reconnection Project benefits juvenile salmon and steelhead migrating to the ocean by increasing Columbia River floodplain habitat between the Bonneville Dam and Willamette River. It also increases habitat along the Pacific Flyway, a migratory bird path extending from Alaska to Patagonia. The project also generated approximately 503 local jobs and brought in more than $67 million to Washington state’s economy.

The public is invited to join project partners and others on May 7 to celebrate the reopening.

Learn more about the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge reonnection project at the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership website.
The Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge is more than 1,000 acres of wetlands, pastures and woodlands along the Columbia River. It is home to many species of plants, fish and wildlife, including the western chorus frog, seen here sitting on a ripe wapato seed head. Photo courtesy of the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership.

The Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge is more than 1,000 acres of wetlands, pastures and woodlands along the Columbia River. It is home to many species of plants, fish and wildlife, including the western chorus frog, seen here sitting on a ripe wapato seed head. Photo courtesy of the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership.

Three miles of trail meander through the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Scenic viewpoints along the way offer views, such as this one, overlooking the Columbia River. Photo courtesy of the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership.

Three miles of trail meander through the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Scenic viewpoints along the way offer views, such as this one, overlooking the Columbia River. Photo courtesy of the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership.

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