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Carty Lake Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

(Redirected from Gee Creek Bottomland Hike)
Reflections in a lake, Gee Creek Bottomland (bobcat)
Tundra swans in one of the scabland lakes (bobcat)
Garter snake, Gee Creek Bottomland (bobcat)
Step ladder near an oak grove, Gee Creek Bottomland (bobcat)
Sketch of Gee Creek walking route (in red) (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: National Geographic Topo
  • Start point: Ridgefield TrailheadRoad.JPG
  • End point: Carty Lake
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: In and out
  • Distance: 3.0 miles
  • Elevation gain: 60 feet
  • High Point: 75 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: May 1st to September 30th
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No
Poison Oak


Hike Description

This is a flat walk that takes you through willow bottomlands and along the west shore of Carty Lake in the Carty Unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. The walk is on a gravel track, and you will get good views of Carty Lake and its marshy shores. The trail is closed during the winter, so you will not see flocks of migrants, but the verges of the lake are alive in spring with the calls of marsh wrens, blackbirds, rails, bitterns, and egrets. You can partner this hike with the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge Hike if you want a longer walk. Do not go beyond the refuge signs restricting access, and respect the seasonal closure.

A new access point is being developed at the south end of Carty Lake, and this will permit entry from Port of Ridgefield property there. When you are permitted to continue into Ridgefield, you will be able to make a road loop back to the refuge using Railroad Avenue and Main Avenue.

After paying the day use fee at the Ridgefield Trailhead kiosk, cross the new universal access Ridgefield Railroad Bridge, and pass a large spreading oak on the right before reaching the Cathlapotle Plankhouse. If the Cathlapotle Plankhouse, a model of a Chinook dwelling, is open, you may enter and learn about native architecture and family life as witnessed by explorers such as Lewis and Clark. Continuing on the main trail, go left at an unsigned junction, and follow a gravel tread past Duck Pond. You will enter a willow bottomland and cross a small bridge over Gee Creek, with the facilities of the Port of Ridgefield looming across Carty Lake to your left (The seasonal closure begins at the bridge; do not proceed farther from October through April). Look for early sandhill cranes here in September. Pass through another fence, and follow the path across a boggy area before veering left to begin traversing the west shore of Carty Lake.

The lake itself is verged by a thick growth of reed canary grass, but wapato, a Native American staple, blooms in the shallows in profusion in late summer. To your right is a field that has been planted with native wetland trees such as ash and cottonwood.

After pausing at the lake shore, head back to the main track and go right. Pass through an open gate into a cottonwood grove and then an open field. To the left a short spur leads through blackberries, dogwood and willow to a viewpoint on a bank above the Lake River and a view across to Bachelor Island. Back in the field, keep going on the right side of the open expanse, passing a pond hosting ducks and herons. Where the grassy track appears to split, head right into woods of ash, cottonwood, and snowberry. You will get a view of the crown of Mount Saint Helens when the track turns northeast. The path leads around an open expanse to a metal step ladder over a fence. Enter an oak grove and the trail, now barely discernable, veers right to the crest of a grassy hillock which gives glimpses the lake below. In the spring, the surface will be sprinkled with large flotillas of tundra swans. You can head down through a clump of snowberries to the next knoll, which gives a slightly clearer view.

You may explore further in this area, but turn back at any refuge sign denying access.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • There is a $3 fee per person at the entrance station kiosk at the Ridgefield Trailhead. Envelopes are available at the kiosk. All of the fees collected remain on-site. A host of passes are accepted including:
    • Ridgefield Annual Refuge Pass ($15)
    • Federal Duck Stamp ($15)
    • Interagency Annual Pass ($80)
    • Interagency Senior Pass/Golden Age Passport ($10)
    • Interagency Access Pass/Golden Access Passport (free)
    • Interagency Volunteer Pass (free)
    • Interagency Military Pass (free)
  • Respect all signs restricting access to certain areas.
  • Dogs are not permitted anywhere in the refuge.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver by Douglas Lorain

More Links


Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.