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Ridgefield Camas Rock

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Looking west from Camas Rock (Steve Hart)
Late April flower garden. Note the white-flowered Death Camas mixed in with the Camas (Steve Hart)
Beaver den near Camas Rock (Steve Hart)
The west slope of Camas Rock (Steve Hart)

Description

Hidden away on privately owned land is a true scenic gem. The north end of the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge and the private land just north of it are made up of basalt outcroppings overlooking lakes and grasslands that are flooded in the winter. The grasslands are typically impassable mires and the lava rock outcroppings create virtual islands. The rocks don't seem to have a lot of soil of them, but each spring they host a stunning crop of blooming camas.

The camas was a food staple of Native Americans in the area. The plant grew commonly across the southern meadows of western Washington and beyond. The camas bulb, which looks a bit like a small onion, was harvested. The bulbs were harvested during or soon after the bloom, as the lookalike, poisonous death camas often grows in similar areas. The camas bulbs were steamed in pits. During the season, they were eaten fresh steamed having "the sweet taste of creamy potato or stewed pumpkin." Most of the crop was steamed, then dried and stored for winter survival.

Meriwether Lewis, of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, penned these famous words in his journal in the spring of 1806: "The quawmash is now in blume and from the colour of its bloom at a short distance it resembles lakes of fine clear water, so complete in this deseption that on first sight I could have sworn it was water." Today, in a few remaining areas, the site is as impressive as ever. Only a couple of the rocks are easily accessible, but standing on one rock, looking across the water at others, all of them bright purple blue, is truly one of the seasonal scenic delights of our area.

Note: This is private land, graciously made open to the public March-September. Please respect the landowners rights. Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints.

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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.

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