Home  •   Field Guide  •   Forums  •    Unread Posts  •   Maps  •   Find a Hike!
| Page | Discussion | View source | History | Print Friendly and PDF

Columbia River Dike Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Nesting boxes and Larch Mountain, Oregon, from the Columbia River Dike (bobcat)
Old pilings at Steamboat Landing (bobcat)
Models of native dugouts, Cottonwood Beach (bobcat)
Young bobcat on the prowl, Columbia River Dike (bobcat)
Outbuildings seen from the Columbia River Dike (bobcat)
Walking route in the Steigerwald Lake NWR (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps


Hike Description

The Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge lies on the east edge of Washougal, Washington. This walk along the flood-control dike takes in views of the Columbia River, Reed Island, Silver Star Mountain and Larch Mountain in the Oregon Gorge. There's a diversion to Cottonwood Beach, a campsite for the Lewis and Clark Expedition, with interpretive signs giving details. The dike trail connects with the Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge Hike (the Gibbons Creek Trail) and ends at the refuge boundary. Watch for wildlife in the early morning and twilight hours. Raptors hunt rodents in the fields, songbirds flit through the cottonwoods and willows, beaver are active along the Columbia shore, and there is a good chance of seeing coyote and deer. Bicycles are allowed along the dike and, unusually for a wildlife refuge, dogs are permitted on leash. There are various points of access to the dike; this description begins at its western end.

From Steamboat Landing Park, head up to the dike. There's a sewer treatment facility below to the left and then industrial buildings along Index Street. Silver Star Mountain, Washington's Larch Mountain, and Sturgeon Rock are visible to the north. Ahead are Larch Mountain in Oregon and Mount Hood. Alders, willows, red osier dogwood, and cottonwoods line the river bank. A paved trail from the opposite side of the highway at Pendleton Woolen Mills comes through an underpass and up to the dike. There are petroglyph designs decorating this area. Down to the right is a viewing platform and floating walkway. Enter Captain William Clark Park. There are two steel observation platforms jutting out from the dike. To the left a trail joins from Index Street. Reach a wooden frame with information signs about the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Down to the left is a second trailhead with a parking area and restrooms.

Descend some steps on the Provision Camp Trail and pass through a large grove of cottonwoods to reach Cottonwood Beach. Here there are more interpretive signs telling about the expedition and a series of concrete canoes, native and expeditionary. Lewis and Clark camped here for six days in March - April 1806 on their return journey. At high water levels, there may not be not much of a beach on the willow-lined shore. Head east parallel to the shore, passing some restrooms and reaching an area with covered picnic shelters. Go left here up to the dike and go right.

Pass a trail spur down to another parking area and enter the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge before rounding a wide bend with a large, open field to the left. The dike continues past a feed shed and other outbuildings on private property. On the right are nesting boxes for purple martins. There’s a view across the river to Reed Island, Crown Point, and Larch Mountain. The Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail, a popular new route on the refuge, joins the dike. Redtail Lake is on the left, backed by a line of cottonwoods with Larch Mountain (Washington) and Silver Star Mountain rearing behind them. There are more nesting boxes and the dike crosses Gibbons Creek where it enters the Columbia. A fish ladder steps down to the river. The other end of the Gibbons Creek Loop joins the dike here. Continue a short distance to a fence saying Gate 6 with a private property sign. There is a fine view here of Crown Point on the Oregon side of the Columbia.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Stay on the trail; respect all refuge and private property signs restricting access to certain areas.
  • Dogs are permitted on leash.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Take a Walk: Portland by Brian Barker
  • Wild in the City: Exploring the Intertwine edited by Michael C. Houck and M.J. Cody
  • Day Hiking: Columbia River Gorge by Craig Romano
  • Take a Hike: Portland by Barbara I. Bond
  • Columbia Gorge Getaways by Laura O. Foster

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.