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Columbian White-tailed Deer Refuge Loop Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

White-tailed deer doe, Columbian White-tailed Deer Refuge (bobcat)
Nutria and blooming beggar ticks, Ellison Sough (bobcat)
Northern red-legged frog (Rana aurora), Columbian White-tailed Deer Refuge (bobcat)
Cherry-faced meadowhawk (Sympetrum internum), Columbian White-tailed Deer Refuge (bobcat)
Elochoman Slough from Steamboat Slough Road (bobcat)
Route of the loop, Columbian White-tailed Deer Refuge (bobcat)


Hike Description

The 6,000 acre+ Julia Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge for the Columbian White-tailed Deer in Wahkiakum County protects a rare subspecies of this deer on the mainland and some Columbia River islands. There are only several hundred of these deer on the refuge and adjacent private lands (A second population near Roseburg, Oregon, is larger). The Center Road described in this hike is only open in the summer and it’s best to do the walk earlier in the morning or in the evening for optimal viewing of wildlife.

From the refuge headquarters, walk back to Steamboat Slough Road, go right, crossing Indian Jack Slough, and turn right into the shed/garage yard (If the vehicle gate is closed, use the pedestrian gate to the left of it). Walk through the yard and continue along the gravel Center Road that leads into the heart of a large pasture. Cattle may be grazing in a fenced field to the left, there are plantations of young cottonwoods, and copses of willow grow along the sloughs. Pass Ellison Slough on the left, where you might spot beaver or nutria. Nodding beggar ticks blooms in bright yellow clumps in late summer. Little ponds will be filled with northern red-legged frogs awaiting fall rains; great blue herons stalk the wetlands as vultures and red-tailed hawks float overhead, and little Pacific tree frogs hop through the grass. Look for the white-tailed deer grazing along the verges of the pastures. Reach a slough and pass along its western bank before heading northwest towards the river. The Center Road is 2 ¾ miles long and reaches the Center Road-Steamboat Slough Road Junction opposite Price Island.

From here, you can return the same way, or walk along little-traveled Steamboat Slough Road atop a levee and back to headquarters. This stretch covers about 3 ¾ miles. The latter option gives you the opportunity to view huge container ships motoring past in the Columbia River Channel. There may be a river dredge hard at work. Walk through the section of Steamboat Slough Road which is blocked to vehicle traffic because of subsidence. There are wetlands and pastures, with some grazing cattle, to the left. Pass a parking area mainly used by fishermen. Here, you can pause to pick blackberries in late summer or stroll along a Columbia River beach.

Cross Ellison Slough at a control gate before Steamboat Slough Road curves left to run along Elochoman Slough, with cottonwood-lined Hunting Island seen across the backwater. Watch for otters, cormorants, grebes, mergansers, and Canada geese on the water. Vegetation includes white alder, willow, red osier dogwood, black cottonwood, western red-cedar, and Sitka spruce, the latter a sign that you are close to the coast. In the wetlands to the left, you might see a few sandhill cranes, egrets, and herons. To the right, there is a wapato and cattail marsh. Keep walking past a house and the equipment yard to turn into refuge headquarters.


Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • Center Road open June - September (exact dates vary); Steamboat Slough Road open all year
  • Refuge headquarters open Monday - Friday 7:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
  • Dogs are not permitted anywhere in the refuge.

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

Day Hiking: Olympic Peninsula by Craig Romano

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.