Steigerwald Refuge: Nature’s work in progress

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Nature in its most glorified state is on display at the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Washougal.

In addition to more than 200 species of birds that have been spotted there, the refuge contains more than 1,000 acres of historic lakebed, river bottomland habitat and oak woodlands. It often serves as a migration corridor for a variety of birds, and supports anadromous fish migration, breeding neo tropical birds and wintering ducks and geese.

From its very inception, this area located at the entrance to the Columbia River Gorge has been all about citizens banding together, becoming proactive, and making things happen.

In 1975, a group of local residents with persistence and determination helped convince the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife to take the area on as a preservation project. After 10 years of work, it finally became a National Wildlife Refuge.

Some of these same activists, joined by hundreds of others over the years, continue to be involved with the refuge as it evolves and transitions. In June 2009, a trail opened that for the first time allowed the general public to travel inside the refuge, and get a first hand look at the natural transformation of this former farmland.

Adding native plants to the area has been a major undertaking during recent years, and resulted in thousands of shrubs and trees taking root.

All of this would not be possible without the work of volunteers of all ages, who travel to the site braving wind, cold and rain to lend a hand.

It is this kind of help and that must continue to ensure this local treasure that has so much to offer the community, continues to thrive.