Steigerwald Reconnection Project
Highlights of the collaborative effort to reconnect a Gorge wildlife refuge to the Columbia River floodplain
Floodplain channel at Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge. (photographer: Cate Hotchkiss)

On May 1, 2022, just inside the northwestern boundary line of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge was reopened to the public, on schedule, after a two-year closure to reconnect the refuge's main waterway, Gibbons Creek, to its historic Columbia River floodplain. The work restores wetland habitat and reduces the risk of flooding in nearby communities by restoring a natural drainage from Gibbons Creek to the river.

The Steigerwald Reconnection Project was the result of a wide-ranging partnership and collaboration among organizations and agencies, including the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), and many others. Friends of the Columbia Gorge played a crucial role in getting the project off the ground in 2017 when Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust purchased Steigerwald Shores, a 160-acre tract adjacent to the existing refuge boundary. The parcel was subsequently conveyed to USFWS and work later began to resculpt Steigerwald into its current form.

The funds to purchase Steigerwald Shores were raised through the Preserve the Wonder land acquisition campaign; Friends members and supporters who donated to the campaign, in both smaller and larger amounts, helped make possible the success of this project.

Friends' work at Steigerwald is not finished. While the refuge is open and Columbia River fish are starting to find their way to Gibbons Creek, areas where bulldozers reshaped the earth need to be filled with native plants; invasive plant species must be kept in check. Friends' land trust will be working in collaboration with partner groups to organize volunteer work parties into the near future. Learn more about volunteering with Friends.

Below are links to features stories and videos created by Friends during the lifespan of the Steigerwald Reconnection Project.