Please Note: No dogs are allowed at the wildlife refuge.
Like the Sandy River Delta across the river, Steigerwald was once a dairy farm and was zoned industrial land prior to passage of the National Scenic Area Act. Proposals such as nuclear power plants had threatened the area, but eventually local birding enthusiasts Wilson and Susan Cady and others convinced Senator Mark Hatfield to push for designation of Steigerwald as a national wildlife refuge and the Trust for Public Lands purchased an option on the property until the federal government could purchase it. Today, Steigerwald and the Sandy River Delta are the Gorge's western gateways, serving as development buffers that support thousands of acres of wildlife habitat.
Driving DirectionsSteigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge: From Oregon, travel north on either I-5 or I-205. Then head east on WA Hwy 14. Travel through Washougal. Just past the National Scenic Area welcome sign (MP 18), look for the Steigerwald parking entrance on the right/south side of highway. No Discover Pass is required here.
Lyle Cherry Orchard’s trailhead is located approximately one mile from the Gorge town of Lyle and is home to the “Lyle” sign that sits above the community. Since this preserve was opened to the public the Lyle Cherry Orchard has provided the community with an accessible natural space right in their back yard. The sunny and dry preserve is the perfect hiking spot to visit during the rainier fall days in the western gorge. Visitors from the Gorge and beyond recreate on Lyle Cherry Orchard and in turn support the local economy.
Photo: View of town of Lyle from Lyle Cherry Orchard (Debbie Asakawa)
The property where Lyle Cherry Orchard Preserve lies currently was once grazing land for cattle and as the name suggests the eastern part of the preserve held a cherry orchard. The orchard and its trees were well abandoned by the time Nancy Russell purchased the property piece by piece in the 1990’s and later donated it to Friends in 2009. Nancy purchased the property when it came up for sale because it was within key viewing areas on the Oregon side of the Gorge and would have most likely become subdivided for development.
The land is also home to remnants of Lyle Convict Road, a demonstration road built by Sam Hill to convince Washington legislators to fund a Columbia River Highway. When Washington showed no interest in Sam’s project, he invited the entire Oregon legislature to his Maryhill estate to see his "Good Roads" work and Oregon quickly agreed to build on their side of the river what is today the Historic Columbia River Highway.
The trail at Lyle Cherry Orchard was started in when Friends' founder Nancy Russell purchased the property and has been open to the public and maintained Friends and its land trust ever since. In 2019, Washington Trails Association started work to reroute some parts of the trail and add new trail to explore for the benefit of Gorge residents.
In 2013, the land trust and volunteers removed a dilapidated house and outbuildings on the southwestern end of the property. Countless hours were spent removing building materials, old vehicles, garbage, and debris. In 2015 volunteers removed over 1,700 feet of fencing material on the property to allow for the free movement of wildlife across the landscape. Without the help of Friends volunteers and Gorge community members, projects like this would not be possible.
Photos: Before and after cleanup at Lyle Cherry Orchard (Friends' archive)