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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Steigerwald Lake and Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Washington"
Includes ... Steigerwald Lake ... Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge ... Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Complex ... "Tea Prairie" ... Gibbons Creek ... Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail ... Allen N. Steigerwald ...
Image, 2009, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Washougal, Washington. Image taken August 2, 2009.


Steigerwald Lake and Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge ...
Steigerwald Lake and the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge are located on the Washington side of the Columbia River at approximately River Mile (RM) 126. Downstream is Cottonwood Beach, Captain William Clark Park, Steamboat Landing, and Washougal, Washington. Upstream is Cape Horn, Franz Lake NWR, and Beacon Rock. South is Reed Island, and on the Oregon side of the Columbia River is Crown Point and Vista House.

Steigerwald Lake ...
Steigerwald Lake varies in size depending on how wet the season has been. In 2006, the U.S. Board of Geographic Names website lists the lake as 3.7 miles long. Steigerwald Lake was named after an early settler, Allen N. Steigerwald (see more below). The lake has also been known as "Herzog's Lake", "Shepherds Lake", "Steigerwald Slough", and "Steigerwalds Lake". In 1949 the U.S. Board of Geographic Names made the official name "Steigerwald Lake".

Image, 2010, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Mute Swan on Steigerwald Lake, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken April 25, 2010.
Image, 2015, Steigerwald Lake NWR from Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington, as seen from the Pedestrian Overlook before Crown Point, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken March 30, 2015.
Image, 2016, Biddle Butte, Washington, from The Summit, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Steigerwald Lake, Washington, as seen from The Summit, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken March 17, 2016.


"Tea Prairie" ...
Early fur traders called the Washougal area "La Prairie du The", or, "Tea Prairie". The traders use to stop to pick a form of wild mint that became a substitute for tea.

"... We encamped at dusk about five miles above La Prairie du The, so called by the Canadians from a species of mint which grows in it, and which they are fond of using as a substitute for tea. ... " [Ross Cox, April 21, 1817, published 1832]

[More]


Farming the Steigerwald Lake area ...

"... Early explorers and fur traders who passed through the Steigerwald Lake area often described it as a prairie. In 1805 and 1806, Lewis and Clark mapped the area as 'prairie'. In his journal, Lewis described the diversity of trees and evergreen shrubs in the bottomlands and the 'sand rush which are luxuriant and abundant in the river bottoms.'

Over the following two decades, the bottomlands at Steigerwald Lake became known as the 'Tea Prairie", perhaps because of the abundance of wild mint growing in the area. Land surveyor notes from 1856 described the river bottom as prairie that was 'unfit for cultivation due to inundation'. Early settlers attempted to farm the area, but annual spring flooding by the Columbia River and Gibbons Creek made farming difficult, if not impossible. By 1880 the agricultural emphasis switched from farming to dairying. Drainage and diking efforts between 1920 and 1950 made possible the planting of some row crops and small orchards. Annual freshets persisted until the major dam building projects of the 1950s. The bottomlands were diked in 1966 and expulsion pumps were installed in preparation for the development of the Washougal Industrial Park at the western margin of Steigerwald Lake. ..."


Source:    U.S. Department Fish and Wildlife, Steigerwald Lake, Franz Lake, and Pierce National Wildlife Refuges Comprehensive Conservation Plan


Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge ...
Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge is located on the Washington side of the Columbia River, beginning near Columbia River Mile (RM) 126. The refuge is part of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge complex, which also includes the nearby Franz Lake NWR (RM 138) and Pierce NWR (RM 142). The Steigerwald Refuge lies partly within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Point Vancouver, the furthest upstream Lieutenant Broughton journeyed in 1792, lies within the refuge.

Creating the Refuge ...
The creation of Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge began as a dream of the Vancouver Audubon Society. From their website (2004):

"Steigerwald Lake is a former floodplain that was diked in 1964 to create an industrial park. Dredge spoils from the Columbia River were pumped over the dike filling in much of the wetlands. In 1975, the newly formed Vancouver Audubon Chapter took the preservation of this area on as its first project. After ten years of gathering data and fighting various planned projects including a proposed nuclear power plant, the core of the area was purchased as a mitigation site for wetlands lost to the expansion of Bonneville Dam. This was accomplished through the efforts of Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon, to whom we are grateful."

Good overall views of 1,049-acre Refuge can be had on the Oregon side of the Columbia at Vista House at Crown Point.


Views ...

Image, 2009, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Information Kiosk, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken August 2, 2009.
Image, 2010, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Pacific Coast and Mexico mileage signs, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken October 19, 2010.
Image, 2009, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Viewing area, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken August 2, 2009.
Image, 2010, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Canada Geese family, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken April 25, 2010.
Image, 2009, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Frog, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken August 2, 2009.
Image, 2010, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Blacktail Deer, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken November 16, 2010.
Image, 2009, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Slough, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken August 2, 2009.
Image, 2009, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Wetlands, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken August 2, 2009.
Image, 2009, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Redtail Lake, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken August 2, 2009.
Image, 2011, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Trail, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken February 10, 2011.
Image, 2011, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Purple Martin gourds, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken May 18, 2011.
Image, 2013, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Mute Swan, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken May 25, 2013.
Image, 2010, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Enjoying the Refuge, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken October 19, 2010.
Image, 2012, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Enjoying the Refuge, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken April 2, 2012.
Image, 2010, View from Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Mount Hood, Crown Point, and Vista House as seen from Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken February 21, 2010.
Image, 2004, Steigerwald Lake, click to enlarge
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Steigerwald Lake NWR as seen from Washington State Highway 14. Image taken, June 29, 2005.
Image, 2009, View upstream from Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Columbia River, view upstream from across the dike at Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken August 23, 2009.

On the skyline on the Oregon side of the Columbia are three Boring Lava features ... Devils Rest cone (small point, left skyline), Larch Mountain (a shield volcano), and Pepper Mountain (the double-humped peak). A Columbia River basalt feature, Crown Point (with Vista House) can also be seen on the right.
Image, 2006, Steigerwald Lake, click to enlarge
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Steigerwald Lake NWR as seen from Vista House, Crown Point, Oregon. Image taken October 21, 2006.


Steigerwald Lake, etc.

  • Allen N. Steigerwald ...
  • Birds ...
  • Columbia River Dike Trail ...
  • Gibbons Creek ...
  • Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail ...


Allen N. Steigerwald ...

"Allen N. Steigerwald and Sons have done more to develop and further dairy interests in Portland and this section of the country than almost any others in that line ...

Mr. Steigerwald was born in Schuylkill county, Pennsylavnia, November 3, 1860 ...

While in Salina, Kansas, Mr. Steigerwald had met and married Miss Etta Brown ... who did not hesitate to accompany her young husband ... They lived in California for a time and in 1886 came to Portland ...

He had only ten dollars in his pocket but he possessed what is worth far more than money -- courage and determination. He sought and obtained work as a carpenter and a little later met a man who wanted to build a home. Mr. Steigerwald undertook the contract, and while he was a stanger and naturally had no credit in Portland, he succeeded in convincing a lumber dealer that he was honest and obtained the necessary building materials. ...

Before the opening of the Lewis and Clark exposition in 1905, Mr. Steigerwald secured a contract and did much of the building on the exposition grounds. In the same year he purchased a tract of raw land which he cleared, situated between Prescott and Alberta streets and between Forty-second and Forty-seventh streets. He there developed a berry and fruit ranch and for several years was an extensive grower of small fruits. He also specialized in handling nursery stock and introduced the Perfection currant into this section of the country. In 1914 Mr. Steigerwald had one cow and his son Ira, realizing that there was more milk than the familiy could use, began selling to the nieghbors. This was the beginning of the extensive dairy buisness developed by the Steigerwalds. It was not long before the son realized the possibilities for business in that field and soon had a dairy of more than twenty cows. The business grew so rapidly that Mr. Steigerwald and his sons later purchased eight hundred acres of land just east of Washougal, Washington, which was in charge of his sons, Ira and Alvin, until 1925, when they sold the dairy there, and since then all milk handled by them has been purchased of dairymen in the Portland territory. On the original tract of land Mr. Steigerrwald erected a beautiful residence and other buildings, including a model dairy barn, and in 1927 their present building on Sandy bouldevard at Thirty-seventh street was erected. This is a most novel structure, its outstanding feature being an immense milk bottle carrying out the ideas of his son Ira -- a bottle that rises to an elevation of more than seventy-five feet and can be viewed from all parts of the city. ..."


Source:    Lockley, F., 1928, History of the Columbia River Valley from the Dalles to the sea: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago.



Allen N. Steigerwald:

David P. Steigerwalt was born 1833 in Pennsylvania ... he had two sons, Franklin B. Steigerwalt and Allen Norman Steigerwald.

Allen Norman Steigerwald was born November 3, 1860 in Pennsylvania and died in 1948 in Portland, Oregon.

"Allen was a resident of Portland, Ore. for more than 60 years. In 1890 he built one of the finest houses on N.E. Union Ave., and Oxford Street, now known as Simpson Street in the city of Portland. A building contractor and member of the firm of Steigerwald Disbrow, Melton Co., he built boats for the gold rush miners. In 1904 and 1905, he contracted work on the Lewis and Clark Exposition and helped build the Agricultural and Forestry buildings. In 1905, he purchased land and established the Rose City Nursery and Fruit Farm near Portland, out of which in 1913 grew the Steigerwald Dairy, operated by his sons. ..."


Source:    Descendants of Johann or Friedrich Frederick Steigerwalt website, 2011



Birds ...
"Because this southernmost area in Washington State is along the migration route of many birds that follow the Cascade Mountain Range, and is at the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge, where birds from the interior can reach here through the near sea-level break in the mountains, many species may be encountered. The bird list for this site is at over 180 species including White-faced Ibis, Trumpeter Swan, Tufted Duck, Surf Scoter, White-tailed Kite, Red-shouldered Hawk, Gyrfalcon, American Avocet, Least Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Eastern Kingbird, Sage Thrasher, and Lesser Goldfinch."


Source:    Vancouver Audubon website, 2009

Image, 2009, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Enjoying the Refuge, "Birders", Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken August 2, 2009.
Image, 2010, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Western Meadowlark, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken October 19, 2010.
Image, 2013, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Cinnamon Teal, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken May 25, 2013.
Image, 2010, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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American Bittern, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken August 28, 2010.
Image, 2016, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Burrowing Owl, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken March 31, 2016.
Image, 2016, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Ring-necked Pheasant, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken March 18, 2016.
Image, 2011, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Red-winged Blackbird, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken April 12, 2011.
Image, 2012, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Northern Harrier, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken April 2, 2012.


Columbia River Dike Trail ...
In 2009 Steigerwald Lake NWR opened to the public, with a 2.75 mile "Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail" snaking through the Refuge connecting to the 3-1/2-mile-long Columbia River dike trail.
[More]

Image, 2009, Columbia River Dike Trail, click to enlarge
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Columbia River Dike Trail, Washington. Section near Steigerwald Lake NWR. Image taken August 2, 2009.


Gibbons Creek ...
Gibbons Creek runs through the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, emptying into the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 126, where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife maintains a fish ladder. Before entering the Refuge, Gibbons Creek runs along the eastern side of Clark County, Washington, and the City of Washougal.
[More]

Image, 2010, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Gibbons Creek, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken October 19, 2010.
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Gibbons Creek, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken October 19, 2010.


Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail ...
Nearly three miles of trail are located within the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge. As of 2010 the "art" along the Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail is still being added.
[More]

Image, 2009, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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Sign, Gibbons Creek Wildlife Art Trail, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Image taken August 2, 2009.
Image, 2011, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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"Open doors", Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Western door along the northern trail. Image taken May 18, 2011.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 3, 1805 ...
The Fog So thick [typical of the Pacific Northwest in the fall and spring] this morning that we could not See a man 50 Steps off, this fog detained us untill 10 oClock at which time we Set out [from their camp at Rooster Rock], ...    I walked on the Sand beech Lard. Side, opposit the canoes as they passed allong. The under groth rushes, vines &c. in the bottoms too thick to pass through, at 3 miles I arrived at the enterance of a river [Sandy River] which appeared to Scatter over a Sand bar, the bottom of which I could See quite across and did not appear to be 4 Inches deep in any part; I attempted to wade this Stream and to my astonishment found the bottom a quick Sand, and impassable- I called to the Canoes to put to Shore, I got into the Canoe and landed below the mouth, & Capt Lewis and my Self walked up this river about 1 miles to examine this river which we found to be a verry Considerable Stream Dischargeing its waters through 2 Chanels which forms an Island [Sandy River Delta, which has had various names throughout history] of about 3 miles in length on the river and 1 miles wide, composed of Corse Sand which is thrown out of this quick Sand river Compressing the waters of the Columbia and throwing the whole Current of its waters against its Northern banks, within a Chanel of a mile wide, Several Small Islands 1 mile up this river, This Stream has much the appearance of the River Platt: roleing its quick Sands into the bottoms with great velocity after which it is divided into 2 Chanels by a large Sand bar before mentioned, the narrowest part of this River is 120 yards-on the Opposit Side of the Columbia a <large Creek> falls in [Washougal River]     above this Creek on the Same Side is a Small prarie [location of Washougal, Washington, Cottonwood Beach, now the home of Captain William Clark Park, and the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge]. extensive low country on each Side thickly timbered [low area upstream of Cottonwood Beach and Captain William Clark Park is the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge].

The Quick Sand river [Sandy River] appears to pass through the low countrey at the foot of those high range of mountains in a Southerly direction,- The large Creeks which fall into the Columbia on the Stard. Side [Washougal River] rise in the Same range of mountains to the N. N. E. and pass through Some ridgey land- A Mountain which we Suppose to be Mt. Hood [Mount Hood, Oregon] is S. 85 E about 47 miles distant from the mouth of quick sand river [Sandy River]     This mtn. is Covered with Snow and in the range of mountains which we have passed through and is of a Conical form but rugid- after takeing dinner at the mouth of this river [Sandy River]  we proceeded on passed the head of a Island [Lady Island] near the lard Side [???] back of which on the Same Side and near the head a large Creek falls in [Washougal River, today the town of Camas, Washington, lies between Lady Island and the Washougal River], and nearly opposit & 3 miles below the upper mouth of quick Sand river is the lower mouth, [for?] This Island [Lady Island] is 3 1/2 miles long, has rocks at the upper point, Some timber on the borders of this Island in the middle open and ponney. Some rugid rocks in the middle of the Stream opposit this Island.   <proceeded in> to Center of a large Island in the middle of the river which we call Dimond Isld. [Government Island] from its appearance, here we met 15 Indn men in 2 canoes from below, they informed us they Saw 3 vestles below &c. &c. we landed on the North Side of this Dimond Island and Encamped [on the north side of Government Island, perhaps opposite Fishers Landing],     Capt. L walked out with his gun on the Island, Sent out hunters & fowlers- below quick Sand River [Sandy River] the Countrey is low rich and thickly timbered on each Side of the river  [on the Oregon side this area is the eastern end of the Columbia Slough, located on the floodplain of the Willamette River with the Columbia River],   the Islands open & Some ponds river wide and emence numbers of fowls flying in every direction Such as Swan, geese, Brants, Cranes, Stalks, white guls, comerants & plevers &c. also great numbers of Sea Otter in the river [Harbor Seals] -     a Canoe arrived from the village below the last rapid ...     Capt Lewis borrowed a Small Canoe of those Indians & 4 men took her across to a Small lake in the Isld. [Government Island] ...    ...  :  note the mountain we Saw from near the forks proves to be Mount Hood [Mount Hood, Oregon]





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*River Miles [RM] are approximate, in statute miles, and were determined from USGS topo maps, obtained from NOAA nautical charts, or obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website, 2003

Sources:    Cox, Ross, 1832, Adventures on the Columbia River ..., J&J Harper publishers;    Hitchman, R., 1985, Place Names of Washington, Washington State Historical Society;    Lockley, F., 1928, History of the Columbia River Valley from the Dalles to the sea: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago;    "OregonLive.com" website, 2010;    Oregon State Libraries website, 2011, Scholars Archives;    "Recreation.gov" website, 2004;    U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey Map #6156, Vancouver to Bonneville, 1948;    U.S. Department Fish and Wildlife website, 2004, 2010;    U.S. Department Fish and Wildlife, Steigerwald Lake, Franz Lake, and Pierce National Wildlife Refuges Comprehensive Conservation Plan;    U.S. Geological Survey's Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) website, 2006; Vancouver Audubon Society website, 2009, 2010;   

All Lewis and Clark quotations from Gary Moulton editions of the Lewis and Clark Journals, University of Nebraska Press, all attempts have been made to type the quotations exactly as in the Moulton editions, however typing errors introduced by this web author cannot be ruled out; location interpretation from variety of sources, including this website author.
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November 2015