“I don’t think we should go riding today,” Lisa said with regret. “It’s a nice, sunny day, but it’s been raining all week so the trails will be a muddy, slippery mess.”
“What about the Washougal Dike Trail?” I asked. “It has honest-to-goodness year-round footing, and the views on a clear day are pretty awesome. Let’s go there!”
The Washougal Dike Trail is a 3-mile (one way) trail that originates at Captain William Clark Park near Washougal. The park is located at the site beside Cottonwood Creek where Lewis and Clark camped for several days in April 1806. The dike trail (officially named the Cottonwood Beach Trail), parallels the Columbia River eastward from the park to the Steigerwald Wildlife Refuge.
The trail is a wide gravel road that runs along the top of a flood-control dike beside the Columbia River, so it is elevated above the surrounding terrain and provides excellent footing even after heavy rain. For the first 1.7 miles, you’ll have the park and a forest of cottonwoods on your right and a light industrial area on your left.
After that, the trail runs between the Columbia on the right and the serene Steigerwald Wildlife Refuge on the left. (Sorry, horses, bikes, and dogs are not allowed on the wildlife refuge trails.)
This is a great trail for birdwatching, with purple martin nesting boxes along the Columbia and excellent habitat for aquatic birds at the wildlife refuge.
Deer and coyotes are frequent visitors, and you may see evidence of beaver activity on the banks of the Columbia. In the fall the foliage colors are a delight, and on a clear day, you’ll have a nice view of Mt. Hood. Best of all, it’s a great place to ride in the winter!
Pick up the trail on the west end of S. Index St. in Washougal. To reach the trail your horse will have to step into and then out of a log box designed to keep motor vehicles off the trail.
Ride the short access trail to the top of the dike, then turn left and follow the trail to the end 3 miles away. Retrace your steps to return to your trailer.
The Washougal Dike Trail is covered in more detail in Riding Southwest Washington Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, available at www.NWHorseTrails.com.