Students Serve at Steigerwald Steigerwald Restoration gets a boost from the community

This fall, we wrapped up our initial phase of construction for the Steigerwald Floodplain Restoration Project. We installed 84 large wood habitat structures within the Gibbons Creek alluvial fan and the Refuge's historic floodplain channel. Large wood provides valuable habitat for lots of species, and having them anchored in place will help the creek naturally restore its alluvial fan.

Contractor BioHabitats, Inc. place large wood structures at Steigerwald.

Even though construction is over for the year, the work at the Refuge continues. Contractor Ash Creek Forest Management has been busy treating and removing invasive species to prepare the site for future work. One particular stand of bamboo along Gibbons Creek had reached more than 30 feet tall! Removing this thick stand of bamboo will allow us to grade the creek's channel and floodplain to a more natural level. Removing these plants well in advance of replanting the area will also reduce the need for future treatment and maintenance.

Diana Ruggiero of Ash Creek annihilates non-native bamboo.

Meanwhile, beginning in November we worked with three Camas and Washougal schools to bring 11 classes of 5th graders to explore the Refuge and help along the restoration. Students planted a mix of black cottonwood, red osier dogwood, and a mix of different willows, surrounding each log habitat structure with a layer of new vegetation.

It's frequent for us to hear "This is the best field trip ever!" and "This is so much fun!" and "Can I bring my parents back here?"

Even though most of the students and chaperones live within a 10 minute drive from the Refuge, most have never been there before! Through this project, we are connecting people to new outdoor places in their own backyard.

There's also plenty of time for students to explore, too. Students have found long-toed salamanders and garter snakes, spotted a nutria swimming in the channel, and found witch's butter fungus already growing on the newly placed logs.

Volunteers are important to the project, too. On a sunny Saturday morning in November, 40 volunteers joined us to continue the planting work in the alluvial fan. Altogether, students and volunteers have planted 3,610 native plants and cuttings.

Our volunteers are the greatest.

You can be a part of the restoration project, too! We have two more volunteer opportunities coming up this winter, on February 29 or March 21.

Altogether, approximately 95,000 native plants and cuttings will be installed this winter across 53 acres of the Refuge. During fall 2021, once the trees and shrubs are well-rooted, Gibbons Creek will be released from its elevated channel and redirected into the alluvial fan, where the plants and wood structures will provide immediate cover and refuge for migrating fish.

Making a difference, one student and plant at a time.

Thank you project funders and partners - this project wouldn't be possible without you: US Fish & Wildlife Service, Bonneville Power Administration, Washington Department of Ecology, BNSF Railroad, City of Washougal, Port of Camas-Washougal, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Columbia Gorge Refuge Stewards, BioHabitats, Inc., Ash Creek Forest Management, Washington Department of Transportation, Columbia Gorge Elementary School, Grass Valley Elementary School, and Woodburn Elementary School.

From our whole team, thanks to all our partners, students & volunteers!