Julia Butler Hansen was the first woman to serve on the Cathlamet City Council and to head an appropriations subcommittee in the Washington Legislature. This wildlife refuge is an excellent way to honor and experience what Butler Hansen held dear: protecting our nations natural resources.
Steamboat Slough Road used to go from Skamakowa to a junction with Highway 4 east of town, providing a way for people to drive or bike through the refuge. But the Columbia River has flooded the road just outside of Skamakowa, and now visitation is limited to cyclists or pedestrians.
The one-mile long White Tail Trail is a dike built up and graveled that curves through the wetland, but a much more interesting outing can be made by using the White Tail Trail to connect both ends of the road. You can experience the entire refuge this way, and even enjoy a picnic at a quiet area on the beach at the east end of the White Tail Trail.
Go through the gate near the parking area to access the White Tail Trail and look around you – to your right is the old Steamboat Slough Road, now flooded by movement of the Columbia River. The trail you’re on is a dike keeping the refuge lands drained for white tailed deer habitat, but you're much more likely to see and hear Canada geese honking away than deer in the fields.
After a mile, reach the other end of the White Tail Trail. You can still see the other end, so if you want to venture further, head left and walk along the old road for as long as you like. Refuge Headquarters are about two miles away, and the eastern junction with Highway 4 is another quarter mile beyond that.
If you just want to relax, the White Tail Trail ends at beach access and a picnic area. Check conditions to see if swimming in the river is advisable, but enjoy a picnic here any time of year! You'll be able to enjoy the interesting skyline of the Willapa Hills to the west and the low mountains of Oregon just across the river.