The 32 river miles in this water trail include Vancouver Lake (more than 5 miles to circumnavigate), the full extent of Lake River (~11.5 miles), a section of the Columbia River along the west side of Bachelor Island (~4 miles), the Bachelor Island Slough and the confluences of the Lewis and Lake Rivers (2.6 miles), upriver on the East Fork of the Lewis River to La Center (~3.25 miles), and upriver on the North Fork of the Lewis River to Woodland (6.5 miles).

The Water Trail was established in 2012 and was the impetus for the first Ridgefield Big Paddle. 

The unique feature of a water trail is you can float along the trail, and you will not have changed that trail. Its a sustainable form of use. 

Video: Clark County, WA


The Ridgefield Big Paddle began in 2012 to celebrate the efforts of many to create this water trail resource.

The first Big Paddle was June 2nd, 2012. Big Paddle is traditionally held on the first Saturday in June as part of National Trails Day.

The flotilla travels 2.5 miles North on Lake River, past the wildlife refuge, to the Columbia River and back to the Port of Ridgefield launch for a 5 mile round trip. This year, we are challenging you to complete a 5 mile round trip somewhere new along the Water Trail. 

Kids Activities and Water Resource Education
Check out this collection of activities and water resource education to celebrate the spirit of Big Paddle any time!
Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership
The Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership is usually at Big Paddle running the Big Canoe tours and bringing some great science and nature learning opportunities in the Paddlers Village. Their website has a collection of activity videos to learn about science and nature in and around your home. Click here to check it out!
What Steps Can YOU Take to Protect Water
There is so much you can do to help protect our streams, rivers, and lakes!
- Wash your car on the grass or visit an eco-friendly car wash
- Pick up pet waste and be sure to know how to properly dispose of human waste outdoors
- Reduce or eliminate lawn and garden fertilizer and pesticides
- Pick up litter (especially along streams and rivers!)
- Follow organizations like the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership and Watershed Alliance of SW Washington to learn more and keep up on future volunteer opportunities.

Explore the Water Trail From Home

Can't wait for Big Paddle? We've got you covered with exploration and education along the Lewis River to Vancouver Lake Water Trail, all without leaving where you are. 
Learn a bit more about the water trail, and find yourself more prepared the next time you join us for Big Paddle.
Wildlife Viewing

There are numerous opportunities for wildlife viewing along the Lewis River to Vancouver Lake Trail. The Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge is situated along Lake River at the Confluence with the Columbia and boasts. Learn more about the Habitat and Wildlife on the Refuge here.

This video, from Alder Creek Kayak, gives a little taste of the wildlife you may see while paddling along the water trail.


There is rich history all along the Lewis River to Vancouver Lake Water Trail. 

Indigenous Land

Since time immemorial Chinookan Peoples of the Lower Columbia River have called the land along the Columbia River home. The village of Cathlapotle, located on what is now the Carty Unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, was one of the largest on the river. The village was excavated in 1990s, and a replica Plankhouse built on the Refuge as an education and interpretive center.

Learn more about the archaeological site. Learn more about the Plankhouse.

Paddling Safety

Plan ahead and be prepared to safely enjoy your paddling experience.

  • Prepare a float plan. Inform others of your trip and expected return time. 

  • Always wear a properly fitted personal flotation device. 

  • Do not paddle alone.

  • Learn about your route in advance, especially potential hazards and emergency access. 

  • Know the weather forecast. If you experience sudden temperature drops, increasing and volatile winds or darkening clouds, get off the water. 

  • Carry food and water adequate for your trip length. 

  • Maintain distance between your boat and objects in the water, including motor boats, which may cause waves that could capsize a canoe or kayak.

  • Position your boat perpendicular to an approaching wake. 

  • Never float or paddle over a fallen tree or other obstruction.

  • Learn how to self-rescue in the event of capsize. 

Padding Etiquette

Appropriate, low-impact use of the water trail is the responsibility of all who use this natural resource and will ensure the waterways stay beautiful and healthy. Keep the following in mind while you travel:

  • Leave No Trace - Do not alter your surroundings. Leave natural objects as you found them. 

  • Quietly view wildlife. Give a wide berth to any birds or animals you encounter.

  • Respect Private Property - The river is open for recreation but lands along the shore may be private or restricted wildlife refuge lands. Respect private property and posted lands and do not trespass.

Learning to Paddle 

Haven't made your way into the world of paddling yet? Or maybe you want to brush up on your skills? Check out the below videos for some quick tips, or visit Paddling.com for even more expert advice!

August 2020

  • White Facebook Icon