As natural and cultural resources along the lower
Columbia River are lost to development, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge offers one of the last remnants of the natural landscape visited by Lewis and Clark in 1806 and utilized by the Cathlapotle people for generations before the explorers’ arrival.
Among the largest Chinookan villages Lewis and Clark encountered, today Cathlapotle is significant as one of the few archaeological sites that still remains intact on the lower Columbia. A decade of archaeological research has produced a wealth of information about the Cathlapotle people and the environment in which they lived.
The Cathlapotle Plankhouse Project was initiated to construct a full-scale Chinookan-style plankhouse where both the community and visitors to the area could learn about and develop a sense of stewardship for the rich natural and cultural heritage of the Refuge.
Evolving from the research partnership among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland State University, and the Chinook Tribe established in the early 1990s, the Cathlapotle Plankhouse Project partnership includes the Vancouver and Clark County-sponsored Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Committee, local landowners, neighboring national forests and parks, funding organizations, and more than one hundred local volunteers who donated over 3500 hours of labor to the construction process. These partners came together to supply the expertise, materials, funding, and elbow grease which made the project possible.