Cathlapotle Plankhouse

A low building made of cedar planks with a small round door sits in a field of green grass
The plankhouse serves as an important part of modern tribal life.

"The Cathlapotle Plankhouse" by A.Davey is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Quick Facts
Ridgefield, WA

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Cathlapotle Plankhouse is located in the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge near Ridgefield, Washington. The building is based on more than a decade’s worth of archaeological research at the site, which began in the 1990s where a large village of the Cathlapotle Nation once stood. It took over 100 volunteers two years to complete it, and the official opening ceremony was conducted on March 29, 2005.

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark mention the village in their journals, both when they passed the town on November 5, 1805, and on their return journey on March 29, 1806. According to the explorers’ entries, they traded deerskins with the Cathlapotle in exchange for dogs and other provisions during both encounters. Their visit spelled disaster for the local populations since, only 20 years later, European diseases like smallpox took a heavy toll on tribes of the area. By the late 1830s, those who survived abandoned the site. In 1840, the Carty family claimed the land and built a homestead. It became part of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in 1965.

Today, the Cathlapotle Plankhouse plays an important role in the life and community of the tribes of the area. It also serves as an outdoor education center and is used by tribal members for special events throughout the year.

The plankhouse is currently closed to the public.

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail

Last updated: April 19, 2023