Pierce Island

Why You Should Visit

A mighty river. Shady woodlands of black cottonwood, willow and ash. And sometimes the insects that gave this special place its original name: Mosquito Island. Situated in one of the last major free-flowing stretches of the Columbia River, the Pierce Island Preserve offers spectacular views of the Columbia River Gorge and Beacon Rock.


Near Beacon Rock State Park, about 35 miles east of Vancouver, Washington.


Up to 200 acres at low water level

Why the Conservancy Selected this Site

Pierce Island is one of the best remaining natural islands in the Columbia River Gorge. It is one of the few islands in the region that has not been significantly altered by conversion to other uses. However, in the early 1980’s even this island was threatened by a proposal to clear-cut its forest to create a disposal site for dredge spoils from the construction of the Bonneville Dam.

Transforming Pierce Island into a dredge disposal site would have meant the loss of an important river floodplain riparian habitat. Animals such as the great blue heron, osprey and beaver would also have suffered from the destruction of the island's habitats. In 1984, the Conservancy bought the island from the Knappton Corporation, a marine transportation company headquartered in Portland, Oregon. The preserve and its adjoining shorelands now lie within the federal Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area.

Persistent sepal yellowcress (a member of the mustard family) grows on the island's cobble-gravel shoreline. Fewer than a dozen locations are known for this species in its range, and only one—Pierce Island—offers the plant any formal protection. 

What the Conservancy is Doing

The island is being managed to control non-native species including knapweed, Canada thistle and indigobush. The Conservancy is coordinating stewardship practices with neighboring public land managers, especially the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington State Parks and the U.S. Forest Service.


Pierce Island Location Map

Click map to enlarge map.

What to See: Plants

Black cottonwood, willow, and ash dominate the island’s woodlands. The gravel shoreline also plays host to a suite of native shoreline river plants including the rare persistent sepal yellowcress. The river also deposits many non-native plants on the island’s shores.

What to See: Animals

Pierce Island plays host to a variety of songbird species as well the great blue heron and osprey. Fishing birds can be seen in the river all around. Beaver sometimes make their home on the island, too.

Pierce Island is open July 15 to February 15 during daylight hours. Pierce Island is accessible by private boat only.

No pets allowed on the preserve.


From Vancouver, Washington, take State Highway 14 east approximately 25 miles and follow signs to the boat launching wharf at Beacon Rock State Park. Pierce Island is immediately to the east. 


Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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