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Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own." - Charles Dickens

Cowlitz County Attractions

Parent Category: Washington Counties
Created: 11 April 2014

Population: 101,860

Area: 1,166 square miles

County Seat: Kelso


Cowlitz County was created in 1854. The territory of the county is 1,166 square miles and it is located in the southwestern part of Washington State. Most population of Cowlitz County lives in the incorporated cities of Kelso, Longview, Woodland, Castle Rock and Kalama.

Cowlitz County was also named the Timber Capital of the World, there are Douglas firs, western cedar trees and hemlock. The county still produces logs, but this industry is not dominant.

After the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens, tourist has become one of the major industries in this region.


Photo from Mt. St. Helens Area, Harry's Ridge TrailOriginally this land was inhabited by Cowlitz people, who lived near the Cowlitz River. The territories closer to the Columbia River were inhabited by the Chinooks. Nowadays the Cowlitz tribe is federally recognized with headquarters in Longview. The tribes were drawn to this region by a great number of salmon in the rivers.

The name of the county in Cowlitz Indian language means “river of shafting sands” of “capturing the medicine spirit”.
Europeans explorers discovered these territories in 1792. By the 1820s, the Hudsons’ Bay Company had established fur trade in this region. Furs were shipped down the Cowlitz River to the Columbia River and from there furs were shipped throughout the world.

Later in the 19-th century, logging and lumber-milling had grown rapidly, and almost every town that was established at that time was closely connected to these industries. Timber industry is still considered to be one of the most important.


The city of Kelso is located at the confluence of the Cowlitz, Coweeman and the Columbia River. The population of the city is about 12,000 people. Kelso is situated in 48 miles from Portland and Oregon and in 125 miles from Seattle. Kelso is a part of the Longview, Washington Metropolitan Statistical Area with the population of 102,410.

It should be also mentioned that three rivers running through Kelso were historically used as a transportation route from Portland, Oregon to the Puget Sound.

Kelso and Longview are the Twin Cities in the southwest of Washington State.


Mt. St. Helens

Photo from Mt. St. Helens Area, Harry's Ridge TrailMount St. Helens is an active stratovolcano which erupted on May 18, 1980. The eruption had an unexpected result, the mountain has become a tourist attraction and tourism has become one of the major industries of Cowlitz County.

The best way to explore Mt. St. Helens Area is to go hiking. Numerous hiking trails offer stunning views of the result and devastation from the eruption.  They take visitors in the heart of the eruption. Hikers enjoy the breathtaking and scary views of the crater. One of the most popular trails is Harry's Ridge Trail. Most the way it takes hikers over the crater to Harry’s Ridge. This ridge offers spectacular views of Mount St. Helens’ crater, Spirit Lake and Mount Adams.

One part of the trail is sketchy; the trail runs along a steep hillside, but the views of Mount St. Helens from this part of the trail are incredible.
The trail was named after Harry Randall Truman. This 83-year old man was the owner and the operator of the Mount St. Helens Lodge at Spirit Lake. The man refused to evacuate in 1980 when the volcano became active. Unfortunately, Harry and his lodge didn’t survive and were buried under 150 feet of rock and ash.

Coldwater Lake

Photo from Mt. St. Helens, Coldwater LakeNowadays Coldwater Lake is a wonderful and peaceful 750-acre lake, but in 1980 this lake was created because of the eruption of Mount St. Helens. This day changed the mountain and the nearby territories forever.

When the dust finally settled, the peak of Mount St. Helens had lowered about 1,300 feet. The eruption also created two new lakes at the base of the mountain. Castle Lake and Coldwater Lake were created because debris dammed up the flow of Coldwater Creek.

Coldwater Lake is located on the territory of Skamania and Cowlitz County in the surrounding of the Coldwater Lake Recreational Area. This is a very famous and popular place with wonderful picnic facilities and scenic hiking trails; one of them is a “Birth of the Lake” trail.

Coldwater Lake is also a popular fishing destination. When the lake was formed, it was stocked with rainbow trout. There is also a population of cutthroat trout. Visitors should also keep in mind that only electric motors are allowed on the lake.

It should also be mentioned that after the eruption of Mount St. Helens, in 1982 the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument was established. The territory of the monument is 110,000 acres with beautiful lakes and peaceful recreational areas.

The Mount St. Helens Visitor Center has wonderful educational exhibitions that tell about the history of the volcano as well as about the creation of Silver Lake. One more a must-go place is Johnston Ridge Observatory, which is situated in the middle of the blast zone and offers great views of the crater.

Johnston Ridge Observatory

Photo from Mt. St. Helens, Johnston Ridge ObservatoryThe Johnston Ridge Observatory is located just in five and a half miles from the crater, which was created after the eruption of the volcano in 1980. The observatory sits at an elevation of 4,314 feet and offers wonderful views of the crater, Mount St. Helens and the surrounding territories.

The observatory features wonderful educational and interpretive displays that tell about the history of the eruption and about human stories that were touched by the blast.

The first thing that should be visited in the observatory is a well-equipped theater where visitors watch a film about the eruption. After the educational movie, the screen at the theater rises and a perfect view of Mount St. Helens is opened. The observatory is a perfect place to explore the crater, lava dome, the landside deposit and the pumice plain.

Information: Marina Petrova

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