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

Wahkiakum County Attractions

Parent Category: Washington Counties
Created: 28 December 2015

Population:  4,067

Area:  287 square miles

County Seat: Cathlamet


Wahkiakum County, located at Columbia River mouth, on its north bank, borders on three Washington counties (Pacific County on the northwest, Lewis County on the northeast and Cowlitz County on the east) and two Oregon Counties on the south (Columbia County and Clatsop County).

As of the year 2014, Wahkiakum County has a population of 4,067 people, which makes it number two in the list of the least populated Washington counties. With the total area of 287 square miles Wahkiakum County is number one in the list of Washington smallest counties.

It was created in 1854 by setting aside some lands from Cowlitz County. The county got its name from Chief Wakaiyakam of Chinook tribe, the meaning of which is interpreted as “Tall Timber”. 


Initially the territory of Wahkiakum County was inhabited by Native Americans from the Chinook Nation (which included five tribes). 

Many European explorers were unsuccessfully trying to find a large river on the northwest coast which could connect it with Hudson Bay. But none of them managed to discover the existence of Columbia River until May of 1792, when an American captain Robert Gray (who was a fir trader) became the first person to pass the Columbia Bar and enter the river. Robert Gray gave the name of his ship (Columbia Rediviva) to the river.

Somewhat later, in November, 1805, Lewis and Clark’s expedition came to the territory of Wahkiakum County, which also became a great event for them as they were able to catch the first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean here.

A lot of Americans and Europeans started arriving to Wahkiakum County. The main industries flourishing here were fishing and logging. There were also good conditions for the development of dairy farming at the territory of Wahkiakum County. 


Cathlamet is the county seat of Wahkiakum County and at the same time it is the only incorporated town in this county. The history of Cathlamet started at the beginning of 19th century, when Cathlamet Indians living on the south river bank decided to cross Columbia River and join a part of Wahkiakums, and created a village with the name Cathlamet. The name of the village (and of the Indian trabe) is usually interpreted as “stone”, probably given to the tribe because of the place they used to live at (along the rocky Columbia River bed). 

Later in 1846 when James Birnie decided to move to this Indian village, taking his family with him, thus becoming one of the first permanent settlers of the county. James Birnie created a trading post there and gave it the name Birnie’s Retreat. 

Even now Cathlamet has several buildings preserved from that times, which are turned now into museums.


Wahkiakum County Ferry

Probably the most famous thing Wahkiakum County is known for is its Ferry. It connects Washington State (in Cathlamet) and Oregon State (in Westport). It is considered to be the only ferry left on the lower Columbia River. The ferry services started to be provided in Wahkiakum County in 1925 and are popular even now. Nowadays it’s one of the favorite attractions of the county’s visitors.

Enjoy your trip observing amazing views of Columbia River, Puget Island and the mainland.


Julia Butler Hansen Refuge

Julia Butler Hansen Refuge was created in 1972 with the purpose of protection of the Columbian white-tailed deer population. Its huge territory of more than 5,600 acres is situated partially in Washington State and partially in Oregon State. It’s also a favorite place for the birds coming to Wahkiakum County to spend wintertime.

The name was given to the refuge to honour Julia Butler Hansen, who used to be a member of the State House of Representatives.

Her house was turned into Julia Butler Hansen Resident House and is also one of the places of historic interest in Cathlamet, Wahkiakum County, which is highly recommended for visiting.



Information: Svetlana Baranova

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