Perched above the Columbia River
, the picturesque town of Cathlamet, in Wahkiakum County
, (County Seat), is along the southwest border of Washington State. Cathlamet is nestled in a gentle slope with an evergreen backdrop of forested hills. The population of the town is about 550, making it the larger of the two towns in this isolated county. The neighboring community is Skamokawa
, 10 miles to the west.
Attractions in this community include the, (Former), Senator Julia Butler Hansen House, now a community meeting facility and Public Library. Cathlamet city park, an historic remodeled Victorian hotel and an 18 hole golf course.
The town was established as Birnie's Retreat in 1846 as a trading post on the river. Cathlamet and Wahkiakum Indian tribes were found here by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center offers detailed insight on local area history. Of special interest is the 1895 Pioneer Church, built into a rock outcropping that overlooks the village. Cathlamet is a unique little cosmopolitan village. Two or three families have controlled the town government, (and County government), for many decades. Members of the same family oppose each other politically in the City Council, City Administration and County Administration.
Access to the town is via Washington State Highway 4 out of Longview, which offers wonderful vistas of the Columbia River along the way. The highway continues along the river and through dense forests to the Astoria-Megler Bridge and Ilwaco.
River access to Cathlamet from the Oregon side of the Columbia River is from Westport, OR on Oregon State Highway 30. The Washington Sate Ferry, an all steel, diesel powered craft that can carry a dozen automobiles crosses the deep-water channel hourly during the daylight hours and one round-trip at midnight. Docking at Puget Island, WA., (Pop. 800). Autos then disembark and cross the island on a paved road that crosses an all steel bridge into downtown Cathlamet. The ferry is home-based on Puget Island, WA.