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Cathlamet Travel Guide: 9 reviews and 21 photos

Cathlamet was one of the largest Indian villages that Lewis & Clark visited along the Columbia River during their journey of discovery with some 300-400 people living here. The first white settler was James Birnie who retired from a career with Hudson’s Bay Company – his last post was the Chief Factor at Fort George (Astoria) – and came here in 1846. He and his family of 12 came here setting up a trading post. His large house can still be found atop the hill overlooking the town he continued. Many retirees have followed his example today – especially out on nearby Puget Island.

Cathlamet is the only incorporated town in Wahkiakum County – the third smallest county in Washington boasting some 3,978 people – and accounts for some 532 people. White settlers replaced the local Native Americans who were devasted – some 90% of the Native population died in the 1830-40’s. Salmon fisheries were the first industry in the area with the logging industry shortly behind. Both industries have been downscaled dramatically in more recent years – the salmon canneries long since gone with the building of dams upriver which have dramatically reduced the huge salmon runs that were so important to earlier Native American life.

Today, farming, retirees and some tourism is what keeps people occupied for the most part. It is much quieter than the pictures you can see at the local museum from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

  • Last visit to Cathlamet: Sep 2011
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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