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Cowlitz County is a county located in the U.S. state of Washingtonmarker. As of July 2008 its population was 101,254 It forms the Longview, Washingtonmarker, Metropolitan Statistical Area which encompasses all of Cowlitz County. The county seat is at Kelsomarker, and its largest city is Longviewmarker. Its name derives from the anglicized version of the Cowlitz Indian term, Cow-e-liske, meaning either “river of shifting sands” or “capturing the medicine spirit.” It was formed on April 21, 1854.


Prior to European arrival to the area, it was inhabited by numerous Native American tribes, with the Cowlitz tribe being the largest. They were drawn to the region by the abundance of salmon. The Cowlitz are considered to be the first regional inhabitants to engage in commerce as they traded extensively with other tribes in Western and Eastern Washington. The Cowlitz Indian population declined significantly from the 1829-30 smallpox outbreak.

European explorers discovered and began navigating the Columbia River in 1792 as British Lieutenant W.R. Broughton sailed up the river to and past present day Cowlitz County. Then on November 5, 1805, Lewis and Clark camped at that mouth of the Kalama Rivermarker, under orders from President Thomas Jefferson. Over the following days, they would reached the present sites of Kelso and Longview.

By the 1820s, the Hudson’s Bay Company had established a lucrative fur trade in the region. Furs were shipped down the Cowlitz River to the Columbia where they were loaded and shipped around the world. Trade declined significantly in the late 1830s as over-hunting and fashions had changed.

During the next several decades, white settlement of the region was in full swing. Most of the settlers homesteaded around the number of tributaries that fed the Columbia River. It was during this era that the first settlements were established. The first was Monticello, near present-day Longview. This was the location of the Monticello Convention where a group of prominent settlers from the Cowlitz and Puget Soundmarker regions met to draft a petition to the District of Columbia calling for a separate out the Oregon Territorymarker north of the Columbia River. This convention took place on November 25, 1852 and three months later the United States Congress formed Columbia Territory, which was later known as Washington Territory. Being one of the first counties organized, it was created on April 24, 1854, by the newly formed Washington Territorial Government and signed into law by Governor Isaac Stevens.

Nearly every town that sprang up in the late 1800s began around a logging or lumber-milling operation. In the latter half of the 1920s, the Weyerhaeuser Company and Long-Bell Lumber Company established processing facilities. At the time, these two facilities were the first and second largest in the world. The county is still heavily dependent on the timber industry.

Four towns have claimed the Cowlitz County seat.
  • Monticello (1854-1865)
  • Freeport (1865-1872)
  • Kalama (1872-1922)
  • Kelso (1922-Present)


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, has a total area of 1,166 square miles (3,021 km²), of which, 1,139 square miles (2,949 km²) of it is land and 28 square miles (72 km²) of it (2.37%) is water.

Cowlitz County is part of the Puget Sound – Willamette Depression, a geologic formation extending south from the Puget Sound to the Willamette Valley in Oregonmarker. Nestled up against the Cascade Mountains, many of the county’s major rivers originate in this range. These rivers include the Cowlitz, Coweemanmarker, Kalamamarker, Lewis and Toutlemarker.

Cowlitz County is the 28th largest out of 39 counties in Washington State.

Geographic features

Major highways

Adjacent counties

National protected areas

County Parks

  • Catlin Cemetery
  • Cougar Wayside
  • County Line Park
  • Finn Hall Wayside
  • Harry Gardner Park
  • Hog Island Access
  • Riverside Park
  • SRS Viewpoint
  • Willow Grove Park
  • Woodbrook Park


As of the census of 2000, there were 92,948 people, 35,850 households, and 25,059 families residing in the county. The population density was 82 people per square mile (32/km²). There were 38,624 housing units at an average density of 34 per square mile (13/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 91.80% White, 0.52% Black or African American, 1.52% Native American, 1.30% Asian, 0.13% Pacific Islander, 2.11% from other races, and 2.62% from two or more races. 4.55% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 18.6% were of German, 11.2% United Statesmarker or American, 10.4% English, 8.6% Irish and 7.0% Norwegian ancestry according to Census 2000. 94.6% spoke English and 3.5% Spanish as their first language.

There were 35,850 households out of which 32.80% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.60% were married couples living together, 10.70% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.10% were non-families. 24.30% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.70% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 3.01.

In the county, the population was spread out with 26.80% under the age of 18, 8.30% from 18 to 24, 27.50% from 25 to 44, 24.10% from 45 to 64, and 13.30% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 98.20 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.80 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $39,797, and the median income for a family was $46,532. Males had a median income of $40,378 versus $25,710 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,583. About 10.30% of families and 14.00% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.50% of those under age 18 and 6.60% of those age 65 or over.


Census-designated places

Other communities


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