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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Kalama, Washington"
Includes ... Kalama ... Kalama Gap ... Kalama River ... Kalama Totems ... Kalama Mural ... Kalama-Goble Ferry ... Kalama-Goble Train Ferry "Tacoma" ... The Golden Age of Postcards ...
Image, 2009, Kalama, Washington, click to enlarge
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Kalama, Washington, as seen from Interstate 5 northbound. Image taken October 18, 2009.


Kalama, Washington ...
The town of Kalama, Washington, is located at Columbia River Mile (RM) 75, and lies just upstream of the mouth of the Kalama River. Directly across from Kalama is Sandy Island and the Oregon town of Goble.

Kalama Gap and the Missoula Floods ...
The constriction of the Columbia River north of Kalama is known as the "Kalama Gap". On the Washington side of the Columbia is Carrolls Bluff and on the Oregon side of the Columbia is Prescott Point, the bluff just north of Prescott Beach, Oregon. This constriction backed up the flood waters from the Missoula Floods into the Willamette Valley.
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Early Kalama ...
In the Lewis and Clark journals Lewis and Clark refer to the river as "Cath la haws Creek", while Ordway calls the river "Calams" and Whitehouse calls the river "Calamus".

Wilkes, in 1841 called the Kalama River "Mitlait Creek".

"... On the north shore there is a fine salmon fishery, near the Mitlait Creek, which is just opposite to Coffin Rock, where the COlumbia is 30 fathoms deep. ..." [Wilkes, 1841, Chapter XVII]

The community of Kalama was built by the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1870 during the construction of a rail line from Tacoma, Washington, to Portland, Oregon. They named their community "Kalama" after the river of that name.

The town of Kalama was incorporated in 1871, and was the Cowlitz County seat in 1873.

Between 1874 and 1884, the rail line ended in Kalama where passengers and freight would transfer to steamers on the Columbia to continue their journey to Portland. In 1884 the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company completed their railroad on the Oregon side of the Columbia from Portland to Goble, and began a ferry service from Kalama to Goble.


Image, 2014, Kalama, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Kalama Marina, Kalama, Washington. Image taken February 28, 2014.


The Name ...
In the Lewis and Clark journals Lewis and Clark refer to the river as "Cath la haws Creek", while Ordway calls the river "Calams" and Whitehouse calls the river "Calamus".

"... we proceed on to the mo of a River named Calams River and Camped on the South Side little above Said River ..." [Ordway, March 27, 1806]

"... We continued on & passed the Mouth of a River called by the Natives Calamus ..." [Whitehouse, March 27, 1806]

Professor Meany in Origin of Washington Place Names (1923, University of Washington Press) states the name "Kalama" came from the Indian word "Calamet" and meant either "stone" or "pretty maiden". Early spelling was Calama.

According to Robert Hitchman in Place Names of Washington (1985, Washington State Historical Society) the name "Kalama" was applied to the town in 1871 by Gen. J.W. Sprague of the Northern Pacific Railway Company. The name is from the Indian word Calama meaning "Pretty maiden".

Another story found on the City of Kalama website however says that the name "Kalama" came from an early Hawaiian settler, John Kalama, a full-blooded Hawaiian who came to the Pacific Northwest with the Hudson's Bay Company in the 1830s and settled along the river.

Whatever the history behind the name, the town then took the name from the river.


John Kalama ...
John Kalama was a Hawaiian employee of the Hudson's Bay Company between 1837 and 1870, and was a "jack of all trades". He married an Indian woman, Mary Martin, daughter of Chief Martin, a leader of the Nisqually people.

According to Robert Stauffer's book "Kahana: How the Land Was Lost" (2004, University of Hawai'i Press), "Hawaiians in the Pacific Northwest":

"... Kalama (variation: John Kalama), (fl. 1837-1870)
HBC/PSAC employee, b. ca. 1817, associated with:
Fort Nez Perces (1837-1840) middleman
Snake party (1840-1841) middleman
Fort Nisqually (1841-1842) middleman
Fort Vancouver (1843-1844) middleman or laborer, (1844-1847) laborer
Cowlitz Farm (1847-1849) laborer
Fort Nisqually (1849-1850, 1852-1854, 1856-1860, 1863-1863, 1865-1866, 1869-1870) ..."

"... According to descendants, Kalama found himself a Nisqually chief's daughter named Mary Martin, who lived in a big longhouse near Fort Nisqually's outlying Muck farm, for whose hand he gave her family blankets, beads, and clothing. ..."

Kalama in 1941 ...
From "The New Washington: A Guide to the Evergreen State, Federal Writers' Project, 1941":

"... The highway swings against the base of a rocky headland. KALAMA (Ind. pretty maiden), (21 alt., 940 pop.), is on a narrow flat at the confluence of the Columbia and Kalama Rivers. It began in 1853 when Ezra Meeker, noted pioneer, arrived and built a cabin near the present townsite. Leaving his wife and son here for a time, he continued north with his brother to locate land claims in the Puget Sound country.

Although numerous claims were settled along the Columbia and Kalama Rivers in the succeeding decades, the town did not come into being until 1870, when the Northern Pacific Railway selected a point within the district from which to begin construction northward to Puget Sound. On February 15, 1870, the Northern Pacific broke ground for the line, and soon 750 Chinese and 500 other laborers were employed. The town boomed. A ferry across the Columbia River to Goble transported trains to Oreogn. General J.W. Sprague of the Northern Pacific in 1871 named the town for the Kalama River. From 1872 it was the seat of Cowlitz County, until the election of 1932 transferred the seat to Kelso. Kalama's strategic importance as a rail and water terminal was ended in 1887 when the Northern Pacific completed its main line across the Cascades to Puget Sound; the branch line was then built south from Kalama to Portland, Oregon. The misfortune of the town was crowned soon after by a fire, which destroyed 25 buildings. However, the long deepwater harbor adjoining the railroad aided in keeping it a shipping point, and Kalama proclaims itself the city "Where Rail Meets Water". Within the radius of one block there are a port dock, the deepest on the Columbia River, three transcontinental railroads, and a US highway. A sawmill and a shingle mill draw raw materials from heavy stands of timber in the hills to the eastward.

Kalama is a typical river town; its main thoroughfare, First Street, follows the river bank, from which the residential section rises steeply. Sawmills and the KALAMA PORT DOCK account for most of its income. Strawberries are an important crop on surrounding farms, and the Cloverdale-Lewis Co-operative Berry Association packs and ships annually 3,000 barrels of berries at their plant at the Kalama Port Dock. The sub-irrigated soil of the district is particularly suited to commercial mint raising.

There is much salmon fishing in the Columbia River at this point, and a fish company ships annually 600,000 pounds of frozen fish to Europe. Caviar, packed in glass jars, is also exported. The fish business here was started by C.A. Doty, a Northern Pacific branch agent with diversified interests. Ordered by the railroad company to choose between his job and his other enterprises, he resigned from the Northern Pacific and devoted his time to the fishing industry. ..."


Kalama in 1942 ...
From the 1942 NOAA "Coast Pilot":

"Carroll (formerly Charlton) Channel, between Cottonwood Island and the Washington shore, is used for log storage and fishing boats. In 1938, 13 feet could be carried through the channel. Kalama River is used chiefly at its mouth by smelt fishermen. Kalama, on the eastern bank, is an occasional stop for ocean-going vessels to pick up lumber. There is a ferry between Kalama, and Goble on the western bank. Thie channel on the western and southern sides of Sandy Island was good for 14-foot draft in 1938, and was used by tow boats with log rafts and barges."


Kalama from Interstate 5 ...

Image, 2013, Kalama, Washington, click to enlarge
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Kalama, Washington, as seen from Interstate 5. Image taken February 2, 2013.
Image, 2011, Kalama, Washington, click to enlarge
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Kalama, Washington, "a Twilight location", as seen from Interstate 5. Image taken July 6, 2011.
Image, 2007, Kalama, Washington, click to enlarge
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Kalama, Washington, as seen from Interstate 5. Image taken January 28, 2007.


Street Scenes ...

Image, 2006, Kalama, Washington, click to enlarge
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Kalama, Washington. Image taken May 30, 2006
Image, 2006, Kalama, Washington, click to enlarge
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Kalama, Washington. Image taken April 19, 2006.
Image, 2006, Kalama, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Kalama, Washington. Image taken April 19, 2006.
Image, 2006, Kalama, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Kalama, Washington. Image taken April 19, 2006.


Kalama Places, etc.

  • Kalama Mural ...
  • Kalama to Goble Ferries ...
  • Kalama River ...
  • Kalama Totems ...
  • Near Kalama ...

Kalama Mural ...
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Image, 2006, Kalama, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Mural, Kalama, Washington. Image taken April 19, 2006
Image, 2006, Kalama, Washington, click to enlarge
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"Where Water, Rails, and Highways Meet", Mural, Kalama, Washington. Image taken April 19, 2006
Image, 2006, Kalama, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Mural, Kalama, Washington. Image taken April 19, 2006


Kalama - Goble Ferries ...
Both a train ferry and a passenger ferry existed between Kalama, Washington, and Goble, Oregon. The train ferry began in 1884 and continued until 1908. A passenger ferry existed during the first half of the 1900s.
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Penny Postcard, Northern Pacific Railroad Train crossing the Pacific on the ferry 'Tacoma', click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Northern Pacific Railroad Train crossing the Columbia on the ferry "Tacoma". Penny Postcard, Postmarked 1908, "Northern Pacific Railroad Train crossing the Columbia River on Ferry.". Published by Portland Post Card Company, Portland, Oregon (Made in Germany). Card #7009. Card is postmarked July 16, 1908. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Image, 2006, Kalama, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Mural, Kalama, Washington. The Tacoma train ferry between Kalama, Washington, and Goble, Oregon. Image taken April 19, 2006


Kalama River ...
The Kalama River begins on the southwest slope of Mount St. Helens and flows nearly 45 miles west-southwest and enters the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 73. The Lewis River is located 14 miles upstream and the Cowlitz River is located 7 miles downstream. Across from the mouth of the Kalama River on the Oregon shore is located the Trojan Nuclear Facility, and Prescott Beach, the location of Lewis and Clark's campsite of November 5, 1805.
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Image, 2003, Kalama River towards mouth, click to enlarge
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Kalama River looking towards its confluence with the Columbia. Image taken November 9, 2003.


Kalama Totems ...
Four totem poles featuring mythical forms, symbols, and creatures of the Pacific Northwest Native American culture are located in Marine Park, Kalama, Washington. Marine Park borders the Columbia River just west of Interstate 5 and downtown Kalama. The tallest pole is carved from a 700-year-old Western Red Cedar and, according to the Cowlitz County Department of Tourism website (2008), at 140-feet, this totem is the largest one-piece totem in the world. The Kalama totems were carved in the early 1960s by artist Don Smith, and were designed to encompass Native American lore and tradition. Smith began work on them for display at the Seattle World's Fair in 1962, but did not finish in time. Don Smith was not an American Indian but was adopted by the Kwakiutl tribe as an honorary chief in the 1970s. He took the name "Chief Lelooska".
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Image, 2009, Kalama Totems, Kalama, Washington, click to enlarge
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Totems, Kalama, Washington. Dog show going on in the foreground. Image taken August 1, 2009.
Image, 2009, Kalama Totems, Kalama, Washington, click to enlarge
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Thunderbird, Totem, Kalama, Washington. Dog show going on in the foreground. Image taken August 1, 2009.


Near Kalama ...

Image, 2007, near Kalama, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Container ship, Pacific Freedom, near Kalama, Washington. Image taken January 31, 2007.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 5, 1805, first draft ...
N. 40° W. 5 miles to a point of high piney land on the Lard Side [near Prescott Beach, Oregon]     the Stard. Shore bold and rockey     passed a Creek at 2 miles [Kalama River] on the Stard Side, below which is an old village.     rained all the evening and Some fine rain at intervals all day     river wide & Deep ...     we Came too and Encamped on the Lard. Side under a high ridgey land, [near Prescott Beach, Oregon] the high land come to the river on each Side.     the river about 1½ mile wide.     those high lands rise gradually from the river & bottoms


Clark, November 5, 1805 ...
Rained all the after part of last night, rain continues this morning, I [s]lept but verry little last night [Post Office Lake, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge] for the noise Kept dureing the whole of the night by the Swans, Geese, white & Grey Brant Ducks &c. on a Small Sand Island [one of the islands of the Ridgefield Refuge] close under the Lard. Side; they were emensely noumerous, and their noise horid- we Set out <at about Sun rise> early here the river is not more than 3/4 of a mile in width, passed a Small Prarie on the Stard. Side [quite possibly the location of today's Campbell Lake] passed 2 houses about 1/2 a mile from each other on the Lard. Side a Canoe came from the upper house, with 3 men in its mearly to view us, passed an Isld. Covered with tall trees & green briers [Bachelor Island] Seperated from the Stard. Shore by a narrow Chanel [Lake River or Bachelor Island Slough] at 9 [8?] miles I observed on the Chanel [Lake River or Bachelor Island Slough] which passes on the Stard Side of this Island [Bachelor Island] a Short distance above its lower point is Situated a large village [Cathlapotle Village, near where Lewis and Clark camped on March 29, 1806, a place now known as Wapato Portage], the front of which occupies nearly 1/4 of a mile fronting the Chanel, and closely Connected, I counted 14 houses in front here the river widens to about 1 1/2 miles. ...    about 1 1/2 miles below this village on the Lard Side behind a rockey Sharp point [Warrior Point, Sauvie Island], we passed a Chanel 1/4 of a mile wide [Multnomah Channel] which I take to be the one the Indian Canoe entered yesterday from the lower point of Immage Canoe Island [Hayden Island, at this point Lewis and Clark had not discovered Hayden Island and Sauvie Island were two separate islands]     a Some low clifts of rocks below this Chanel [St. Helens, Oregon], a large Island Close under the Stard Side opposit [Lewis River floodplain, home of Woodland, Washington, possibly more of an "island" in 1805 ???], and 2 Small Islands, below [today's Burke and Martin Islands], here we met 2 canoes from below,- below those Islands a range of high hills form the Stard. Bank of the river [Martin Bluff], the Shore bold and rockey, Covered with a thick groth of Pine     an extensive low Island [Deer Island], Seperated from the Lard side by a narrow Chanel, on this Island we Stoped to Dine I walked out found it open & covered with <Small> grass interspersed with Small ponds, in which was great numbr. of foul, the remains of an old village on the lower part of this Island, I saw Several deer ...     below the lower point of this Island [Deer Island] a range of high hills which runs S. E. forms the Lard. bank of the river the Shores bold and rockey & hills Covered with pine, [Lewis and Clark are passing Goble, Oregon, and the area around the Trojan Nuclear Power Facility     The high hills leave the river on the Stard. Side a high bottom between the hill & river [Kalama, Washington]. We met 4 Canoes of Indians from below, in which there is 26 Indians, one of those Canoes is large, and ornimented with Images on the bow & Stern. That in the Bow the likeness of a Bear, and in Stern the picture of a man- we landed on the Lard. Side & camped [near Prescott Beach, Oregon] a little below the mouth of a creek [Kalama River] on the Stard. Side a little below the mouth of which is an Old Village which is now abandaned-;     here the river is about one and a half miles wide. and deep, The high Hills which run in a N W. & S E. derection form both banks of the river the Shore boald and rockey, the hills rise gradually & are Covered with a thick groth of pine &c. The valley [Columbian Valley] which is from above the mouth of Quick Sand River [Sandy River] to this place may be computed at 60 miles wide on a Derect line, & extends a great Distanc to the right & left rich thickly Covered with tall timber, with a fiew Small Praries bordering on the river and on the Islands; Some fiew Standing Ponds & Several Small Streams of running water on either Side of the river; This is certainly a fertill and a handsom valley, at this time Crouded with Indians. The day proved Cloudy with rain the greater part of it, we are all wet cold and disagreeable- I saw but little appearance of frost in this valley which we call <Wap-pa-too Columbia> from the root or plants growing Spontaniously in this valley only ...     We made 32 miles to day by estimation-






Ordway, March 27, 1806 ...
rain commenced this morning and continued thro the day. we halted at a village of the Chilutes nation they treated us in a friendly manner Gave us Some wapa toes & anchoves to eat. Several Indians followed after us with Small canoes. our officers purchased a large Sturgeon from them we proceed on to the mo of a River named Calams River and Camped on the South Side little above Said River — Six of our hunters Sent on this afternoon to deer Island [Deer Island] with the Small canoes in order to hunt.


Whitehouse, March 27, 1806 ...
This morning early it commenced raining, which continued during the whole of this day. At 7 o'clock A. M. we proceeded on, & crossed over to an Island, which lay on the North side of the River, where we halted. We found on this Island, an Indian Village of the Chilutes Tribe it contained 7 Houses.— These Indians treated us in a friendly manner. At 10 o'Clock A. M. we left this Island and continued on & passed several Indian fishing Camps. A number of Indians followed us with small Canoes. Our Officers purchased from these Indians a large Sturgeon. We continued on & passed the Mouth of a River called by the Natives Calamus, & encamped on the South side of the River a small distance above the said River. Our officers sent 6 of our hunters in Canoes to go on a head, to an Island called Deer Island, in order to hunt, untill we came up with them— These hunters left us this afternoon. We have still hard rain this evening. We encamped on the South side of the River, where we found plenty of Oak & Ash wood to make our fires with.—




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*River Miles [RM] are approximate, in statute miles, and were determined from USGS topo maps, obtained from NOAA nautical charts, or obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website, 2003

Sources:    City of Kalama website, 2005; Columbia Fish and Wildlife Authority website, 2004; Cowlitz County Department of Tourism website, 2008; "ExperienceWa.com" website, 2008, Washington tourism; Federal Writers' Project, 1941, "The New Washington: A Guild to the Evergreen State"; Hitchman, R., 1985, Place Names of Washington, Washington State Historical Society; Images of Cowlitz County website, 2008; "Kalama's Front Yard", a preliminary waterfront site plan for the Port of Kalama, Portland State Univeristy Master of Urban and Regional Planning Program Workshop Project, June 12, 2006, and the RMH2 Group; Kirk, R., and Alexander, C., 1995, Exploring Washington's Past; NOAA Office of Coast Survey website, 2006; Stauffer, R., 2004, "Kahana: How the Land Was Lost ... Hawaiians in the Pacific Northwest"; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website, 2005; Washington State Historical Society website, 2005, "Lasting Legacy"; Washington Secretary of State website, 2004, 2007.

All Lewis and Clark quotations from Gary Moulton editions of the Lewis and Clark Journals, University of Nebraska Press, all attempts have been made to type the quotations exactly as in the Moulton editions, however typing errors introduced by this web author cannot be ruled out; location interpretation from variety of sources, including this website author.
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Images are NOT to be downloaded from this website.
February 2013