If you've ever traveled along Ocean Beach Highway (SR 4 from Longview to Long Beach, then you've had to pass right through the small town along the banks of the Columbia River called, Skamokawa. In its hey-day, it boasted of shipyards, a butter factory (creamery), a bank and was a booming farm and logging community. Once roadways and speedy cars became more common than waterways and boats, businesses in the small community started to dwindle.
However, with the changing of the times and the interests of the people, there has come a new rejuvenation to the area. Tourists have now made it a destination point for many activities that are currently showcased in this tiny town and artisans and musicians have found it the perfect place to perfect their craft and expand their talents.
One of the most prominent features in Skamokawa is a building known as Redmen Hall and it sits upon a hill above the town at Mile Post Marker 29. This building is 120 years old this year, and was once the Central School built by Allen Riley. Visitors are surprised to learn that it was once located down on the current highway and was lifted up to its present position years later when the highway went in, so that was a mighty feat back in the day! It has gone through a lot of transitions since it was first constructed, as after the school closed, it was used by the Order of Redmen for their meetings, a community gathering place and an apartment as well. Currently however, it is owned and operated by the Friends of Skamokawa who came together to save the historic building in 1986 as it was just such a prominent piece of Skamokawa that they felt it needed to be saved, so they purchased it in 1987. So committed were some of these people that some home owners even put up their own homes as collateral for the initial loan to purchase it, so their commitment to the restoration of this iconic building was a deep and sincere one. The man hours and money to restore it were well worth the effort and it's been a source of pride ever since.
The River Life Interpretive Center is located on the second floor and showcases the history of the area with large picture boards, which are always of interest to those who come to see the hall. This space is also home to a variety of exhibits which showcase various talents, from wood carving to painting, to makers of soaps and jewelry to ceramics and more. One of the popular events is the annual antique sale where people can sell their treasures and buy someone else’s. If you are able, there is a nice stairway to the bell tower, where the Astoria Bridge can be seen on a clear day and the surrounding mountains and mighty Columbia River stretch out before you in grand style.
However, like all old buildings, Redmen Hall is always in need of maintenance and the hall is currently closed for repair, which includes getting a new foundation, with the new earthquake safety requirements. It's also going to need a new roof before long. Once again, the group who founded it are having to raise money by having fund raisers, like the Wine Tasting and Auction in September and are also asking for donations to help save the building. To become a member or help their cause, mail a check to Friends of Skamokawa, P.O. Box 67, Skamokawa, WA 98647.
Current repairs hope to be finished in time so that the summer visitors will still be able to come and check out the wonderful book and gift shop and take pictures of the gorgeous view from the bell tower. When the hall reopens it will be open from noon to four, Thursday thru Sundays. Call (360) 795-3007 for more information.
SKAMOKAWA VISTA PARK
Whether it's a family holding a reunion or maybe high school alumni holding one, or fisherman in need of a place by the river with a boat launch, or just lovers of camping, Skamokawa Vista Park is a true nature lovers destination. The park is just a half mile west of MP marker 29 and has undergone many changes in the last couple of years. The park is owned by Wahkiakum County Port District No. 2 and currently under management by Janet Bryan. The park is a favorite place to hold family reunions or class reunions especially at fair time, and fishermen and hunters flock to the area whenever that particular season is open. There are a variety of sites, from just tent sites with no hook-ups, to those that have everything, plus several yurts, so there's something for every kind of camper. With this park getting so popular, it's imperative to book early. Call (360) 795-8605 to book your stay today!
The port also took over the County Line park which had previously been operated by Cowlitz County, but with an upgraded bathroom area, which includes showers and a fish cleaning station, and a lot of elbow grease around the area, it is going to be much more enjoyable for users of the facility now. The new hosts are Lew and Neenah Tromley and they hope you stop by and check the place out. The views from both of these parks is spectacular with ships going by so close, it seems you could reach out and touch them. They offer wonderful photo ops as well.
At the end of May, the Duck Inn restaurant and lounge will be celebrating its second year of business with live music and a couple of evenings of fun, as they celebrate in Luau style! The ever popular King Brother's band will be there in the lounge May 30, and Nick Danger and the CRC will be there the following night.
Operators, Lance and Shannon Britt are on hand to help you out at the Skamokawa Resort, which includes hotel rooms, a general store, a post office, a large meeting room for rent and wonderful luxury suites. On the edge of the property sits a beautiful white gazebo, where couples are coming to get married, with the beautiful Columbia River as a perfect backdrop to the newlyweds' photos. The large meeting room close by makes a great place to hold the reception and guests can stay right there in the hotel as well, so it's a wonderful place to book for a wedding or any other special occasion. The resorts' location, is extremely handy, as it's within walking distance of the restaurant, park, county fairgrounds nearby and Redmen Hall. You can make reservation inquiries by calling (360) 795-0726 or check them out online at www.skamokawaresort.com.
OTHER PLACES TO STAY
The area hosts some unique inns and bed and breakfast businesses which are spread throughout Skamokawa, and each presents a different view and showcases special features. If you enjoy lounging by a private pond surrounded by acres of greenery that include a disc golf course, then you'd love traveling out to the end of East Valley Road and staying at the "Inn at Lucky Mud". Not only does this B and B have four special rooms to stay in, but it also features a private cottage that sleeps six, so that might be a nice option for a family. Contact Jessica Fletcher at (360) 795-8770 for reservations or info, or check it out online.
The "Inn at Crippen Creek", operated by Don and Kitty Speranza is located out in a secluded setting off of Oatfield Road in Middle Valley. There you will find lush green pastures and a bubbling creek nearby and enjoy the fabulous cooking of your hosts. Much of what you will enjoy eating is actually raised right there on-site, so you know it's fresh! The Inn can be checked out online or just call them at (360) 795-0585 for more info or reservations.
Located right along SR 4 between the Skamokawa Resort and Skamokawa Vista Park, is the wonderful "Twin Gables B & B" owned and operated by Stevan and Kathleen Morgain. The twin gables name came from the joining of two houses, with one having to be turned to match the other, and an extension put in the middle to join them, which gives this B & B a lengthy look at the water behind it where one could moor a boat or canoe. Kathleen is known for her homemade bread and pies and enjoys fixing the special meals for her guests upon request. A separate apartment on the property gives those who enjoy a little more space and privacy, along with a great access to the areas' features, is also available to rent. Contact the Morgains at (360) 795-3942 or check out their website.
The "Inn at Skamokawa Landing" is the newest member to the group of inns and B & B's and is located on Steamboat Slough. This historic building has three huge suites. Each sleeps between six to eight people, with each being unique in its own way, but all sharing fantastic views and boasting fourteen foot ceilings. The great room downstairs in the building can also be rented out for various larger events, such as weddings as the large center staircase makes for a grand entrance for the bride and plenty of room for guests. Recently this room held a packed house for a night of operatic music performed by three extremely talented local folks, so the room is definitely able to accommodate a wide array of events. Take a virtual trip through this building online or call 503-288-3803 for more info.
COLUMBIA RIVER KAYAKING
This business is located at the back left of the Skamokawa Landing Building and is extremely popular during the spring, summer and fall months. They provide guided tours of the area and classes for those who want to learn more about this sport. They have a store outfitted in all kinds of the latest gear for sale and often have great deals on kayaks for sale. There are six local guides trained to serve your every need regarding your experience on the water, so contact them at (360) 747-1044 or check out their full class/tour schedule and more on their website.
The Skamokawa Gardens Nursery, located on Steamboat Slough, is just a little bit off the beaten path, but well worth the half mile trip off of SR 4 to see and is just past the Skamokawa Landing Building. Owner Danny Silverman has had some major inconveniences for the past several years with road closures around the refuge that used to bring tourists right by his place, but who now often whiz by on the highway without seeing him. However, with a new sign by the post office pointing the way to his nursery and his large greenhouses, he hopes people will take the time to pay him a visit and see all his beautiful potted plants, flowers and fantastic hanging baskets. Currently a lot of his customers are people from other areas who had found him once and now repeat the journey as they know he's always got a great selection. For business hours and more info, you can contact Danny at (360) 795-3382.
While there may not seem to be many businesses in this area, there are actually about 30 of them. Many are home based, so they don't have a visible "store front." They vary from glassblowers, to authors, to candle and soap makers, to jewelry makers, to wood craftsman and more. Many of these sell their wares at various crafts shows, or gift shops in the area or online. Others provide services like lawn mowing, house cleaning, plumbing or home construction, so while you may not "see" them as you pass through Skamokawa, they are here.
This latest business in the area is something brand new however, as the Skamokawa Farmstead Creamery, is making goat cheese, and that makes them unique in this area right now. This operation is just west of Skamokawa and is located at 1681 SR 4, so if you like goat cheese and would like more information about costs and availability, contact Vicki Allenback at (360) 795-8700.
You may want to stay in one of the places listed above if you'd like to come and enjoy one of the annual events held in the area. The Wahkiakum Fair Board holds one of their fund raising events, the Valentine Diamond Dinner, on the Saturday evening prior to Valentine's Day at the Skamokawa Grange located at 18 Fairgrounds Road every year. The menu features a filet mignon steak dinner complete with dessert and a glass of wine, plus a chance to win a gift basket of prizes which includes a piece of jewelry with diamonds in it.
The Wahkiakum County Lion's Club holds a huge Easter Egg hunt the Saturday before Easter at the scenic Skamokawa Vista Park each year. Different areas are set aside for the kids of various ages to hunt eggs, with special prize eggs scattered throughout each area.
In mid-May, the Wahkiakum 4-H group sponsors their annual Great White Tail Run around the Julia Butler Hansen Wildlife Refuge. This features a 10k, 5k or 2mile run course. You can even bring your dog with you, although certain rules and regulations must be met. Contact 795-3278 for more information.
On the Saturday after Memorial Day weekend, the Wahkiakum Dollars for Scholars organization holds their annual car show at the Wahkiakum Fairgrounds. This event continues to grow and attract more cars each year and is free to those who would just like to come and look at the cars. There is always music and prize drawings and a trout pond for the kids, so there is something for everybody. A barbecue lunch is available for purchase, as are strawberry shortcakes. All proceeds from car entries, food and raffle tickets sales, going towards scholarships for the WA-KI-HI seniors. Lee Tischer is in charge of this annual fund raising event. Call (360) 430-4377 for more info.
Beginning in June, the Wahkiakum County Fairgrounds arena will be welcoming all the horse lovers in the area, as they will be holding the Silver Buckle Series this year. The first round takes place on June 21, with following rounds on July12th and August16th. Contact the fairgrounds office at (360) 795-3480 for more info.
In August, the fairgrounds will be brimming with people as the 106th annual Wahkiakum County Fair will be taking place Aug. 14 -16. A teen dance will be held on Friday night at the adjacent Skamokawa Grange Hall. Fair time is also class reunion or family reunion time, with many people coming back to the area to gather together and take in this old-fashioned fair that brings back so many memories of the past.
In September, the Friends of Skamokawa hold their annual Wine Tasting and Auction event at the Skamokawa Grange Hall. This is traditionally held on the second Saturday of that month, which means it will be held Sept. 13 this year. Call Redmen Hall at (360) 795-3007 for more details.
In December, the FOS will hold their annual Holiday Open House which features a wide array of gifts from local artisans, with the Redmen Hall adorned with holiday decorations. Musical acts perform at various times throughout this time and refreshments are served as well.
On the second Saturday of December, members of the Skamokawa Grange #425 hold a free holiday spaghetti dinner for the community. However, this is strictly a "weather permitting" event, as due to snow or ice at that time of year, there is a possibility that it has to be cancelled. The Grangers give away a gift basket worth over $300 at this event, along with other prizes, and the kids get to enjoy a treat bag from Santa so it's a fun evening for the community. Call Sk. Grange President at: (360) 795-3425 to be sure it will be taking place.
If there was ever a doubt that Skamokawa has come alive, just ask the people who live there, as they seem to be busy doing something all the time. Believe it or not, it's still a place where people smile and say hello to perfect strangers, so, stop on by, you're always welcome in Skamokawa!