Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Downriver Dispatches

News of Western Wahkiakum County and Naselle

While going through old files in my computer, I found a folder named “Maki files.” I opened it and found a treasure. One short piece shows an old photo of a wide open valley in the upper Grays. It took me a minute, but when I saw the old house in the middle, I knew it was the Gorley property up Fossil Creek Road at the bottom of KM Hill. Underneath, in the first paragraph, a new world opened for me. It says, “Herman Katajamaki came from Nurmo, Finland to America in 1892. Here he met and married Amanda Harfu in 1894. Amanda had a sister, Sophia Harju (Harrison) who lived in Grays River, Washington. Herman and his family moved to Grays River in 1909 where he purchased a dairy farm from the Willamette Paper and Pulp Co., Oregon City, Oregon for $3,000.” The photo clearly shows the current Gorley place that is now just a mere speck of land. In the early twentieth century, it was an open valley, wide and cleared for farming. It was an early home of the Kataja Maki family that lives in Grays River, and Deep River. Irene Martin tells me to her knowledge there are no longer any Maki’s in Skamokawa, but at one time quite a few Maki’s lived there. Since one of the Maki families lives close by on Fairview Road, you can be sure I will be calling them. And there is a Maki family on Fin Road, out Deep River. One of their children, Kevin Maki, is going to be leaving us soon. He has been a delight to know since high school when he led a group of high school students building a fence on the Florek farm on Duck Creek on the Elochoman. Kevin was the only one in the group who knew how to build a fence. The fence was built above Duck Creek to keep the Florek cows out of the stream so the fish could make their way up the creek and spawn. That was in 2005, and now Duck Creek is full of fish. Providing grants for jobs to high school students was a joy of mine in those years. I will be looking for Kevin to find out more.

The current Gorley property is one of the saddest places ever in our local history. The Grays River gorge upstream above the property became blocked with logs that came downriver above the gorge and created a log jam in the gorge that eventually broke through creating the huge flood of 1989 (?) when the entire farm was wiped out. The house was ruined and the fields as well. The river’s strong current took everything down and changed that little valley forever. The flood left a huge gravel bar that split the river into two channels with the gravel bar in between. Now the wide gravel bar is full of brush so thick the elk can’t even make their way through it. The river split and caused damage to the key spawning area for salmon at the bottom of the West Fork of the river below the old Grays River hatchery, now closed due to low fish counts. The first source of water for the PUD’s water lines to Grays River was in the middle of an open field, but it was destroyed in the flood causing the PUD to find another source down by the highway bridge. The mouth of the South Fork that used to empty into the river was destroyed, too. It used to have a lovely camping spot and a rope swing that swung over the river in the summer. It was a cool, lovely spot, a place I used to go to on a Sunday drive from Cathlamet when I first arrived in 2003; now gone. When the Grays fills and floods, whether from spring run-off or melting snow or a drenching heavy rain, the Grays decides for itself where it is going and how. It is clear the Grays has a mind of its own and there is little we can do to change it. We can defend our land in several ways along its banks, but when the heavy rain hits heavy snow and starts an avalanche of water, we can only watch, witness and get out of the way. The Gorley family has lost so much, but they still come in the summers and enjoy the little piece of the old farm that’s left. It is sad to see the new gravel bars grow downstream. It’s again happening below the Covered Bridge, at Meserve Park, and then further downstream in several places causing us to lose fishing grounds and land. This year, we have not had as many fisher folk along the Grays as we have had in the past. I hope some good projects can be done soon to protect the banks from erosion.

Photo of the Week: Austin Burkhalter, at 32, is quite the community supporter. While raising four children with his wife, Nicole, he works on the family dairy farm, volunteers as a local fireman and serves as our commissioner on the Port Two Board of Commissioners. He advocates for the county’s west end and speaks for our needs and projects. If you have questions or want to find out more, you can reach him at (360) 465-2768.

There is still no news about changes at Okie’s. While I see cleaning efforts happening at the Rosburg Store, it’s my understanding it is being cleaned so it will be available for sale.


Tuesdays: Naselle Lutheran Church sponsors quilters in the mornings and knitters in the afternoons.

First Thursday of the month: On April 6, Gardening group meets at Johnson Park at 6 p.m.

First Thursday of the month: On April 6, Caregiver Support Group at Naselle Library with hospital staff from 1-2.

April 5 and 19: Senior Lunch Club meets at Rosburg Hall at noon.

April 8: Easter Egg Hunts in morning and evening. Morning is at the school in Naselle and evening will be at the ball park near Okie’s.

April 9: Grays River Methodist’s Easter Sunday service will be at 10 with coffee hour at 9. Communion will be served by Pastor Keith Hackett.

Wednesday: Second Wednesday of the month, April 12, Grays River Habitat Enhancement group meets at Johnson Park at 5:15.

Wednesdays: AA meeting at the Grays River Grange at noon.

Third Tuesday, April 18, NGRV School Board meets at 6:30 in school library.

CAP Senior Lunches: CAP/Thursday Senior Lunches are located inside Rosburg Hall at noon.


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