Exploring The Beauty And History Of Skamokawa

At first our beach looked like any other but on closer inspection, we started noticing bits of old pottery and even found a flake of Obsidian.

History of Skamokawa

Skamokawa is a small town located in Wahkiakum County, Washington, and is situated along the Columbia River. The town has a rich history dating back to the early 19th century when it was a trading post for the Chinook Indian Tribe. In fact, the name Skamokawa is derived from a Chinook word meaning “smoke on the water.”


In the late 1800s, the town grew in size and became an important hub for the timber industry. The Skamokawa Mills, which were built in 1890, were one of the largest lumber mills on the Columbia River. The town also had a bustling port, which was used to ship lumber and other goods downriver to larger cities like Portland and Astoria.


In the early 1900s, Skamokawa began to decline as the timber industry slowed down. However, the town continued to attract visitors who were drawn to the natural beauty of the surrounding area. Today, Skamokawa is a popular destination for tourists who come to enjoy its scenic views, quaint shops, and historic landmarks. Despite its small size, Skamokawa continues to be a vibrant community with a rich and fascinating history.

artifacts found on beach
Steve is examining artifacts found on 'Pebble Beach', which was once a tribal summer camp on the Columbia River according to local information.

Skamokawa Vista Park

We had received a call from Jason earlier in the week wondering what our plans were. He had secured a campsite at Skamokawa Vista Park and invited us to join him, which we accepted.

Skamokawa Vista Park is a must-visit attraction in the town of Skamokawa, Washington. This beautiful park offers breathtaking views of the Columbia River and the surrounding landscape. Visitors can hike along the park’s trails, which wind through old-growth forests and open meadows. The park also has picnic areas and a playground for children. Our site was located on the hill towards the back of the camp with a grand view of the Columbia River and ocean-going vessels as they made their way up and down the river between Portland and Astoria.


Our mission is a labor of love, but it does come with overhead. If you’d like to support our efforts we’d certainly appreciate it. Currently, we’re actively participating in the following field research:

  • COASST Beached Bird Surveys
  • Wild and Scenic River Project

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One of the highlights of Skamokawa Vista Park is the observation tower, which offers panoramic views of the river and the town. The tower is accessible by a short hike and is well worth the effort for the stunning views it provides.

Another popular feature of Skamokawa Vista Park is the interpretive center, which offers exhibits and displays about the history and natural environment of the area. Visitors can learn about the Chinook Indian Tribe, the town’s timber industry, and the local wildlife.

Overall, Skamokawa Vista Park is a beautiful place to visit for anyone who loves nature, history, and breathtaking views. It’s a great way to experience the beauty and charm of this historic town.


At first our beach looked like any other but on closer inspection, we started noticing bits of old pottery and even found a flake of Obsidian.


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Chinook Summer Camps

The tribal camps along the Columbia River have a rich and complex history that dates back thousands of years. These camps were established by various indigenous tribes who relied on the river for survival, including the Nez PerceYakama, and Umatilla tribes. For centuries, these camps served as gathering places for trade, social events, and religious ceremonies. However, with the arrival of European settlers in the 19th century, the camps were threatened by forced removal, disease, and cultural assimilation. Despite these challenges, many of the tribes have persevered, and today, the tribal camps along the Columbia River continue to be an important cultural and spiritual center for indigenous communities.


Our host had mentioned an old campsite nearby, which we decided to explore. It was a short hike downstream from our base camp, and from a distance, it looked like just another pebble beach along the Columbia River. However, upon closer examination, we discovered fragments of ancient pottery and even a piece of Obsidian, which is not found in the region. It was an enjoyable way to spend the afternoon, feeling like detectives uncovering hidden treasures. 


The Columbia River is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including the majestic Osprey (Pandion haliaetus). These raptors can frequently be spotted soaring above the river, scanning the waters for fish to ensnare with their razor-sharp talons.

Ospreys possess remarkable hunting abilities and are often nicknamed “fish hawks” due to their fondness for seafood. Their unique appearance, with dark brown plumage on their back and wings and white feathers on their head and underbelly, is also well-known.

In recent times, there have been concerted efforts to safeguard Osprey populations along the Columbia River. To provide secure nesting locations for these birds to rear their young, nesting platforms have been established, and conservation efforts have helped preserve their food sources.

Those visiting Skamokawa Vista Park may be fortunate enough to witness an Osprey in its element, plunging into the river to capture a fish. It is a truly awe-inspiring spectacle that highlights the area’s natural allure.

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