Mt St Helens Cowlitz River Canoeing
Arkansas Creek

Arkansas Creek enters the river from the west about a quarter mile south of the Castle Rock fairgrounds. It was named for the large number of settlers from that state who settled nearby and started farming. About a mile upstream, located near the point where the old military road crossed the creek, was Henry Jackson's Inn, built in 1859. This was an important stop on the road between Monticello and Olympia, offering food, lodging, and fresh horses to the weary traveler. The house still stands today and is in an excellent state of preservation.

Lions Club Park

Just south of the town of Castle Rock and the namesake rock itself, on the east bank, is a park that stretches for about two hundred fifty yards. The park has extensive parking area and covered picnic tables but no toilet facilities or launching ramp. The bank is very steep and part of it is rep-rapped with boulders, so access up to the park is rather difficult. No launching or take-out is possible here; temporary moorage would only be possible at low water.

Cook's Ferry

About a hundred yards south of the park, on the west bank' is an obvious low spot at the rivers edge. This is what remains of the old Cook's ferry landing. In the years before bridges and roads, on either side there were several privately owned ferries carrying passengers, supplies, and livestock across the river. Cook’s was one of the most heavily used. No landing on the east side is still visible because that side has been much eroded, leaving a high bank. Possible launch and takeout point here, although the road to it is rough and poorly maintained.

Sandy Bend

About a mile and a half downstream from the old Cook's crossing, the river makes a sharp loop to the west. On the west side especially, the rather steep bank gives way to beach-like low sand. Just as the river begins its sharp turn, there is a large tract of privately owned but un-utilized land with no visible habitation or development. This is an ideal spot for rest-and-stretch. There should be no difficulty in landing or launching. The area doesn't connect with anything, of course, there being no road to it. The river valley broadens in the Sandy Bend area, and the rich, alluvial soil lends itself to agriculture. It's not surprising that one of the first government "Donation Land Claims" was filed here in 1852 by Jacob Huntington and his wife Eliza.

After Sandy Bend's westward loop, the river returns to its general north-south direction. There is nothing notable about this stretch until one reaches Lexington, where the diking resumes (the diking is almost continuous after this point). One cannot see over this dike from the river, but the canoeist will know approximately when he reaches Lexington; the dark brown roof of an apartment complex is visible above the dike on the west. Riverside Park

From the "brown roof" on for perhaps half a mile, Riverside Park is on the right, though not visible from the river because it is below the dike. It's a very extensive park, with parking space, athletic fields, children's play equipment, restrooms and picnic tables, but it is almost inaccessible to the canoeist. There is no launching ramp or any other river-level facility, since the entire west bank is steep, rock-faced dike. Coming in from the east opposite Riverside Park, is Ostrander Creek. In the early days before roads and railroad, steamboats hauled passengers and freight up and down the Cowlitz and on into Portland. The major creek valleys like Ostrander and Arkansas were scenes of early agricultural development, so steamboat landings were built at these points to load the farmers' produce and off load necessary supplies and equipment. Most of these landings have long since been swept away by the river, but at Ostrander Creek some pilings from the old landing are still visible, reminders of a bygone era.

Rocky Point

About a half mile below Riverside Park, the river jogs sharply to the west to get around a massive rock on the east bank. This is Rocky Point. The rock is heavily timbered, perhaps two hundred feet high, and of such a shape and bulk that it had to be tunneled through for the Burlington Northern railroad tracks. Immediately after Rocky Pt. there is the first of three bridges linking Kelso on the east bank with West Kelso and Longview on the west. The first bridge is for Weyerhaeuser logging trains carrying logs from company timber lands to the northeast down to the Weyerhaeuser mill operations at the south end of Longview. Just after the railroad bridge, on the west bank, there is a public fishing area, at which canoes could be launched or taken out, even though there is no ramp. There is a small business district here but unfortunately no public restrooms. Light groceries, canned drinks, and fresh produce are available here.

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