Cowlitz County, Washington

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Cowlitz County is a county located in the U.S. state of Washington. As of July 1, 2009 its population was 101,966[1] It forms the Longview, Washington, Metropolitan Statistical Area which encompasses all of Cowlitz County. The county seat is at Kelso, and its largest city is Longview. Its name derives from the anglicized version of the Cowlitz Indian term, Cow-e-liske, meaning either “river of shifting sands” or “capturing the medicine spirit.” It was formed on April 21, 1854.[2]



Prior to the Europeans' arrival to the area, it was inhabited by numerous Native American tribes, with the Cowlitz tribe being the largest. They were drawn to the region by the abundance of salmon. The Cowlitz are considered to be the first regional inhabitants to engage in commerce as they traded extensively with other tribes in Western and Eastern Washington. The Cowlitz Indian population declined significantly from the 1829-1830 smallpox outbreak.

European explorers discovered and began navigating the Columbia River in 1792 as British Lieutenant W.R. Broughton sailed up the river to and past present day Cowlitz County. Then on November 5, 1805, Lewis and Clark camped at that mouth of the Kalama River, under orders from President Thomas Jefferson. Over the following days, they would reached the present sites of Kelso and Longview.

By the 1820s, the Hudson’s Bay Company had established a lucrative fur trade in the region. Furs were shipped down the Cowlitz River to the Columbia where they were loaded and shipped around the world. Trade declined significantly in the late 1830s as over-hunting and fashions had changed.

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