Kalama Things to Do
In order to continue the Waterfront Pathway somewhat further north, a boardwalk was built along the edge of the Kalama Marina. This also connects the waterfront and marina area with downtown Kalama by way of a pedestrian overpass over the railroad line.
The boardwalk isn't especially long, nor does it currently connect to much of anything. Furthermore, unless there is a train stopped on the railroad line, the noise from nearby Interstate 5 is pretty constant and hardly relaxing.
At the far end of the boardwalk there is a post in the middle of the trail, as if one day it is hoped that the trail may be continued further north.
Currently, the only thing at the north end of the boardwalk is a small platform with two benches on it. This allows a few west to the hills and the river, but the benches closer to the river along the road to the Port of Kalama office is much further from the freeway and therefore a more pleasant place to sit on a bench.
If you are into bird watching, take some time to look at the water in the marina and the log storage area in the river north of the marina. This is particularly the case during the winter months. Cormorants, mergansers, great blue heron, pie billed grebes, and a few others like to winter in these waters but you have to look closely for them.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
Running between Kalama Marine Park (the marina) and the north end of the Port of Kalama industrial properties, the Louis Rasmussen Day Use Park includes a number of covered and uncovered picnic tables, restroom facilites, beach access, beach volley ball nets, and open grass fields for doing whatever else it is you want to do.
The playground in the park is reasonably popular all year with local residents.
One covered picnic shelter is next to the river, and is located at the far north end of the park near the base of the totem poles.
The paved Kalama Riverfront Trail runs along the Columbia River through this park.Related to:
- Family Travel
Beaches along the Columbia River are small at Kalama, but still very well used. Even in December, you will find people out here on the beaches - though at that time of year mostly they are here fishing.
At the south end of Louis Rasmussen Day Use Park there is even a small road that allows people to drive right down next to the water's edge. This may be particularly helpful if you have managed to catch one of the larger fish in the Columbia River.
Beaches may be accessed along the Kalama Riverfront Trail in a number of locations, but most of them are in Louis Rasmussen Day Use Park. At the southern end of the Kalama Riverfront Trail there is a small park located in Port of Kalama industrial land that also allows river beach access.Related to:
- Family Travel
602 NE Frontage Rd.,PO Box 1069, P.O. Box 1069, Ka
Good for: Couples
602 Ne Frontage Rd, Kalama, WA 98625
Good for: Couples
180 S. 1ST, Kalama, Washington, 98625, United States
Good for: Couples
When you pull off the highway because the signs indicated gas, food, lodging, you don't always expect to see 1 gas station and 1 restaurant. There are actually more of each in this little town, but for the hungry tourist with a destination other than this stop, the first is the one that gets the business.
This is a small, roadside "burger joint" with a friendly staff ready to take your order. The burgers are much like what you'd expect from as small facility. They were cooked correctly but they were nothing special; reminiscent of McDonalds in the early days. However 2 burgers, 2 frys and 2 cokes for under $8.00, you can't complain much.Related to:
- Road Trip
Most of the restaurants in Kalama have huge signs along what is now "frontage road" so that people driving past on the freeway are able to see the restaurant sign.
This is not true of Playa Azul, though they do have a small freeway information sign (the blue panel signs) that do indicate the presence of the restaurant. It is almost impossible to actually see this sign from the freeway, however. The former main entrance to the restaurant is actually on First, which has a more complete looking storefront (see photo 2). There is a small bar on the east side of the restaurant (see photo 4) that is entered from this entrance. Therefore, you don't have to use the frontage road entrance if you decide you would prefer 1st Street.
The service has been reasonably good during the several times I have eaten here. The first time this was particularly surprising, considering there was a group of about 20 people at another table celebrating some sort of birthday or other personal event, and the staff were being kept pretty busy with their demands. I am very certain that the attention of the staff would be far better on a normal business night without a huge group of people monopolizing the capacity all at once. The food tends to come pretty quickly most days.
Unfortunately, there is only one window in the entire restaurant that is usable by patrons, and only one table is able to utilize it. However, the view out of the restaurant is of the parking lot, and of the concrete wall that raises the freeway slightly above the downtown streets. Thus, you really are not missing too much by not being able to see outside. Most restaurants in Kalama have a similar view of the freeway wall, so it is an unfortunate product of the way in which Interstate 5 cuts through what was once the main street of this small town.
Compensating for the rather bleak exterior created by the freeway and it noise (which is thankfully very well obstructed by the building) the interior of the restaurant portion of Playa Azul has a number of bright Mexican decorations, including what appear to be some original oil paintings by artists that are friends of the family that owns this place (see photo 3).
The bar side of Playa Azul was once the Doghouse Tavern and went through several stages of ownership. The two murals on the wall in there feature local people, and every single one of them were as they appear approximately 30 years ago when The Doghouse was the most important night spot in Kalama. As they feature local personality it was decided to not remove or paint over these murals. (see photo 5)
The off-street parking lot (which is tiny) is on the side of the restaurant that faces the freeway, while there is street-side parking along 1st. However, the entrance on 1st is the bar entrance, and unfortunately there are frequently people standing outside it smoking. As long as you don't mind walking through the cloud of smoke to get into the restaurant you will do fine entering from the 1st Street side.
Favorite Dish: I consider the bean burrito with rice and beans (which is a pretty good sized plate of food) for $8.59 (before tax) to be a pretty good value.Related to:
- Food and Dining
- Road Trip
3 Hotels in Kalama
There is no direct way to drive from downtown Kalama to the marina area and the park where the totem poles are located. You must either drive to the north end of town and cross the railroad there, or all the way south to the industrial area and cross the railroad there.
However, there is a pedestrian bridge that links downtown Kalama with the marina area, and the boardwalk along the marina wall.
From downtown Kalama, head west on Elm Street and under Interstate 5. Then, cross the West Frontage Road. The stairs going up to the bridge are right at the intersection of the West Frontage Road and Elm Street.
From the marina end of things, cross the crosswalk at the driveway leading to the marina, then take the boardwalk around the south end of the marina, and there is a small break in the concrete barrier that allows access to the overhead bridge.
There is no provision for those that can not use stairs.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
By far the least expensive way to get to Kalama is by public transit bus. This service is operated by the Lower Columbia Community Action Program. Buses operate between the Vancouver, Washington Salmon Creek Park and Ride lot, Woodland Park and Ride, Longview Transit Center, Kalama, Castle Rock Park and Ride, the Exit 63 Shell Station, and the Wal-Mart in Chehalis.
In Kalama, the buses stop at the Toteff Park on Elm Street.
Fares are $1 per boarding.
On the current weekday schedule, the buses come through Kalama several times a day, with the current schedule having the first northbound trip through town at 7:40 in the morning, the first southbound trip through town at 6:25 in the morning. The last northbound trip is at 6:35 but only goes as far as Longview. The last southbound trip is at 5:20.
The Saturday schedule is quite a bit more limited, and there is no bus operation on Sundays.
The program is an extensive rural social services organization, and the bus service is only part of a fairly extensive web site. Currently, the way to find out about their services is to select Community Services from the menu on the left side of the page, and then select transportation.
These are small vans and therefore seating is limited. However, according to the web site they are equipped with bike racks for those wishing to explore the areas beyond the bus routes by bike.Related to:
- Budget Travel
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