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While from end to end this trail is seven miles (11.5 km) in length, a significant portion of it is not located in the most pleasant of locations. An awful lot of the southern portion of this trial is located far too close to Interstate 5 to be pleasant. This is quite unfortunate, as other than this the trail could be a fairly pleasant place to walk.
The northern 2 mile (3.3 km) is a much more pleasant place, and despite the nearby school and residential areas is mostly free of most types of noise except typical neighborhood noise. Interstate 5 noise is mostly blocked by a hillside.
The trail is build on top of a dike that runs along the western side of the Coweeman River. This is by no means a huge river, but it does provide some habitat for birds that like water (kingfisher on occasion, and usually some mallard ducks). The surface is compacted course gravel and isn't something that you want to walk on unless you have proper shoes for it, and doing it in a wheelchair is pretty much out of the question at this point.
The best time to visit is probably during the fall months, when some of the broad leaf trees near the trail have changed color. However, this can vary vastly from year to year (some years early October, while other years the trees have kept their leaves until late November). Therefore, it is difficult to predict exactly what month will be best to visit.
The trail is mostly void of any spectacular vistas or hugely interesting views, but the list of things to do in Kelso isn't extensive. It can be a useful place in terms of being close to the freeway and being a decent place to stretch your legs should you need / want somewhere to walk and is more interesting than the freeway rest areas.
Entrances to the trail exist in several locations. The best one is hidden behind the pump house near the entrance to Tam O' Shanter Park. From Kelso Drive head east on Tam O' Shanter Way. There is a maintenance building on the south side of the road, and just before the 90 degree turn to the north you will see a small concrete building with several trash cans, and a gated entrance to the park that is gravel all the way up the side of the dike to the trail.
The entrance at Allen Street and Corduroy Road is a popular entrance but only has about two parking places, depending on what angle people have parked. Tam O' Shanter Park itself has a fair number of parking places but access to the trail is steeper and in thick grass compared to the entrance trail further west.
It is possible to enter the trail from S 13th Avenue as it passes under Interstate 5, but there is nowhere to park, nor is there an easy way to get to the trail from surrounding areas.
Grade Street crosses the trail near the intersection with Manasco Drive, but there isn't much public parking in the immediate area.
The only other real promising access point is at the very southern end of the trail, at Talley Way just north of Highway 432.There are only several parking spaces here, but it is possible to access this point from the Park and Ride Lot on Marina Road. This small Park and Ride lot is difficult to notice due to the huge sprawling Dick Hanna Toyota lot next door that seems to be one huge car lot, but the park and ride lot is in fact a separate parking area.
The web site below is the best information I have been able to find on the trail systems of Kelso, but are actually parts of the Cowlitz County Department of Health.
Written Nov 18, 2012
In order to protect Kelso and Longview from flooding of the Cowlitz River, dikes were built on both sides of the river though these downtown areas. On the Kelso side, the dike now includes a walking trail that runs along the Cowlitz river from Cowlitz Garden Road in the very far northern reaches of the city to South River Road on the south end.
This paved trail is thus some 2 miles (3 km) in length.
However, due to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad main line that runs through the city, and the trail being on the top of the dike on the other side of this line, access to the trail is very limited due to the lack of crossing points.
Obviously, this pathway was built on a very constrained budget, and certainly I applaud Kelso for accomplishing what they did with what they have. However, the fact remains: access is quite limited.
There is limited access to the river on improvised trails, and there is a small beach on the north side of town that doesn't appear to be officially accessible, but people go there anway, based on the number of unofficial trails wandering down that way.
The only location of a bench and picnic table is on the old approach to the Kelso - Longview bridge, which was built in 1922 and torn down some years back. The new Allen Street Bridge (completed in 2000) is just to the south of the old location. A marker notes that this facility was constructed with funds from one of the local service organizations.
This trail has the potential to be a real gem for the city of Kelso, but unfortunately those who use it regularly as a dumping ground for trash have made it quite a bit less scenic than it really should be. My photos have been carefully taken in order to provide a look at what this place could be, and to not show any of the results of the misuse of these few obnoxious people.
Written Nov 3, 2009
Address: multiple points along Cowlitz River
Mount St. Helens Cinedome Theater
We went to see the movie The Eruption of Mount St. Helens in the Cinedrome Theater. This was a large theatre with a gigantic Omnimax screen. The ERUPTION SEATS give you a better sense of what went on at the time of the quake.
Written Oct 4, 2002
Address: 1238 Mount St Helens Way, NE
The blast knocked over all trees in the area, they are still laying down, pointing away form the explosion.
Written Oct 4, 2002
Mount St. Helens exploded on May 18, 1980. In Belgium it was just a small item on the news, I hardly remembered it. In Washington and Oregon nobody will forget. The lake in front of the picture was formed by the change in the landscape. Mount St. Helens can be seen in the background, still smoking...
Written Oct 4, 2002
Right next to Interstate 5, you will find a shopping mall with several common freeway-side chain restaurants. However, you will find a few more unique restaurants a few blocks further west right in the downtown core of Kelso.
This is one of those restaurants. It is located just 1/2 block south of the theatre, and appears to be quite popular on nights there is a show.
Eccentric decoration sets the environment, and even the table tops have wonderful tile artwork in them. There isn't too much to see out the windows, but otherwise this little restaurant is clean and well maintained, and at least offers a little bit of downtown rather than the typical parking lot view offered by the restaurants closer to Interstate 5.
Favorite Dish: I had the $7 Vegetarian Super Burrito with no additional side dishes. I found it to be quite filling and satisfying even though it did not necessarily appear to be huge when sitting on the plate.
Written Apr 3, 2011
Address: 300 South Pacific Avenue, Kelso, WA 98626
Phone: (360) 425-1464
You can set out side on the deck and overlook the park as campers with RV's come in to injoy the park .
Favorite Dish: One of the best meals is the fresh chicken hand breaded and fryed in rice oil gives you the light flaver your looking for with home made coleslaw.
Written Aug 26, 2007
Address: 16806 Lewis River Rd. Cougar Wa. 98616
Phone: 360 238 5210
An awful lot of small communities have had their local train station replaced by a simple, ugly shelter while their original station falls into disrepair or (worse!) is demolished to make way for other developments.
Thankfully, Kelso has not done that.
Instead, some considerable effort has been put into the train station. Volunteers with the city (these are not paid employees!) staff the station and act as Kelso welcoming committee and guides, and provide updated arrival information. Restrooms are located down the hallway in the center of the station.
You will also find a rack containing a number of items of regional travel information.
While the station is the traditional train station, and Amtrak trains between Portland and Seattle do stop here, some regional and long distance buses also stop here.
Written Nov 4, 2009
Located directly across the street from the new Kelso police department and some city offices, this little park is dedicated to local residents that gave their lives in World War I, World War II, Vietnam, and Korea.
The park features several nice picnic tables and benches, and fairly well maintained grass areas and flower beds.
Due to surrounding buildings, the sun doesn't seem to reach the park except in peak summer months.
The park is located on the SE corner of the intersection of S Pacific Avenue (old highway 99) and Oak Street. While Pacific Avenue is busy and somewhat noisy, Oak is a fairly quiet street and it is more pleasant the further away you can get from Pacific.
A memorial stone in the park gives the names of those being memorialized, and the conflict they fought in.
Written Nov 4, 2009