Nestled on the west end of the Columbia Gorge and situated along the mighty Columbia River is the little town – village, really – of Washougal, Washington. Coming into town one is greeted with a sign that reads, “Washougal, at the mouth of the Columbia Gorge.”
Washougal is a beautiful little town, with Mount Hood rising up to the east, the Columbia River to the south, the Cascade mountain foothills gently sloping up to the north, and the gorgeous – and noted for its white water rafting – Washougal River running through it all.
Incorporated in 1908 with a population of around 400, Washougal currently has a population of 14,100 people with a median age of 34, younger than the average age in the US.
Washougal is world famous as the location of the Washougal Motocross Park. This bucolic berg annually hosts a motorcycling event that started in 1971 with a few motorcycle enthusiasts. It now brings over 20,000 participants and fans from around the world to the Cascade foothills of southwest Washington. In July, throngs gather to watch daring feats on two wheels, while the roar of engines is heard echoing through the foothills for miles.
On a quieter note, Washougal is proud of its aptly-named Two Rivers Heritage Museum, run by volunteers who are long-time residents of Washougal and the surrounding countryside. It’s an utterly charming facility in a little house just off highway 14. There are numerous interesting historical artifacts, historical books for sale, and extensive documents that record events reaching back to a time before Washington was even a state.
Right across from Two Rivers Heritage Museum is the famous Pendleton Washougal Mill outlet store, a huge favorite of locals and visitors alike. Here one can find stunning woven treasures from the on-site mill of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing as well as Pendleton’s world-renowned Indian blankets. There is also extremely affordable woolen yardage for sale.
The Washougal Pendleton Mill offers free tours, Monday through Friday at 9:00 am, 10:00 am, 11:00 am and 1:30 pm. Visitors have the opportunity to see Pendleton’s procedure of making their famous woolens from the dye process, to spinning, to weaving, to the finishing of their warm, magnificent blankets, as well as other products. Many local residents are employed at the Pendleton Woolen Mills.
Many Washougal residents are also employed, and have been for generations, at the near-by Georgia-Pacific paper mill in Camas.
A short jaunt down the road from the woolen mills is Orchard Hills Golf and Country Club with sweeping greens as green as can only be found in the northwest, which provides quiet elegance, a good game of golf and an excellent meal for members and their guests.
Washougal has, at last count, 5 bars and approximately 20 churches. There is also the ever-ubiquitous Starbucks.
But one of the favorite places for the locals and Columbia River wanderers to hang out for a bite to eat and conversation is the Puffin Cafe on the water of the Columbia. One can watch the tugboats, the recreational vehicles, the occasional paddleboat and the even more rare site of a tall ship, sails filled with Columbia Gorge winds, pass by on the wide Columbian, all while gently rocking on the water in the houseboat-like cafe.