Livability Get to Know Skamania County

Mount St. Helens

Quality of Life

"The quality of life is determined by its activities." — Aristotle

Nature

A majority of Skamania County is within either the Gifford Pinchot National Forest or the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area. The Columbia Gorge Scenic Area Act has been in place since November 1986 and was put in place to protect and provide for the enhancement of the scenic, cultural, recreational, and natural resources of the Gorge while supporting the economy in the existing urban areas. The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and offers spectacular views, cascading waterfalls and hiking trails and has abundant year-round recreation opportunities. The Gifford Pinchot National Forest boundary begins north of Carson, Washington and extends to the northern boundary of the Skamania County until it intersects with Mt. St Helens Volcanic Monument. In addition to these incredible natural areas, Skamania County’s southern border is the majestic Columbia River that winds its way through the beautiful Columbia River Gorge.

Location

Central Skamania County is less than one hour from downtown Portland, OR and downtown Vancouver, WA. It is also less than 30 minutes from Hood River, Oregon and 45 minutes from The Dalles, Oregon. Not too close... not too far away.

Rural Living/Small Town

Small towns and rural living definitely has its benefits and most people that live here appreciate this aspect of Skamania County. There are two cities within Skamania County: Stevenson and North Bonneville. There are also four unincorporated urban areas: Skamania, Carson/Stabler, Home Valley and Underwood.

Outdoor Enthusiasts

In conjunction with the featured Nature information, many of the outdoor activities revolve around our natural resources. For Mt. St. Helens, visitors can participate in ranger-led programs, hike trails and learn firsthand about the volcano and its aftermath. The Gifford Pinchot National Forest offers an abundance of campgrounds, hiking and biking trails, horseback riding trails, and fishing spots. In addition to the above, the Columbia River provides many activities such as windsurfing, kiteboarding, kayaking, and sailing.

Theater/Night Life

Yes, there is some night life in Skamania County, albeit varied and unpredictable. Most evening events are scheduled in the spring, summer and fall and correlate with business events or local activities. Skamania County has several local restaurants and bars (including the larger Skamania Lodge and North Bonneville Hot Springs resorts) and a small local theater group (Skamania Performing Arts Foundation) that performs regularly. Check out the Skamania County Chamber of Commerce website for up-to-date event schedules and business listings.

Fishing on the Columbia River
Beacon Rock Golf Course
Bob's Beach, Stevenson, Washington
Cape Horn

Climate

Skamania County lies within a geographical basin formed by the Cascade and Pacific Coast Mountain Ranges. The County is comprised of a rare combination of dense forest, sunny river beaches, rugged mountain cliffs, rolling lowlands and an active but subdued volcano. The forests of the high country are snow-covered for at least four months of the year. In the lowlands, weather is more moderate with mild winters and moderately dry summers.

Monthly Average Temperatures

Source: The Weather Channel

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Fall in Skamania County
Dog Mountain
Old Man Pass
Husum Falls Rapid, White Salmon River

Scenic & Recreation

Skamania County offers a broad spectrum of recreational opportunities. The U.S. Forest Service maintains numerous campgrounds, hiking trails and wilderness areas. The Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, created by Congress following the May 18, 1980 eruption of the volcano, is located in the northwest corner of the County. Mount St. Helens has many exciting landscapes, sightseeing, outdoor, and backcountry experiences.

The Lewis and Clark Trail Highway follows the Columbia River through Skamania County. Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery followed the Columbia River through the entire length of the County. They named Beacon Rock and Strawberry Island where they first detected the effects of the tide. The State of Washington maintains Beacon Rock State Park, located off State Highway 14. The park offers 7 1/2 miles of hiking trails, picnicking, camping, fishing, boating, rock climbing and swimming. The trail to the top of Beacon Rock, a unique 848-foot high geological formation, provides spectacular views of the Columbia River Gorge and Bonneville Dam.

One may also visit the Fort Cascades National Historic Site, which includes portions of the old portage railroad, a Chinook Indian village, and the site of one of the three military forts near the Cascade Rapids.

The one thing Skamania County has plenty of – WATER. Whether it is dropping out of the sky or flowing through the gorge, we have it. The Columbia River, and the tributaries that drain into it, offers an abundance of recreational opportunities. Recreationalists travel here for fishing (salmon, steelhead and white sturgeon), windsurfing, kiteboarding, sailing, water skiing and jet skiing. In addition to the Columbia River, the White Salmon, Little White Salmon and Wind Rivers contain rapids well known to kayakers and rafters. All of these activities take place in the natural beauty of the gorge and its amazing landscapes. Visit the Skamania County Chamber of Commerce’s website for more details at www.skamania.org.

The Bonneville Lock and Dam, built and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was the first of eight federal locks and dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. The first lock, built in 1938 was replaced in 1993 by a new and larger navigation lock. This allows commodities to travel between Lewiston, Idaho and the Pacific Ocean on the river highway known as the Columbia-Snake Inland Waterway.

The Visitor Complex at North Bonneville offers interesting displays, close-up views of generators and migrating fish. This powerhouse offers one of the world’s most accessible views of a powerhouse. Visitors can ride an escalator down into the powerhouse to get a close-up view of a generator and rotating turbine shaft through special viewing windows. Exhibits explain the history of fish in the area and the workings of a modern hydropower plant.

Stevenson, the county seat, was selected as the site for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Lodge and Conference Center. Skamania Lodge is a 165,000 square foot complex that includes a 254-room hotel, 22,000 square foot conference and event center, full service spa, fitness center and an 18-hole golf course. The lodge reflects the unique Northwestern style architecture, which carefully blends into its natural surroundings. It features commanding views of the spectacular Columbia River Gorge and Cascade Mountain Range.

The Bonneville Hot Springs Resort is located at the base of Hamilton Mountain in the City of North Bonneville, six miles west of Stevenson. The resort features 78 rooms and offers European-style spa services.

The Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center is located at the west end of Stevenson, and is a short walk from Skamania Lodge. The Center exhibits and interprets the cultural and natural history of the Columbia River Gorge.

The Sternwheeler “Columbia Gorge” offers sightseeing excursions and a variety of special event and holiday cruises. This authentic triple-decker paddle wheeler gives visitors the opportunity to enjoy the sights and history of the Columbia River.

To find out even more about the County's many attractions and assets, visit the Chamber of Commerce's website at www.skamania.org.

Mount St. Helens
Beacon Rock
Forbes magazine rated the Columbia River Gorge one of the top windsurfing spots in the world.
Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River
Skamania Lodge
Bonneville Hot Spring Resort

Education

Education is an important priority in Skamania County, the county has four public school districts which currently serve the educational needs. Facilities and equipment are modern, budgets are sound, community involvement is high and student/teacher ratios remain low.

Several special programs are offered in the school districts throughout the County. These include a mainstreamed special education program, state gifted program, enrichment program for students K-8, summer remediation and enrichment programs and comprehensive athletic programs.

Columbia Virtual Academy: A Tuition-Free Public School

Serving Elementary School, Middle School, and High School Students in Washington State, CVA offers a highly flexible and personalized K-12 program to meet diverse family learning needs. A parent or high school student with parental guidance can take more or less control of the curriculum through various curricular options including online courses or more traditional book learning. Our intent is to listen to your needs and to design a program to match them. Any student in any Washington school district may enroll in CVA tuition-free. Columbia Virtual Academy offers the only totally public and shared program in Washington State. Mission Statement: Columbia Virtual Academy (CVA) supports family choice education through the values of personalization, flexibility, choice, and control. Visit their website at www.columbiavirtualacademy.org for more information.

Clark College

is a community college providing two-year transfer degree studies, technical training and basic skills classes for as many as 16,000 full-time and part-time students each quarter. It is the second largest college in the Washington State system of 34 community and technical colleges. Clark College is located on 101-acres in Vancouver's historic Central Park. A majority of its student body comes from the College's service area which includes Clark, Skamania and west Klickitat counties. Clark College and WSU Vancouver are partners in an agreement that allows students to seamlessly transfer from Clark College to WSUV.

Washington State University

began offering courses in Southwest Washington in 1983, and was formally established as a branch campus of the state's landgrant institution in 1989. Located on a 351-acre campus WSU-Vancouver offers 18 bachelor’s and 10 master’s degrees, one doctoral degree, and more than 37 fields of study.

Campus facilities also include science laboratories, a 200-seat lecture hall, an amphitheater, a gallery, a cafeteria, as well as more than 6 miles of biking and pedestrian trails.

Columbia Gorge Community College

serves 5,800 individuals in various programs including college transfer, professional technical, basic skills development and industry training. Campuses are located in The Dalles and Hood River Oregon. Columbia Gorge Community College is one of three premier workforce development programs in the country for wind energy.