Kelso, Washington: Wikis


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Kelso, Washington
—  City  —
Motto: "City of Friendly People"
Location of Kelso, Washington
Coordinates: 46°8′31″N 122°54′22″W / 46.14194°N 122.90611°W / 46.14194; -122.90611Coordinates: 46°8′31″N 122°54′22″W / 46.14194°N 122.90611°W / 46.14194; -122.90611
Country United States
State Washington
County Cowlitz
Platted 1884
 - Type Council/Manager
 - City manager Dennis Richards
 - Mayor David Futcher
 - City 8.4 sq mi (21.7 km2)
 - Land 8.1 sq mi (20.9 km2)
 - Water 0.3 sq mi (0.7 km2)
Elevation 75 ft (23 m)
Population (July 1, 2008)
 - City 12,188
 Density 1,471.6/sq mi (568.2/km2)
 Metro 101,254
Time zone Pacific (PST) (UTC-8)
 - Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP code 98626
Area code(s) 360
FIPS code 53-35065[1]
GNIS feature ID 1512343[2]

Kelso is a city in southwest Washington State, United States, and is the county seat of Cowlitz County.[4] At the 2000 census, the population was 11,895. Kelso is part of the Longview, Washington Metropolitan Statistical Area, which has a population of 101,254.[5]. Kelso shares its long western border with Longview, Washington. It is located near Mount St. Helens.



The earliest known inhabitants of Kelso were Native Americans from the Cowlitz tribe. The Cowlitz people were separated into the Upper (or Taidnapam) and Lower (or Mountain) Cowlitz tribes, who were members of the Sahaptin and Salish language families, respectively. In 1855, European explorers noted that there numbered over 6000 individuals of the Cowlitz Tribe.

Kelso was founded by Peter W. Crawford, a Scottish surveyor, who, in 1847, took up the first donation land claim on the Lower Cowlitz River. Crawford platted a townsite which he named after his home town of Kelso, Scotland. The original plat was dated and filed in October 1884.[6] It becomes incorporated in 1889.

In its early days, Kelso obtained the nickname "Little Chicago" as it became famous for its large number of taverns and brothels that catered to local loggers. On weekends, trainloads of loggers would come into town from the surrounding region looking for women, liquor, gambling and fights. The FBI finally forced the mayor to shut them down in the 1950s with the last closing in the mid-1960s.[7] The economy continues to be based largely on wood products.

Men shoveling smelt from boat bottoms into boxes at Columbia River Smelt Co., Kelso, WA

In the late 1800s and into the first part of the 1900s, Kelso was the center for commercial smelt fishing on the Cowlitz River. In 1910, according to the Oregonian Newspaper, 5,000 tons of fish were caught.[8] The Kelso Chamber of Commerce created the slogan in 1956 and became known as the Smelt Capitol of the World.[9][10] The Cowlitz River has historically had heavy runs of smelt and were shipped to markets around the country. Smelt numbers have declined significantly in the past several decades possibly due to overharvesting, global climate change and habitat loss.[11]

Pieces of the mysterious 1947 Maury Island incident took place in Kelso. A B-52 carrying suspicious slag-like material, supposedly from a UFO, crashed in southeast Kelso.

On May 18, 1980, being only 24 miles away, Kelso residents experienced the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Called the largest volcanic eruption in historic times in the contiguous United States,[12] Kelso received large amounts of volcanic ash through the air and from the massive mudflow caused by the eruption transported by the Toutle and Cowlitz Rivers. Many areas of the city, including the Three Rivers Golf Course are built on volcanic ash[13] dredged from the Cowlitz River.

In March 1998, in the east Kelso neighborhood of Aldercrest, 64 houses began to shift their location. Eventually, 129 houses were destroyed by this slow moving landslide. Investigation showed that these houses had been built on top of an ancient active landslide area, and three straight years of higher than average rains set the earth into motion.[14] In October 1998, President Bill Clinton declared this slide a federal disaster. It was the second worst landslide disaster (in cost) in the United States, following the 1956 Portuguese Bend Landslide on Palos Verdes Hills in Southern California.[15] This disaster at Aldercrest led to stricter city zoning ordinances and oversight over geological surveys.

The Cowlitz County Historical Museum provides many exhibits on the history of the local area.[16]


Kelso is located on Interstate 5 at Exits 36, 39, 40 and 42, and is 48 miles north of Portland, Oregon, 125 miles south of Seattle, WA, and 80 miles from the Pacific Ocean beaches.

Three rivers, the Columbia, Cowlitz and Coweeman, running through Kelso were used as part of a historical transportation route from Portland, Oregon and the Puget Sound.[17] Cowlitz steamboats were used as a source of transportation until 1918.

Kelso and Longview comprise the "Twin Cities" of southwest Washington.



Climate data for Kelso, Washington
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 65
Average high °F (°C) 46
Average low °F (°C) 34
Record low °F (°C) 1
Precipitation inches (mm) 6.35
Source: The Weather Channel[18] May 2009



Butler Acres

Davis Terrace

East Kelso


Mt. Brynion

North Kelso

Old Kelso Hill

South Kelso

West Kelso


Kelso operates under both a city charter and Washington state code governing municipalities. As such, it is the only Charter Code city in the state of Washington. The city is governed under the Council/Manager form of government. Kelso's charter specifies that seven councilmembers are elected by the residents, with the council choosing a mayor from within itself every two years.

The current city council consists of Mayor David Futcher, Deputy Mayor John Karnofski, Alan Slater, Todd McDaniel, Dan Myers, Gerald Malella and Rick Roberson [1]. In 2008, the council selected Dennis Richards as the city manager following the departure of Paul Brachvogel.[19]

A charter amendment approved by citizens in 2006 requires that four of these council positions be filled by individuals living in specified wards of the city, while the remaining three positions are filled on an at-large basis. Council positions are held for four years, with council elections being held to fill either three or four positions in odd-numbered years.


With access to the Columbia River, Interstate 5 and the west coast railways, Kelso supports a large and rapidly diversifying manufacturing base. The largest employer is the Kelso School District[20], followed by Foster Farms and Safeway.[21] Other large employers are Target, Columbia Analytical Services, Western Fabrication, PAPE Machinery, and DSU Peterbilt.


Historical populations
Census Pop.  %±
1890 354
1900 694 96.0%
1910 2,039 193.8%
1920 2,228 9.3%
1930 6,260 181.0%
1940 6,749 7.8%
1950 7,345 8.8%
1960 8,379 14.1%
1970 10,296 22.9%
1980 11,129 8.1%
1990 11,767 5.7%
2000 11,895 1.1%
Est. 2008 12,188 2.5%

As of the census[1] of 2000, there were 11,895 people, 4,616 households, and 2,991 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,471.6 people per square mile (568.4/km²). There were 5,067 housing units at an average density of 626.9/sq mi (242.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 90.14% White, 0.82% African American, 2.05% Native American, 0.94% Asian, 0.21% Pacific Islander, 3.12% from other races, and 2.72% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.93% of the population. 18.1% were of German, 9.3% Irish, 9.0% English, 7.7% American and 6.4% Norwegian ancestry according to Census 2000.

There were 4,616 households out of which 33.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.0% were married couples living together, 15.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.2% were non-families. 28.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.52 and the average family size was 3.05.

In the city the population was spread out with 28.3% under the age of 18, 10.5% from 18 to 24, 29.0% from 25 to 44, 19.8% from 45 to 64, and 12.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 99.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $29,722, and the median income for a family was $36,784. Males had a median income of $36,271 versus $23,750 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,162. About 16.4% of families and 19.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.1% of those under age 18 and 11.2% of those age 65 or over.


The Kelso School District is composed of the following schools.

Elementary schools

  • Barnes Elementary
  • Beacon Hill Elementary
  • Butler Acres Elementary
  • Carrolls Elementary
  • Catlin Elementary
  • Rose Valley Elementary
  • Wallace Elementary

Middle schools

  • Coweeman Middle School, the Cougars
  • Huntington Middle School, the Huskies

High schools



Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service to the twin cities of Kelso-Longview. The Amtrak station is located in the Kelso Multimodal Transportation Center along the Cowlitz River.


Kelso is served by Southwest Washington Regional Airport, formerly known as Kelso-Longview Regional Airport.

Sports and Recreation

Kelso and Longview is the home of the Cowlitz Black Bears baseball team. The Black Bears play in the West Coast League, an independent summer baseball league with teams from Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. The team plays at David Story Field on the Lower Columbia College campus.

Within the city limits, there are eight city parks totaling 50 acres and six miles of bicycle and multi-use paths. The largest parks is Tam o'Shanter Park, a multi-use park comprised of 38 acres along the Coweeman River. The facilities include multipurpose fields for soccer, three girls fastpitch softball fields, one Babe Ruth field, five Cal Ripken baseball fields, and three basketball courts. The park hosts the annual Kelso Hilander Festival which includes Scottish Highland games. The park is named after a Scottish bonnet, the tam o'shanter.


Kelso has 3 FM (KUKN, K268BN and KTJC) and 1 AM (KLOG) radio stations licensed in the city.

Kelso is provided with cable television from nearby Longview.

Kelso's primary newspaper is The Daily News, which won a 1981 Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the St. Helens eruption.

Sister sities

Kelso has the two sister cities:[23][24]

Notable residents


  1. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  2. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2000 and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2005-05-03. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  4. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  5. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Population of Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2008". U.S. Census Bureau. July 1, 2008. Retrieved September 16, 2009. 
  6. ^ Meany, Edmond S. (1920). "Origin of Washington Geographic Names". The Washington Historical Quarterly (Washington University State Historical Society) XI: 44. Retrieved 2009-06-11. 
  7. ^ Amy Fischer (May 24, 2009). "Four Things That Helped Define Kelso". The Daily News. Retrieved November 2, 2009. 
  8. ^ R.G. Callvert (February 27, 1910). "Smelt Fishing on the Cowlitz: How an Army of Men Catch the Biggest Run Known in the Last Twenty Years". The Sunday Oregonian. 
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ "NOAA Accepts Petition For Listing Columbia River Basin Smelt". The Columbia Basin Fish & Wildlife News Bulletin. March 14, 2008. Retrieved September 11, 2009. 
  12. ^ Gaylord Shaw (May 19. 1980). "The Eruption of Washington State's Mount St. Helens". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 31, 2009. Retrieved September 12, 2009. 
  13. ^ "Kelso/Longview, WA #1482". Elks. Retrieved September 12, 2009. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Landslide of the Week – Aldercrest Banyon Landslide". Washington’s Landslide Blog. July 27, 2009. Retrieved September 12, 2009. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ "A History of Cowlitz County". Washington Secretary of State. Retrieved 6 February 2010. 
  18. ^ "Kelso, Washington Weather Data". The Weather Channel. 2009. Retrieved 05/11/2009. 
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Economic Development". Kelso - Longview Chamber of Commerce. 2008. Retrieved 23 February 2010. 
  22. ^ "Population of Cities 1890-2000" (CSV). Office of Financial Management, Washington State. 2008-03-28. Retrieved 2009-05-11. 
  23. ^ Sister Cities, Counties, States and Ports. Washington Lieutenant Governor's Office. 
  24. ^ ( – Scholar search) List of Sister Cities. Sister Cities International. 

External links


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