Proposal for Cowlitz Trail to be added to Oregon Trail gets thumbs up from Tumwater

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Tumwater City Council passed an ordinance supporting the addition of the Tumwater segment of the Cowlitz Trail to the Oregon National Historic Trail during a meeting held on Tuesday, January 17.

The ordinance explained that the Cowlitz Trail is a route branching off of the Oregon Trail, which for a long time, was thought to have ended at Oregon City. The trail is a route from the vicinity of Fort Vancouver to Puget Sound Country and was used by the party of pioneers George Bush and Michael Simmons.

The Bush-Simmons party was discouraged from settling with other pioneers in the lower Columbia River Valley because Bush was African-American. They were forced to take the more difficult Cowlitz trail to the Puget Sound basin in 1845, where they established a settlement called New Market, which eventually became Tumwater.

The ordinance also highlighted the presence of the Squaxin tribe in the Puget Sound basin before the arrival of the Bush-Simmons Party, with the Cowlitz Trail being an ancient indigenous trade and travel route.

Dave Nicandri, a member of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, explained that a 2020 study from the National Park Service showed that the Cowlitz Trail was one of 14 segments considered for inclusion in the Oregon Trail and other national historic trails.

Under the ordinance, the city council would urge the Thurston County Legislative Delegation to submit a similar resolution for the adoption of the State Legislation. Nicandri said he has spoken with City Communication Manager Ann Cook to lobby the resolution in other forums before the state legislature takes it up.

If the state congress approves the resolution, it will be forwarded to the Washington State congressional delegation.

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  • RondaLarsonKramer

    This is a wonderful proposal. I own property on which the Cowlitz Trail is still visible, albeit in the form of the raised rail bed that is the remnant of the narrow-gauge railroad (Olympia-Tenino Railroad, https://olympiahistory.org/miller-narrow-gauge-railroad/), which had been built on the path of the trail.

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