Forum Index > Pacific NW History > Historic Cowlitz-Yakama Trail
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Sculpin
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PostWed Sep 27, 2017 8:14 am 
After bailing out of "Plan A" because of deep snow, my friend and I ended up hiking up to Tumac Mountain via what is signed as the "Historic Cowlitz-Yakama Trail."  Intrigued by this, I tried to look it up on the interwebs and found nothing.  The name "Cowlitz Trail" is mostly applied to the northern fork of the Oregon Trail, but that route did not cross the Cascades.

The thing that intrigued me was that the route does not seem right for cross-mountain trading.  The eastern end is in the Hwy 410 corridor, not down towards Yakima.  And the trail goes right over the top of Tumac Mountain.  Why would a historic trading route add an extra 1200' of elevation gain and loss above the surrounding plateau for no apparent reason?  Why didn't the route just go over what is now White Pass, more than 2000' feet lower?

Anyone know the history of this "historic" route?

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Mike Collins
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PostThu Sep 28, 2017 6:18 pm 
I am not familiar with the terrain in that area. Trading was done by using horses to carry the loads. Snoqualmie Pass was not used for trading as it had too many deadfall logs to try to get around. It is hard enough when carrying a backpack so you can imagine the difficulty with a pack train. Yakima Pass that drops into the Cedar River drainage was the preferred route. It is a little higher but was easier. The elevation for Yakima Pass is 3,578 ft vs 3,015 ft for Snoqualmie Pass. It is also possible that the terrain over White Pass had too many rocks which would make travel with horses difficult and possibly involve injury to the horses. Horses also need to eat so a preferred trading corridor would have pasturage along the route. In looking at the topographical map for Tumac Mountain it looks like there are wonderful meadows immediately to the northwest of Tumac Mountain right at the border of Lewis and Yakima counties. https://geonames.usgs.gov/apex/gazvector.getesrimap?p_lat=46.7123361&p_longi=-121.3534176&fid=1527439

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Chico
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PostThu Sep 28, 2017 9:29 pm 
Did you try searching using YAKIMA?

I get some good links as a starting point.

http://www.start-wa.com/yakima_notes.html
https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/giffordpinchot/recarea/?recid=31260
http://www.williamodouglastrail.org/trail.html
http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/cowlitz-trail
http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/indian-bar

and more.

The recent link to the book on Klickitat, Yakima and Kittitas counties might yield some info as well. Looks like the PDF is searchable.

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Chico
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PostSat Sep 30, 2017 1:05 am 
From what I see, Yakima Pass was the primary route for the native peoples.

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Sculpin
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PostSun Oct 01, 2017 7:07 am 
Thanks for the responses, Mike and Chico.  Mike makes an interesting point about the lowest route not being necessarily the best, but it is still does not add up that the route goes over the HIGHEST point.  It just feels recreational, not utilitarian.

Chico, the links you provided look like the kind of stuff I came up with on the net.  Not a single word about the history of this trail.

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Between every two pines is a doorway to the new world. - John Muir
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treeswarper
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PostMon Oct 02, 2017 7:24 pm 
I would think there were several trails used to cross over.  The Klickitat Trail on the GPNF is an old native trail. Naches Pass was also used.

The latter was mentioned in a book about the history of Snoqualmie Pass I read some time ago.   The native people recommended that Naches Pass be used by the Railroad instead of Snoqualmie.  They told the recon folks that it was higher in elevation, but easier to cross in the winter because it got less snowfall.  Guess which way was chosen?

The route you are posting about starts on this side on the Soda Springs trail and connects via other trails along the way.

http://crosscut.com/2012/09/harris-william-o-douglas-trail/

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jmcbentley
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PostMon Jul 02, 2018 8:33 am 
I'm a little late answering this, but yes I know about the Yakama-Cowlitz Trail.

The trail was a route to Cowlitz Pass in the summer for hunting, gathering, and socializing.  Both Yakama and Upper Cowlitz people, also known as Taytnapam, met in the meadows around the pass.  The trail did not go over Tumac Mountain, but the foot of that mountain is the pass area.  One trail came from the east and the trail you came up, FS 44, came up SUmmit Creek from the west.  Tumac Mountain is named after the "two Macs" who herded sheep there in the summers.

See my article about the trail in the current issue of Columbia magazine, published by the Washington State Historical Society.

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Sculpin
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PostSat Jul 14, 2018 11:21 am 
Thanks for the response, JudyB.  So the trail was rerouted over Tumac Mountain for recreational purposes.

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Between every two pines is a doorway to the new world. - John Muir
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jmcbentley
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PostSat Jul 14, 2018 9:10 pm 
I don't really know why Trail #44 continues on to Tumac Mountain, perhaps following the sheep drives.  I have written an article about this trail in the summer edition of Columbia, the Washington State Historical Society magazine.

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