Up the Columbia River
Between the Long Beach Peninsula and I-5 at Longview lies one of the state's most enjoyable and little-known scenic drives. Wash. 4 passes through several small historic riverfront communities, and between Cathlamet and Longview, it runs right alongside the Columbia River, often at the base of steep hillsides or basalt cliffs. The quiet backwaters along this stretch of the river seem little changed by the passing of time.
Heading east from Long Beach on U.S. 101, you first skirt the south end of Willapa Bay, site of the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge. Each year in late April and early May, this area becomes a rest stop for thousands of birds heading north to summer breeding grounds in the Arctic. Roughly 20 miles east of the junction of U.S. 101 and Wash. 4, you'll come to the Grays River covered bridge, which was erected in 1905 and is one of two covered bridges in the state. The bridge is 2 miles off the highway.
Another 15 miles east, you'll come to the tiny community of Skamokawa (pronounced Skuh-mah-kuh-way), which is one of the only remaining Columbia River fishing villages dating from the early 20th century, when salmon canneries abounded along the Columbia River. Here you can visit the River Life Interpretive Center (tel. 360/795-3007; riverlifeinterpretivecenter.org), which is housed in Redmen Hall, a restored 1894 schoolhouse. The center is right on Wash. 4 and is open Thursday through Sunday from noon to 4pm. Just east of Skamokawa lies the Julia Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge (tel. 360/795-3915; www.fws.gov/pacific/refuges/field/WA_julia.htm) that protects the rare Columbia River white-tailed deer, and to the west is the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge (tel. 360/795-3915; www.fws.gov/willapa/LewisClarkNWR/Index.html). For exploring the waterways of these refuges, contact the Skamokawa Paddle Center (tel. 888/920-2777 or 360/795-8300; www.skamokawakayak.com), with its wide variety of 1- and 2-day trips ranging from $90 to $195 per person. Classes and canoe/kayak rentals are also available.
East of Cathlamet begins the most picturesque portion of this drive, with the cliffs of Little Cape Horn marking the start of this scenic stretch. Due to its strong winds, the Little Cape Horn area is popular with windsurfers.