Dedicated to protecting fishing opportunities on the Cowlitz River, Friends of the Cowlitz is passionate about the sport and getting people outdoors to enjoy the area. The group advocates for hatchery production and sports fishing of salmon and steelhead in Washington State.
Formed in 1988, the organization’s mission is to restore fish runs of salmon, steelhead and cutthroat trout to the Cowlitz River and tributaries. The sportsmen’s group are watchdogs, asking tough questions of those in power.
They encourage the sport for fun and for its economic power. People who come to the area to fish bring money to Lewis County, particularly on the east end. “Tourism is a huge part of the economy,” says King. “Strong fish runs equal more tax dollars generated in the county which is good for everyone here.”
The 4.5 billion dollar hunting, fishing, and wildlife enjoyment industry supports businesses like the mom-and-pop restaurants and stores along Highway 12. One of those businesses is Barrier Dam Campground. Since the 1980s, the campground has offered fishing and camping. Today, it’s one of the last standing tackle shops in the county.
Friends of the Cowlitz holds a major fundraiser every year, raffling off a brand new drift boat valued around $12,000. Drawing for the winning ticket occurs at Barrier Dam Campground every December. Tickets are available now at the campground or call 360-985-2495 to purchase.
Friends of the Cowlitz membership is only $30 dollars per year and $20 for youth and seniors. It includes a hat and a sticker. Corporate memberships are also available. The organization keeps members in the know with what is happening on the river. They offer in-depth fishing reports and newsletters full of useful information.
Members share information and provide feedback on river developments from the mouth of the Columbia all the way up to the hills. “We are involved in the process,” says King. “We keep our members in the wheels, so to speak, about what is going on.”
Friends of the Cowlitz members are huge proponents of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. “With a strong Fish and Wildlife, we feel that we have strong hunting and fishing communities,” says King. “It’s not just for the people who want to hunt and fish but also for people who want to enjoy wildlife.”
The organization works with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Lewis County PUD, and BPA to restore coho, spring chinook, steelhead and cutthroat trout to the watershed above the dams.
Friends of the Cowlitz alsoworked for the installation of a juvenile collection facility at Cowlitz Falls Dam. Juvenile salmon and steelhead are captured there, then transported downstream by tank truck to the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery. Here, fish are placed in stress relief ponds for a couple days, then released into the Cowlitz River to continue their journey to the ocean.
The organization also facilitates fish rearing projects called net pens at Toledo Sand and Gravel. Each year they release up to 56,000 smolt from eight pens when they reach a certain size.
The Cowlitz River is like paradise. The recreational opportunities it provides are invaluable. “The Cowlitz is one of the most beautiful rivers in Western Washington,” says King. “Enjoy the river and wildlife. The water turns a steelhead green sometimes and it gets this emerald color to it that is really pretty. It’s definitely a jewel of Southwest Washington.”
Located near the hatchery, the Barrier Dam boat launch is free. With a parking lot and restrooms, it’s a great starting point for an adventure on the stunning river. There is also an ADA-accessible fishing ramp that allows those who use a wheelchair and anglers with mobility impairments to fish.
King recommends that those who want to fish the Cowlitz River find a reputable fishing guide before embarking. “There are numerous guides along the river,” he says. “If you are a first-timer, I would suggest finding a guide you like and going with them.”
Friends of the Cowlitz invites everyone to learn more, head outdoors and fishing on the Cowlitz River. “I hope people get more involved in the river, even if you are watching wildlife,” says King. “We just want to get people interested in the outdoors. We have a beautiful state, so get out, enjoy it and explore.”
Friends of the Cowlitz
P.O. Box 248