As Washington state’s first county, Lewis County is home to some vibrant history, much of which is preserved at three state parks within two miles of each other.
Jackson Highway, which once brought travelers near and far straight through the heart of our county’s population centers, today exists as a county road that gives access to these treasures that tell the story of how Lewis County came to be. Uncover history by visiting Lewis and Clark State Park, and the Jackson House and Matilda Jackson sites!
One of the first parks in the Washington State Parks system, Lewis and Clark State Park is built in a stand of impressive old-growth forest that provides a quiet respite just mere miles from Interstate 5 and U.S. Highway 12.
Walk through the trails in the old-growth forest or bring a horse and experience the more than 5 miles of equestrian trails that were built along the same corridor as the Cowlitz Trail, the northward extension of the Oregon Trail. Rent a picnic shelter and get a group together for some food and fun in the summertime, or better yet, reserve a campsite and stay the night to experience both the park and everything there is to do in the local surrounding area.
Lewis and Clark State Park is close enough to Centralia and Chehalis if you want to do some downtown shopping, and it’s also right near U.S. Highway 12 if you want to make your way to East Lewis County along the White Pass Scenic Byway.
Preserved for all to see and kept under the care of State Parks, this site served as the home of John and Matilda Jackson, two of the region’s early settlers. Not only was it that, but it served as a courthouse and an important stop for settlers looking to also inhabit the area.
Interpretive displays on site show more about the rich history of this spot that is a bit quieter now, but still a very important piece of the formation of Lewis County and Washington state as a whole.
Parking is available on site, and those who want to even grab a quick photo of the site can pull right off Jackson Highway. Have a Discover Pass handy though!
It is available for people to visit inside, so check with the Lewis and Clark State Park office for more information.
This is probably the least-known of the three state parks in this area, but it shouldn’t be. It’s a fine stopover for a picnic, a short walk, letting the dogs out, etc. — but it’s more than that.
A close look when you pull up to the main gate reveals a stone marker placed in the early 20th century by the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution, commemorating the Cowlitz Trail. It’s little pieces of history hidden in plain sight like this that makes it worth visiting; that, and the fact that you can just enjoy a little bit of space to yourself on your travels.
This historic row of state parks is located on Jackson Highway, both on the near north and south sides of U.S. Highway 12. From Interstate 5, take Exit 68 and head east. At the traffic light, turn left and Matilda Jackson State Park will be on your left; if you take a right at the traffic light and head down Jackson, the Jackson House will be on your left and Lewis & Clark State Park isn’t much further down.