The story of what could have been one of Lewis County's newest state parks goes back only about 20 years ago or so, but the Tilton River State Park area west of Morton holds a degree of intrigue as it isn't signed, there's very little information about it on the Internet — and unless you're from the Morton area, there's little chance you knew it even existed!
If you're traveling on State Route 508 between Onalaska and Morton, you pass through some really scenic country that drivers on U.S. Highway 12 to the north — the seemingly preferred route between the I-5 corridor and east county — don't get to see. Onalaska, the Shoestring Valley and Cinebar are communities that boast great spring and fall scenery, and enjoy much less traffic than the northerly route between Morton and Napavine.
The Tilton River joins up and follows 508 for a bit, with several bridges crossing over bends in the river and the two intertwining like strands of rope at sections. But about 5 miles outside of Morton, at milepost 27, is an intriguing piece of property that looks pretty nondescript. In fact, eastbound drivers will have to look left just after seeing the mile marker and westbound drivers will need to look right for an opening in the trees that isn't signed.
This little cutout is the entrance to the Tilton River State Park Property, as it is officially known, and the story of how it came to be is rather simple.
The Studhalter brothers, well known around the Morton area, owned a piece of land with prime fishing access that became known to locals as the Studhalter Fishing Hole. Otto Studhalter donated the land to Washington State Parks in the mid-1990s, and Parks placed a plaque on a rock at the entrance to the property that bears the only sign of what it is.
The park consists of a trail that meanders through some woods out to a peaceful bend of the Tilton River. Signs that people have used it in the recent past exist, and the trail looks to be decently maintained — but other than that it's been undeveloped. It's a public space, so it's open to all, but do be mindful that there could be some areas of overgrowth.
In 2010, State Parks decided that it didn't fit in with their agency's future plans. But if it were to change hands, the likely future use of the trail would be as a fishing hole, like it always has been. But as for now, it's a fascinating little stop, if for no other reason than to say you've been there — or maybe you've brought your fishing pole and come home with quite the catch!
If you do go, be very careful as there are no parking spots. You'll have to pull off the highway a safe distance, and because of this there's only room for about two cars. No buildings or other facilities exist here — it's just the trail and the river access. Enjoy a bit of peace and serenity at this slow-flowing area of the Tilton!