Measuring in at 105 miles in length, the river calls Lewis County home for more than half of that. It has been harnessed in several different spots to provide electricity for Tacoma Power, and the dams that were built resulted in the formation of Riffe Lake and Mayfield Lake, our region’s two most-visited recreational lakes.
Anglers prize the Cowlitz for its stock of different species of salmon, steelhead and sturgeon. The 2015 spring Chinook run has been called by several fishermen as the best in many years, bringing fishermen in droves to areas such as Barrier Dam and Blue Creek.
Others love the river for its serenity, as campgrounds throughout the county adjoining the river have provided peaceful getaways for generations of families.
The Cowlitz and its adjoining lakes are home to some of the best recreational water activities that Lewis County has to offer. Come discover why!
• I-5 — This area is a few miles off Exit 57 from Interstate 5, and is maintained by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. This access area provides bank fishing and a boat launch. For information and a Google map, click or tap here.
• Winters — Just east of the I-5 boat launch, this spot offers access year-round. No facilities exist here, but the spot is open to the public. More info here.
• Toledo — On Augustus Street just off State Route 505, the main stretch in town. This launch and fishing area is one of the newer ones along the Cowlitz, and its proximity to restaurants and more in Toledo makes it a prime location.
• Massey Bar — To get to this water access point, head one mile east of Jackson Highway on Spencer Road, then another quarter-mile after taking a right on Buckley. This fishing spot has restrooms and is a great spot to bag steelhead or sturgeon. More info here.
• Blue Creek — Located adjacent to the salmon hatchery off Spencer Road about three miles east of Jackson Highway. This launch and fishing area has a fishing spot for people in wheelchairs or requiring assistance, and restrooms are also present on site. More information is here.
• Barrier Dam — Just over a mile south of Salkum along Fuller Road, this launch is ever-so-popular during the spring salmon run. Get here early and often! More information is here.
• Kosmos — Take Kosmos Road to the end just off Highway 12 a few miles east of Morton, and you'll find a prime steelhead and sturgeon fishing spot. No facilities exist here, but Taidnapam Park is located just a few miles away on Champion Haul Road. For more info, click or tap here.
Seasons are as follows:
- Trout are catchable from the first Saturday in June to March 31 of the following year. Minimum size 12 inches, daily limit 5. Up to three hatchery steelhead may be retained, but wild cutthroat must be released.
- Other game fish are catchable from the first Saturday in June to March 31 of the following year. The statewide size and daily limit applies.
- Salmon season runs in two cycles, from January 1 to July 31 and from Aug. 1 to Dec. 31. From Jan. 1 to July 31, minimum size is 12 inches, daily limit 6. Up to 2 adults can be retained, with only hatchery chinook and hatchery coho retained. From Aug. 1 to Dec. 31, minimum size is 12 inches, daily limit 6. Up to two adult chinook can be retained, and only hatchery chinook and hatchery coho may be kept.
The following waters along the Cowlitz Rivers are CLOSED, according to the WDFW:
- From 400 feet or posted markers below Barrier Dam to boundary markers near the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery water intake located nearly 1,700 feet upstream from the Barrier Dam.
- From 400 feet below Mayfield Powerhouse upstream to Mayfield Dam.
- Within a 100 foot radius of the new Cowlitz Trout Hatchery outfall structure, EXCEPT open to people with disabilities who permanently use a wheelchair and who have a designated harvester companion card can fish within posted markers when adjacent waters are open.
From Aug. 1 to May 31, barbless hooks are mandatory for salmon, steelhead and cutthroat.
Additional rules are in place from Mill Creek to Barrier Dam upstream from a line from Mill Creek to a boundary marker on the opposite shore. They are as follows:
- Waters are closed from Barrier Dam downstream 400 feet or the posted deadline.
- From April 1 to November 30, there is a night closure and anti-snagging rule in effect. When the anti-snagging rule is in effect, fish that have only been hooked inside the mouth can be kept.
- Fishing from floating devices is prohibited at all times.
- From May 1 through June 15, fishing from the south side of the river is prohibited.
- Hours of access are 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.