About This Place
Kalama is a city in Cowlitz County, Washington, United States. It is part of the 'Longview, Washington Metropolitan Statistical Area'. The population was 2,344 at the 2010 census.
Kalama was unofficially incorporated on November 29, 1871. It was named after the nearby Kalama River which took its name from a Native Hawaiian named John Kalama. Kalama was the northern terminus of a railroad ferry operated by the Northern Pacific Railway from Goble, Oregon. This was a critical link in rail service between 1883 when the service began until 1909 when the major rail bridges in Portland were completed. Kalama originated with a stake driven by Gen. John W. Sprague of the Northern Pacific Railway who in March 1870 selected a spot near the mouth of the Kalama river to mark the beginning point of Northern Pacific's Pacific Division. From that stake, the Northern Pacific began building north to Puget Sound, ultimately getting to Commencement Bay at what was to become Tacoma before going bankrupt. Construction began in April 1871 with a crew of 800 men, with the official 'first spike' being driven in May 1871 Scheduled service from Tacoma to Kalama began on January 5, 1874. The Portland-Hunters line was completed about the same time that the ceremonial spike was driven west of Helena, Montana to mark the completion of the transcontinental Northern Pacific Railroad in the fall of 1883. The following year in October 1884, a 3 track, 360-foot (110 m) long railroad ferry marked the beginning of 25 years of ferry service across the Columbia River. Hunters was located near the south end of Sandy Island about a mile south of Goble. However the crossing times were excessive when the Tacoma had to work against the tide, and the ferry slip was soon moved to Goble at the north end of Sandy Island and directly across from Kalama. The ferry could handle 12 passenger cars or 27 freight cars.
Today, Kalama continues to thrive amidst a surge of new home building. Downtown consists of many original and renovated buildings containing antique shops, gift boutiques, a grocery store, feed store and other merchants.