The Port of Camas-Washougal is located on the north shores of the Columbia River half way between the towns of Camas and Washougal. The Port of Camas-Washougal is about 20 nautical miles upriver (32 kilometers of 20 miles east-southeast) of the Port of Portland. The Port of Camas-Washougal is almost 60 nautical miles downriver (94 kilometers or 58 miles west) of the Port of The Dalles. The Port of Camas-Washougal is part of the Columbia River Waterway System.
In the early 1800s, the Port of Camas/Washougal area was home to the Chinook people of the Pacific Northwest United States. They were the tribes that the Lewis & Clark Expedition encountered on the lower Columbia River at what would become the Port of Camas-Washougal in 1805. With the arrival of white settlers, the Chinook population was decimated by disease.
Their non-nomadic society was made up of castes with warriors, shamans, and traders being the highest caste. Some Chinooks held slaves who were sometimes thieves for their masters. Some Chinook bound their children's heads to flatten them to signal their higher social status, giving them the nickname "Flathead Indians" when European settlers arrived in the area. The Chinook were fishermen, elk hunters, and fur traders. These peaceful tribes lived in long houses that sheltered over 50 people.
In the early 1800s, there were around 16 thousand Chinook Nation members in many tribes living along the Columbia River from Eastern Washington to the Pacific Ocean and in British Columbia, Canada. With abundant sources of salmon, smelt, and sturgeon, the Chinook people did not have to labor hard for food, leaving lots of time for their social lives. This relatively peaceful tribe preferred water challenge rituals that ended in the exchange of gifts over warfare.
The modern Chinook are seeking federal recognition as a tribe. Today, many Chinook descendants live on reservations in Oregon and Washington. The Chinook Nation has more than two thousand registered members with hundreds of membership applicants.
To the west of the Port of Camas-Washougal, the City of Camas has a population of over 19.3 thousand people. The city was incorporated in 1906. For most of its history, the local economy was dominated by the paper mill at the west end of downtown. In recent decades, high-tech companies have brought white collar professionals to the Camas population. Much of the Camas' residential area is located on Prune Hill, an extent volcanic vent and part of the Boring Lava Field.
To the east of the Port of Camas-Washougal is the town of Washougal with a population of just over 14 thousand. Incorporated in 1908, Washougal is at the west entrance of the beautiful Columbia River Gorge.
The Port of Camas-Washougal was established through a special election in 1935. Today, the Port of Camas-Washougal includes the port, a marina, an industrial park and Grove Field Airport.