The Port of Longview lies on the shores of the Columbia River near the mouth of the Cowlitz River in Washington State. The Port of Longview is about 8.5 nautical miles downriver (15 kilometers or 9 miles northwest) of the Port of Kalama and about 34 nautical miles downriver (58 kilometers or 36 miles north-northwest) of the Port of Portland. The Port of Longview is a planned community created in 1923 to be a lumber center. Part of the Columbia River Waterway System, the deep-water Port of Longview also serves its neighboring city and Cowlitz County seat, Kelso. The Longview Metropolitan area contains the whole of Cowlitz County. The 2010 US Census reported a population of more than 36.6 thousand people in the Port of Longview and over 102.4 thousand in the Longview metropolitan area.
Before Europeans came to the future Port of Longview area, the Chinook people inhabited the area surrounding the lower Columbia River. They met the Lewis & Clark Expedition in 1805, but soon after white settlers arrived, the Chinook population of about 16 thousand members was decimated by foreign disease. They were elk hunters, fishermen, and fur traders living peacefully in long houses that held more than 50 people. Today, over two thousand Chinook descendants seek federal recognition for the Chinook Nation.
European-Americans first settled what would become the Port of Longview in the mid-19th Century, calling it Monticello after Thomas Jefferson's home in Virginia. By 1852, the Monticello Convention petitioned the US Congress to create a State they wanted to call Columbia. Their petition was approved, but the State was named Washington. For the next six decades, the future Port of Longview was mostly wilderness and farms.
In 1921, the Long-Bell Lumber Company built a city to harvest the surrounding timberland and operate lumber camps and mills. The Port of Longview could house as many as 50 thousand people when it was created to provide workers for the lumber mills. The Port of Longview was built on an ancestral burial ground at Mount Coffin for the area's original inhabitants, the Chinook.
The Port of Kelso was first established with the creation of the port district in 1921. In 1925, local businesses decided to move the port to the Columbia River, and the Port Commissioners bought 40 acres for the first dock and the Port of Longview. The port district was expanded to cover all of Cowlitz County. The first cargo entered the Port of Longview in 1926 and, within nine months, the port had handled 72 thousand tons of cargo.
The city for the Port of Longview is one of few planned cities to be built with private funds. The Long-Bell company hired an architect to plan the city, and the Port of Longview was incorporated in 1924. Several buildings in the Port of Longview were bought by lumber Robert A. Long, partner with and cousin to Victor Bell in the Long-Bell Lumber Company, out of his personal funds: the RA Long High School, the YMCA building, the public library, and the Monticello Hotel.
In 1927, 190 ocean-going vessels and 1500 river steamers moved 136 thousand tons of cargo through the Port of Longview. The same year, a grain elevator was built, the passenger steamer Georgiana docked to move passengers between Portland, Oregon, and the Port of Longview. In the early 1930s, shipping to/from the Orient began when the States Steamship Company started moving paper products, lumber, and passengers through the Port of Longview.
Today, almost one fifth of the Port of Longview's workers are in the manufacturing industry. With easy access to both the Columbia River, Interstate Highway 5, and west coast railroads, the Port of Longview has a diverse manufacturing community. For many years, the largest employers in the Port of Longview were the timber-based Longview Fibre Paper & Packaging and Weyerhaeuser. Other large manufacturers attracted to the Port of Longview since then include PPG Industries, Solvay Chemicals, and NORPAC (a Weyerhaeuser business producing newsprint). Many smaller manufacturers located in the Port of Longview include Northwest Hardwoods, Specialty Minerals, Simpson Timber Company, Epson Toyocom (developer of high-quality crystal-based electronics and technologies), Caffal Brothers forest products, and HASA.
World War II brought prosperity to the Port of Longview, and the docks were busy moving US government exports of war materials bound for Great Britain and Russia. In 1942, the Port of Longview was the United States' main supply point for materials and equipment to Russia, and materials for three oil refineries were shipped through the port.
After the war, the Port of Longview and Cowlitz County continued to grow. The Port of Longview's general manager sought to replace the wartime traffic with new cargoes. In 1950, the Port of Longview was the first Pacific Coast small port to receive "Terminal Port" status, and ships from Japan returned to the port carrying logs and other materials. In 1951, the Port of Longview handled 2.3 million tons of cargo. By 1953, the Port of Longview began to export firebricks, and imports included beer, hardwoods, rattan furniture, toys, and foodstuffs. In the early 1950s, the Port of Longview shipped war materials and supplies to Korea.
In 1956, the Port of Longview expanded, adding another dock, warehouses, and cranes as cargo volume increased and became more diverse. The Port of Longview's grain elevator was expanded, and a new grain storage shed doubled the port's grain-handling capacity in 1958. The following year, the Port of Longview acquired a new gantry crane, doubling its capacity for handling bulk and heavy-lift cargoes, including hydroelectric generating equipment bound for the Priest Rapids Dam.
In the 1960s, highway transportation improvements and booming business community growth brought changes to the Port of Longview. A new port office building was built in 1961. In 1962, Berth 5 was built to handle alumina bound for local Reynolds Metal Company. The Port of Longview installed a computer system to track cargo and bought 37 acres from International Paper Company in 1964. In 1967, the Port of Longview undertook its biggest project in developing Berth 7, adding 1219 meters (4000 feet) of berth and space for six ships. The next year, Port Commissioners approved buying 107 hectares for a Port of Longview industrial site.
When containerization entered world trade, the Port of Longview's warehousing and distribution functions grew significantly. In 1972, the Port of Longview was handling about six million tons of cargo each year, and it was the third busiest port in Washington State. Exports leaving the Port of Longview included grain, lumber, logs, aluminum, pulp and paper, machinery, and foodstuffs. Imports included canned goods, veneer and plywood, earthenware, tea, tapioca, toys, wire, and dry goods. The same year, the Port of Longview acquired a 600-ton heavy-lift crane for Berth 3 to handle nuclear containment tanks bound for the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant near Rainier, Oregon. In 1974, the Port of Longview built Warehouse 18, a distribution center for SS Kresge Company (now Kmart Corporation).
The US Army Corps of Engineers used the Port of Longview in 1980 to place ash and sand they had dredged from the Columbia River after the eruption at Mount St. Helens. During the 1980s, log exports led the Port of Longview in reaching all-time cargo-handling records, and cargoes continued to become more diverse. In 1980, a container storage area was created, and the Port of Longview installed a 30-ton Krupp container crane at Berth 7. At Berth 2, International Raw Materials began to operate the bulk facility at the Port of Longview's Berth 2.
In 1981, the Port of Longview's Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) was created to issue revenue bonds for development of industrial facilities. This public corporation is managed by a three-member Board of Directors who are also members of the Port Commission of the Port of Longview.
In 1983, the unloading facility for alumina that had been operating at Berth 5 was rebuilt by Arco Products Company to handle calcinated petroleum coke. Three years later in 1986, two concrete silos were added at Berth 5 to increase Arco's storage capacity for calcium petroleum coke.
That year, the Port of Longview exported almost 500 thousand tons of cargo, and the port became a major Pacific Coast outlet for soda ash. In 1988, Port Commissioners went to Washington DC to receive the "E" Award for Exporting from President Ronald Reagan. In 1989, the Port of Longview began developing a strategic plan for a new industrial park on the Columbia River, and it started a new major development project to make Berth 2 a green facility for handling diverse dry-bulk exports. By the late 1980s, the Port of Longview's main international trading partners were Australia, China, and Japan. Diverse cargoes included coal-tar pitch, animal feed, chemical fertilizers, talc, and zircon sand.
In the 1990s, new manufacturing plants opened in the Port of Longview, diversifying the area economy and making it more independent from timber and natural resources. As the volume of forest products declined, bulk and breakbulk cargoes increased. The Port of Longview joined six other lower Columbia River public ports in funding a study for deepening the river shipping channel.
In 1993, the Port of Longview entered into an agreement with the City of Longview, the City of Kelso, and Cowlitz County to establish a Regional Airport Authority. In 1994, the Port of Longview doubled the storage capacity at Warehouse 16 as dry bulk exports skyrocketed, surpassing a million tons. In 1996, the Port of Longview acquired more than 48 hectares for the future industrial park and started developing the Industrial Rail Corridor to serve the park. The same year, the Port of Longview built a floating walkway to service the cruise ship Queen of the West. The Port of Longview bought almost 64 hectares from International Paper Company in 1999 and began to build Berth 8.
In 2000, the Port of Longview's newest berth (Berth 8) was dedicated. In 2001, North American Pipe and Steel (NAPSteel) became the first tenant at the Port of Longview's Industrial Park. Kinder Morgan began operating Berth 2. The same year, imports of coal-tar pitch decreased when the region's aluminum plants closed during the West Coast power crisis.
In 2002, the Port of Longview completed Phase 1 of the Industrial Rail Corridor, and Sause Bros. started operating a barge service to Hawaii at the port's roll-on/roll-off berth. The following year, the Port of Longview handled its first shipments of wind-energy cargo. The Industrial Rail Corridor opened in 2005 when 2500 rail cars carrying soda ash for Union Pacific arrived at Berth 2 for export. In 2007, the International Salt Company began shipping salt from Chile through the Port of Longview. The next year, the Port of Longview set an all-time record for operating revenues.
In 2009, the Port of Longview signed a lease for the United States' first export grain terminal in 25 years. The Washington Public Port Associated named the Port of Longview the 2009 Port of the Year, and the port set a second all-time operating record.
In 2010, logs returned as a major cargo in the Port of Longview after many years of decline. Skyline Steel, a subsidiary of ArcelorMittal, became a new tenant at the Port of Longview's West Industrial Park, and the port bought over 111 hectares at Barlow Point for future development projects. For the third year in a row, the Port of Longview set records for operating revenue.