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Olympia to Mary’s Corner

  • Distance: 46 miles
  • Routes: Old Highway 99
  • Estimated Driving time: 1 hour

Thickets of alder and willow grow in the low spots; on higher ground are evergreen firs, standing singly or in clumps. The country gradually alters into the broad, fertile valleys of the Chehalis River walled about by hills. Oak and hazel appear, and the highway acquires sweeping curves as it climbs through forests, then descends again into river valleys. This section, less thickly populated than the northern country, not only contributes to Puget Sound commerce, but is also a tributary to Grays Harbor on the ocean coast. Grain, truck farming, and dairy products flow both northeast and southwest; mines of lignite and coal and deposits of clay diversify the valley’s economy.

Along the southeastern margin of the Puget Sound, in an area that is known as the Puget Lowland, there are still significant coal resources. The largest mine in the state is operated by PacifiCorp Electric Operations and is located near the city of Centralia; large open pits produce 4.5 to 5.1 million tons of coal annually.

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State capital and seat of Thurston County, Olympia spreads, fan-like, from its harbor on Puget Sound over gently sloping hills, with Mount Rainier on the east and the more distant Olympics visible to the north. Here, near the place where the Nisqually once met in solemn council to devise means of protection against the soleeks itsweet (angry brown bear), today legislators convene to represent the citizens of Washington State. From...

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Tumwater (Chinook, “waterfalls”) was the Puget Sound terminus of the northern extension of the Oregon Trail. Here, in 1845, the first American Settlement north of the Columbia River was established. During the following year, the presence of settlers provided American treaty makers with an effective claim for a larger portion of the Pacific Northwestern territory than the British had wished to concede. Although the settlers hopefully named the settlement Newmarket,...

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Points of Interest
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Olympia Brewing Company Plant

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Tumwater Falls Park

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Nathaniel Crosby House

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Henderson House

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Upper Custer Way Crossing

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Lower Custer way Crossings

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Tumwater Methodist Church

The tour enters an area of farming and grasslands known as Bush Prairie, after George W. Bush, one of the founders of Tumwater. Having moved from Pennsylvania to Missouri, where he acquired a modest fortune in farming and cattle trading, Bush gave up his Missouri home when it became illegal for free African Americans to live in that State. Believing that the Oregon country north of the Columbia River might...

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Points of Interest
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Oregon Trail Monuments

The city came into existence in the early 1870s, when a railroad under construction from Kalama to Tacoma located a camp on the site of the present town. Some local historians relate that the name of the city was taken from the number of the engine that ran on the line—No. 1090, ten-nine-o. Others insist that the Native Americans called the town “Tenino” (“junction,” or “fork”), when the railroad came...

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Points of Interest
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Tenino Depot

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Ticknor School

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Tenino Stone Company Quarry

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Tenino Downtown Historic District

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Hercules Sandstone Company Office

The park contains the Fort Borst Blockhouse. The block house was built in 1855 for defense against Native American uprisings. Flood waters converging on its original site, at the confluence of the Skookumchuck and Chehalis Rivers, necessitated removal of the structure to the present location near the south end of Borst park. The old blockhouse, still in good condition, is the park’s chief attraction. The foundation walls of hewn and...

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Near the junction of the Chehalis and Skookumchuck Rivers, the city is often referred to as the “Hub City” of southwestern Washington. The town, an early railroad center, was served by four railroads. With its sister city, Chehalis, it occupies a strategic position halfway between the cities of Puget Sound and Portland, Oregon, in a region rich in timber, mineral, and agricultural resources. By the 1940s, lumber manufacture was Centralia’s...

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Points of Interest
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George Washington Park

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Centralia College

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Centralia Downtown Historic District

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US Post Office

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The Sentinel

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Olympic Club Saloon

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Centralia Union Depot

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Armistice Day Riot

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George E. Birge House

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Frances and Mina Hubbard Bungalow

This portion of the tour parallels the Burlington Northern Railroad (former Northern Pacific Railway) line that led to the development of several railroad communities along its tracks, including Brace, Gleed, and Eschbach.     Built in 1912 to service lines from Portland and Seattle, this handsome brick depot now serves as the home of the Lewis County Historical Museum.

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Near the confluence of the Newaukum and Chehalis Rivers is Chehalis (“shifting sands”), the seat of Lewis County. The business district, compact with modern structures and trim shops, has an air of prosperity and leisure. The city began as a settlement around a warehouse beside a railroad track in 1873, when the Northern Pacific built northward from Kalama to Tacoma, and ignored Claquato, then the county seat, three miles to...

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Points of Interest
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O. B. McFadden House

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Church of the Epiphany

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Chehalis Downtown Historic District

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Hillside Historic District

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Pennsylvania Avenue-West Side Historic District

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O.K. Palmer House

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St. Helens Hotel

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US Post Office

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Lewis County Courthouse

Sidetrip: Raymond

This 104 mile side trip cuts west across coastal range between Grays River Divide (to south) and P and E Ridge to north, going up Chehalis River valley, across Pe Ell Prairie, and coming out on west side along Willapa River thorugh Willapa River valley.

Take the Raymond side trip

The city slumbers quietly along the highway. Pioneers in the middle forties settled here on the banks of the Newaukum. Several modern homes stand in the settlement today. Located on the Julien Bernier Donation Land Claim. In the 1890s, it was established and named for an early schoolteacher, John T. Forrest. A local name is Newaukum Prarie. The post office at Forest operated from November, 1896 to March, 1934.

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Sidetrip: Morton

This 60 mile side trip follows a scenic byway out along highway 508 along north fork of Tilton River through several small communities.

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