Chinook: Legendary fishing

Chinook: Legendary fishing

The first Chinook was an Indian village on the inland shore of the Columbia River. An Indian population, once estimated at well above 1,000, was ravaged by white man’s diseases and had been reduced to fewer than 100 just 50 years after Lewis and Clark first camped at the site of the village in 1805.

A few miles to the west, a new Chinook, which came to life in the 1880s, took its name from the ancient Indian settlement. Midway between them stood Chinook Point, now the site of historic Fort Columbia.

Fishing dominated the economy of Chinook from the very beginning. The first fish traps were sunk in Baker Bay by John E. and A.P. Graham in 1880, and their success led to a salmon industry that for many years allowed Chinook to lay claim to the title of the richest town per capita in the U.S.

It is said that one man using only five traps hauled in 12,000 pounds of salmon worth $500 in a single day. 

Fishing wealth contributed to making Chinook a beautiful little town. Even today, driving through its narrow back lanes one can easily imagine that the calendar should read 1911 instead of 2011.

The fishing industry survives as the community’s major industry. The vital Port of Chinook is one of three major fishing centers on the Peninsula.

Although seldom thought of as a “beach” town, near Chinook is some nice shoreline stretching from Fort Columbia State Park to Chinook County Park.

Other attractions include restaurants and art galleries, including one in the Chinook Observer’s original 1905 building. (The newspaper is now based in Long Beach.)

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