Squatchin’ in Cowlitz County

Hello from the History Department –

A show of hands, who believes in Bigfoot? (It’s OK, you don’t have to admit to it.)

Welcome to Bigfoot Country! We are right in the thick of it, here the Pacific Northwest, a region said to be crawling with the giant, hairy, ape-like creatures. One county in the Columbia River Gorge even made it illegal to kill a Bigfoot and calls itself as a “Sasquatch refuge.”

In Cowlitz County, home to our Kalama Harbor Lodge, there are several popular fishing spots on the Kalama River where Bigfoot sightings have long been reported, especially during the salmon run. Incredible stories have been circulating for years, like this one that might raise your hackles:

A wild-eyed and scared Washington State Fisheries employee rushed in [the bar] and asked for ‘a double shot on the rocks.’ For the sake of the story, I’ll call him ‘Joe.’

Joe had been enjoying his days off by camping alone on the Upper Kalama River, which is beautiful country, pristine in places. On his first night, Joe built a campfire and gathered firewood in preparation for spending several days the area. Not long after the sun went down he heard movement in the nearby underbrush, just outside the ring of light provided by his campfire.

According to the story, he could hear grunting, heavy breathing and the sounds of tree limbs being broken off or snapped off. He could also hear heavy footsteps but never saw anything. He kept feeding his campfire more wood. He told folks that he was firmly convinced that keeping the fire going all night had saved him. He stayed awake through the night, with the intruder leaving just before dawn.

At first light, he got on his trail bike and left for Kalama, leaving behind his tent, sleeping bag, his tackle and other top-notch gear. They asked him if he was going back for his camping equipment, said to have been some expensive gear but Joe replied, ‘No, you can have it.’

Stories of Sasquatch have existed in Native culture since before recorded time. The word itself comes from the native Salish word sέsq̉əc, originating in British Columbia just north of the American border. This excerpt from Legends Beyond Psychology by researcher Henry Franzoni, a Tribal Data Steward for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, examines the cultural relationship between Native Man and Bigfoot:

Here in the Northwest, and west of the Rockies generally, Indian people regard Bigfoot with great respect. He is seen as a special kind of being, because of his obvious close relationship with humans. Some elders regard him as standing on the ‘border’ between animal-style consciousness and human-style consciousness, which gives him a special kind of power. It is not that Bigfoot’s relationship to make him ‘superior’ to other animals; in Indian culture, unlike western culture, animals are not regarded as ‘inferior’ to humans but rather as ‘elder brothers’ and ‘teachers’ of humans. … As beings who blend the ‘natural knowledge’ of animals with something of the distinctive type of consciousness called ‘intelligence’ that humans have, Bigfoot is regarded as a special type of being.

On the other side of the Squatch spectrum is the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO), founded in 1995 and today the oldest and largest of its kind. The BFRO is an all-volunteer network of researchers, archivists and investigators in the United States and Canada, widely considered to be the most credible and respected investigative network in the study of Sasquatch. One only has to do a cursory check of the BFRO database for reports from Kalama, Longview, Castle Rock, Toutle…

Can all of these sightings be made up, imagined, misinformed? You be the judge.

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