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Castle Rock, a city nestled in Cowlitz County, Washington, is a picturesque locale with a rich history and stunning natural surroundings. Set between the Willapa Hills and the western base of Mount St. Helens, it sits at the core of Washington’s timber industry within the Pacific temperate rainforest. As a part of the Longview Metropolitan Statistical Area, Castle Rock reported a population of 2,446 in the 2020 census.
The city’s name originates from an impressive volcanic rock outcropping known as “The Rock,” which rises 190 feet above the Cowlitz River and resembles a castle. This natural landmark has been significant since at least 1832, initially to the Cowlitz Indians and later to Hudson’s Bay Company traders. Currently, it’s a central feature of The Rock Community Park, offering hiking trails, picnic spots, and a glimpse into history.
Castle Rock was established on land claimed by Eliza and William Huntington in 1852. Officially founded in 1888 and incorporated in 1890, the city flourished as a Cowlitz River port and a trading hub, with its sawmill pioneering in producing cedar shingles from the abundant Western red cedar.
The city’s economy by 1940 had diversified into dairy and truck farming, lumber manufacturing, and the harvesting of regional sword ferns and Cascara Sagrada bark. Geographically strategic, Castle Rock is located 117 miles south of Seattle and 58 miles north of Portland, Oregon. It’s sandwiched between the Cowlitz River and Interstate 5, covering an area of 1.76 square miles and standing as Cowlitz County’s northernmost city.
Castle Rock’s transport connections enhance its accessibility and recreational appeal. The Spirit Lake Memorial Highway connects it to notable sites like Mount St. Helens and Seaquest State Park. The West Side Highway links it northward along the Cowlitz River to Cloud Mountain and further to Olequa and Vader. To the south, it connects to Longview and the Ocean Beach Highway, leading to the Pacific Ocean.
Public transportation is facilitated by the Castle Rock Park & Ride, which links to Longview and Castle Rock via Interstate 5, courtesy of Lower Columbia CAP Rural Public Transit.
The city is also home to the Riverfront Trail, a multi-use, off-road trail that offers scenic views along the Cowlitz River. The east side of the trail starts at Lions Pride Park, passes by the Rock Community Park, and extends to the PH10 bridge over a span of 1.5 miles. On the west side, the trail reaches up to the Castle Rock Sports Complex, covering a distance of 1100 feet. This trail system is so notable that in 2004, the City of Castle Rock was awarded the Association of Washington Cities Municipal Achievement Gold Medal Award.
These various transportation routes and recreational pathways provide essential connectivity for residents and visitors and showcase Castle Rock’s commitment to maintaining a vibrant, accessible, and environmentally conscious community.
The demographic profile of Castle Rock, Washington, as captured by the 2010 census, presents a detailed picture of the city’s population and household composition. The city had a population of 1,982, with 784 households and 519 families residing within its limits. The population density was noted at 1,246.5 inhabitants per square mile, and the city had 863 housing units at an average density of 542.8 per square mile. The city’s racial makeup was predominantly White at 91.4%, with other racial groups such as African American, Native American, Asian, Pacific Islander, and others comprising the remainder. Hispanic or Latino individuals represented 4.9% of the population.
In terms of household composition, 32.7% had children under 18, with 43.5% being married couples living together. Single-female households comprised 16.3%, and single-male households 6.4%, with 33.8% being non-families. Additionally, 27.7% of households consisted of individuals, and 10.9% had someone who was 65 years or older living alone. The average household and family sizes were 2.53 and 3.06, respectively.
The city’s population was spread across various age groups, with a median age of 39.3 years. Residents under 18 made up 24.4%, those aged 18 to 24 comprised 8.1%, the 25 to 44 age group represented 24.7%, individuals from 45 to 64 accounted for 27%, and those 65 and older made up 15.9%. The gender composition was nearly balanced, with 47.5% male and 52.5% female.
Comparatively, the 2000 census data showed a slightly higher population of 2,130, with 833 households and 562 families. The racial makeup was similar, with a higher White majority at 93.19%. Hispanic or Latino individuals made up 3.33% of the population. The household and family structures were also comparable, with 33.9% of households having children under 18 and a median household income of $37,212, whereas the median family income was $44,125.
These censuses reveal Castle Rock as a small, closely-knit community with a diverse age range and various household types. The city’s demographic makeup has remained fairly consistent over the years, maintaining its character as a small town with a strong sense of community and family.
Three schools in Castle Rock: