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Chehalis, Washington
Lewis County Historic Courthouse.jpg
the Rose City, the Mint City
Location of Chehalis, Washington
Location of Chehalis, Washington
Country United States
State Washington
County Lewis
 • Total 5.88 sq mi (15.23 km2)
 • Land 5.81 sq mi (15.04 km2)
 • Water 0.07 sq mi (0.19 km2)
243 ft (74 m)
 • Total 7,439
 • Density 1,280.38/sq mi (488.44/km2)
Time zone UTC-8 (Pacific (PST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-7 (PDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 360 Exchanges: 740,748
FIPS code 53-11475
GNIS feature ID 1503929

Chehalis ( shə-HAY-lis) is a city in and the county seat of Lewis County, Washington. The population was 7,439 at the time of the 2020 census. It is the county seat of Lewis County.

Incorporated in 1883, Chehalis was primarily a logging and railroad town, with a shift towards farming in the mid-20th century. The city has bolstered its economy in the 21st century with a focus in manufacturing and warehousing. The city has several distinct historical areas and boasts 11 locations on the list of National Register of Historic Places, more than any other region in Lewis County.


Chehalis began as a settlement around a warehouse beside a railroad track in 1873, when the Northern Pacific Railroad built northward from Kalama to Tacoma, and ignored Claquato, then the county seat three miles to the west. After the Northern Pacific bypassed Claquato, the county seat was moved to Chehalis, leaving Claquato little more than a historical landmark. By 1874, a store was added to the warehouse, and several houses were constructed. The new town was first named Saundersville, for S.S. Saunders, on whose donation land claim it was founded. In 1879, the name was changed to Chehalis, named after the Chehalis people; Chehalis was a native term roughly meaning "shifting sands", denoting the muddy bottomland along the Chehalis River which had long vexed stagecoach travelers on the Washington arm of the Oregon Trail between Kalama and New Market (now Tumwater). Chehalis was incorporated on November 23, 1883.

Logging soon began in the nearby forests. Lumber workers of Scandinavian, Anglo-Saxon, and Scots-Irish descent arrived and settled in the neighboring valleys. In 1940, the chief local industries were: dairying, poultry raising, fruit growing, milk condensing, fruit and vegetable packing, brick and tile manufacturing, coal mining, portable house manufacturing, and fern shipping.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.55 square miles (14.37 km2), of which, 5.53 square miles (14.32 km2) is land and 0.02 square miles (0.05 km2) is water.

The city straddles Interstate 5 at a point almost exactly halfway between Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon. The historic downtown and most of the city's amenities lie on the east side of the freeway, nestled at the base of a small range of forested hills. On the west side of the freeway are parks, farms, and a few subdivisions developed in the hills to the west. A small airport is located immediately west of the freeway towards the northern end of the city. From numerous vantage points in the hills just west of town, one can see Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, and Mount St. Helens—weather permitting. Chehalis is a frequented stop by bicyclists while on the annual Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic.

The Chehalis River winds its way through the valley in which the city resides, and is there joined by a tributary, the Newaukum River. Both rivers are prone to flooding during periods of abnormally heavy or persistent rain, and the lowlands from the freeway westward are particularly susceptible to inundation.


This region experiences warm (but not hot) and dry summers, with no average monthly temperatures above 71.6 °F. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Chehalis has a warm-summer Mediterranean climate, abbreviated "Csb" on climate maps.


Chehalis, WA
Ghost sign in Chehalis.
Historical population
Census Pop.
1890 1,309
1900 1,775 35.6%
1910 4,507 153.9%
1920 4,558 1.1%
1930 4,907 7.7%
1940 4,857 −1.0%
1950 5,639 16.1%
1960 5,199 −7.8%
1970 5,727 10.2%
1980 6,100 6.5%
1990 6,527 7.0%
2000 7,057 8.1%
2010 7,259 2.9%
2020 7,439 2.5%
U.S. Decennial Census
2020 Census

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 7,259 people, 2,868 households, and 1,655 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,312.7 inhabitants per square mile (506.8/km2). There were 3,131 housing units at an average density of 566.2 per square mile (218.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 87.0% White, 1.7% African American, 1.3% Native American, 1.3% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 5.7% from other races, and 2.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 11.6% of the population.

There were 2,868 households, of which 31.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.9% were married couples living together, 14.9% had a female householder with no husband present, 6.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 42.3% were non-families. 35.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 16.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 3.02.

The median age in the city was 33.5 years. 24.5% of residents were under the age of 18; 12.5% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 25.9% were from 25 to 44; 22.6% were from 45 to 64; and 14.4% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 50.2% male and 49.8% female.


Chehalis Washington The Maple Leaf City
A map showing the Chehalis River, tributaries, and area railroads as forming the shape of a maple leaf.
  • The city was known as "The Maple-Leaf City" due to the shape of the convergence of the Chehalis River, tributaries, and railroads.
  • Chehalis was mentioned in Season 6 Episode 9 of Grey's Anatomy (New History)

Sister city

  • Japan - Chehalis sister city with Inasa, Shizuoka in Japan, now merged into the city of Hamamatsu, which continues the relationship.

Chehalis forms twin cities with adjacent Centralia. The Chehalis–Centralia Airport (IATA airport code CLS) is located within the Chehalis city bounds.

Historic sites

  • Claquato Church, the oldest continuously used church in the state
  • Washington Hotel (1889), current site of the Vintage Motorcycle Museum


Bicycling is a popular sport in Chehalis, hosting along with other towns on the Washington State Route 6 corridor an annual "Ride The Willapa" bike ride that raises money for the Willapa Hills Trail. The Lewis County Historic Bike Ride, a yearly event for over 30 years, features ride options that vary from easy to advanced, and starts in the area. Riders in the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic will overnight in the city as an overflow option to Centralia.

Chehalis's Millet Field used to host minor league baseball, including such teams as the Gophers, Proteges, and Farmers, and semi-pro baseball and football, from the turn of the 20th century into the 1970s. Several Negro League games were played in the town.

Two parks within the city limits, Recreation and Stan Hedwall Parks, are used for a variety of W.F. West High School sports competitions and for tournaments involving high schools within Lewis County.


The Chehalis School District (CSD) provides public education to students, from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade, in the city.

The following public schools are:

  • James W. Lintott Elementary - Pre-kindergarten to 2nd grade
  • Orin C. Smith Elementary - Third to 5th grade
  • Chehalis Middle School - Built in 1989, hosts grades 6th thru 8th
  • W.F. West High School - Opened in 1951, receives students from 9th to 12th grades

Both elementary schools were built concurrent in 2018 and fully opened in 2019. They replaced the previous primary schools of Cascade (built 1922), R.E.Bennet (opened in 1928), and Olympic (built 1960).

The city also provides schooling for rehabilitating juvenile males at Green Hill School, with options for students to obtain a high school or general equivalency diploma (GED), vocational training, or college prep courses.



Chehalis is served by Interstate 5, the main north–south freeway in Western Washington, which connects the city to Seattle and Portland. The freeway also carries a section of U.S. Route 12, an east–west highway that continues to Aberdeen and across the Cascades to the Yakima River Valley and Tri-Cities. State Route 6 terminates in Chehalis and travels west to a junction with U.S. Route 101 in Raymond, located on Willapa Bay.

Twin Transit provides public transit service to Chehalis and neighboring Centralia, with connections to other communities. Early 20th century public transportation for residents relied on a streetcar line operated by the local Twin City Railroad Company, which connected the city with neighboring Centralia. The service was discontinued by 1929 in favor of busses.

The Chehalis–Centralia Airport (CLS) is located within the city limits. The airport is a single runway, public use hub for air travel in Lewis County. First begun as a small airfield in 1927, it is bordered by the local shopping district and I-5 and is approximately one mile west of the Chehalis downtown district. It is the largest of the three airports within the county.


Lewis County PUD provides electricity within the city, 75% generated via hydroelectricity. The City of Chehalis Water Division is responsible for clean drinking water, including water treatment and operations maintenance. Natural gas and infrastructure for residents and businesses within the city limits is provided by Puget Sound Energy.

Chehalis received grants of $4.45 million in 2021 to build the first hydrogen refueling station in Washington near the Port of Chehalis. It is expected to be completed in 2022 and will be overseen by Twin Transit.


Chehalis is served by Centralia's 128-bed, non-profit Providence Centralia Hospital for short-term acute care that also provides services for surgery, cancer, obstetrics, and is equipped with a 24-hour emergency room and an ICU. There are several clinics in Chehalis, including Providence Chehalis Family Medicine, Northwest Pediatric Care, and Chehalis Children's Clinic. Mental health services are provided by Cascade Mental Health Care. A detox and addiction recovery center is run by American Behavioral Health Systems at the former site of St. Helens Hospital that was built in 1907.

The Lewis County Public Health & Social Services building is located in the government district of the city, north of the Lewis County Courthouse.

Notable people

  • Kay Bell, football player and professional wrestler
  • Morgan Christen, United States federal appellate judge
  • Henry C. Davis, Washington state pioneer and businessman
  • Frank Everett, Washington state pioneer and businessman
  • Judianne Fotheringill, 1963 and 1964 pair skating U.S. national champion
  • Dave and Vean Gregg, professional baseball players
  • Olive McKean, Bronze medalist swimmer at the 1936 Summer Olympics
  • Seton I. Miller, Oscar winner in 1941 for Best Screenplay
  • Elmer Schwartz, professional football player in the 1930s
  • Orin Smith, former CEO of Starbucks
  • Warren A. Taylor, first Speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives
  • Ralph Towner, acoustic guitarist
  • Albert E. Tozier, founder of the Chehalis Nugget newspaper
  • Harry R. Truman, 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption folk hero
  • William Muir Urquhart, Chehalis pioneer and businessman

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Chehalis para niños

National Hispanic Heritage Month on Kiddle
Notable Hispanic writers
Marie Arana
Sandra Cisneros
Sergio Troncoso
Nina Serrano
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