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Exploring Geography: Southwest Washington State

Explore Southwest Washington State today, with Kendall from Home Learning Journey (blog is now closed)! Kendall is a stay at home mom to her two, almost three children. She married her high school sweetheart and could not be any happier where life has taken them. Kendall is a firm believer that children can learn at home in so many ways. They can learn from play, arts, crafts, activities, field trips, home school, and so much more! Kendall’s blog is meant to capture the journey of learning from the heart of her home. 

exploring geography at mama smiles

Exploring Geography: Southwest Washington

Southwest Washington is a little different from other areas of Washington State. We are not as huge as the areas near Seattle, but we are not as small as the tiny farm towns found on the east side of the mountains. I was born and raised and lived in one city my entire life in Southwest Washington called Vancouver until this past January. I grew up telling outsiders that I was from Vancouver (not B.C.), Washington (not D.C.) to explain where exactly I was. Vancouver is home to less than 175,000 people. We have only moved about 15 miles east. We are also just across the river from the major metropolitan area of Portland, Oregon, whose population is higher than that of Vancouver at not quite 600,000 people. A lot of us go there for our fun and others choose to just stay here. There are some things I wanted to take a moment to highlight about Southwest Washington. Just know that these are just a few of the many great things we have to offer!


Clark County Fair

The Clark County Fair is an annual fair that is held in Ridgefield, Washington during the month of August! For many of us, this is something we anticipate all summer long. Thankfully it is held in the part of summer that is the least rainy and the warmest! Living in the Pacific Northwest, we do not have many of those days. The fair provides many forms of entertainment and family activities. There are also a huge variety of concerts held in an amphitheater. Some of the types of entertainment you will find at the fair are: dog shows, contests (ex: pretty baby contest), farm animals, moto bikes, demolition derbies, monster trucks, music, carnival games and rides, and much more! Some years you will even see exotic or wild animals. One year we even got to pet a baby lion! We go as a family at least once per year to visit all the animals, go on some of the rides, eat those yummy but unhealthy fair foods for lunch, and every year when we leave, we make sure we get a Hawaiian shaved ice!

Columbia River Gorge


Source: WikiMedia Commons

The Columbia River Gorge is a canyon between the borders of Washington and Oregon. The canyon is over 80 miles long. The Columbia River Gorge is known for its beauty. It is definitely the place to be for those who like to enjoy nature and water activities such as boating, water skiing, fishing, viewing waterfalls, and much more. There are even tourist attractions such as casinos!


 Source: WikiMedia Commons

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site


Source: WikiMedia Commons

A great family history attraction is the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. I have been there with my family and on school field trips. The fort was used for the fur trade and the military. There is so much to do here! They have guided tours and you get to explore the whole site! I especially love the cultural demonstrations.

The Blacksmith Shop has volunteers that show demonstrations of manufacturing tools and hardware from iron, all historically accurate. When visiting the Carpenter Shop, you will see volunteers making projects, also historically accurate. In the kitchen, you will see volunteers demonstrating 19th century cooking techniques, and hear information about farms, gardens, and orchards that helped supply the fort’s meat, vegetables, and fruits. You will even see volunteers working in the garden that still produces produce! For those who enjoy crafty projects, at the fort you will even find Victorian handcraft demonstrations!

There is also a bake house. At the bake house, you will see a demonstration of volunteers making sea biscuits. When my 3.5 year old daughter and I read the information on that link about the bake house, we decided to do our own little baking project in the kitchen to make our own sea biscuits! 


Besides all of that, they even have a “schedules of events” calendar where you can join the fort to do some great things! For example, coming up in December, the fort has an event called “Heritage Holidays in Oregon City” where people get to step back in time and experience what it might have been like to prepare for the holidays back then. That specific event takes place in Oregon City at the Historic McLoughlin House Site. At the fort itself, they also have a “Lantern Tour” coming up soon where they get to explore the fort by lantern!


Interstate Bridge


Source: WikiMedia Commons

The Interstate Bridge, otherwise known as “The I-5 Bridge”, is one of the main bridges that connect Vancouver, Washington to Portland, Oregon over the Columbia River. This bridge is actually two bridges that are right next to each other. One side is used for northbound traffic and one side is used for southbound traffic. The bridge is full of traffic during before work and after work hours, due to the fact that a lot of people from Vancouver commute to Portland for work. In my personal opinion, Portland just has better and bigger opportunities than Vancouver does when it comes to work. In fact, according to Wikipedia, in 2006 there were 278,043 vehicles crossing the bridge during on the weekdays. When you compare that to Vancouver and Portland’s population, you will see how many vehicles that really is! The bridge also has lifts to let large ships pass through. This will cause traffic to be even worse, but it is awesome to see!

I hope you loved learning a little about where I come from!



I loved learning about your home, Kendall, thank you for sharing it with us! That bridge looks amazing, and I think my family would really enjoy visiting Fort Vancouver!

MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

8 thoughts on “Exploring Geography: Southwest Washington State”

  1. Thanks for having me! I enjoyed writing and finding pictures to go along with what I wanted to feature for our area.

  2. Elisa | blissfulE

    Vancouver (not B.C.), Washington (not D.C.). Love it! :) It looks like a very pretty area.

  3. This was such an enjoyable (and informative) read. For 19 years we lived near Spring Mill State Park it sounds a bit like your Fort Vancouver. They actually ran the old mill and sold the best cornmeal. My hat is off to you for homeschooling–my oldest always thought it wouldbe fun to homeschool. I’m not sure it would have worked because my husband was their principal for all but one year of her life and the school was on the same campus!

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