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SALKUM — When Karen and Don Glaser visited Salkum for a fishing trip in the late 1980s, they soon fell in love with the giant trees, the abundance of wildlife and the spectacular fishing opportunities in the area. So when they stopped at Barrier Dam Campground to buy tackle and saw it was for sale, they jumped at the opportunity.
Now after 32 years of running the campground, along with a tackle shop/mercantile store, the Glasers are ready for retirement. The campground is currently pending for sale and the Glasers are putting the final pieces together to end their run in Salkum.
“We have enjoyed it, but we’re ready to retire,” Karen said. “My husband has some health issues and he’s in a wheelchair, so we’re ready to get our own little place. We’re just going through the steps.”
The Glasers, who bought the campground from the original owners during the summer of 1988, were from Federal Way, an urban center of about 67,000 people at the time. Salkum had about 200 residents then, but it was an easy transition, said Glaser, who had worked in a city grocery store nearly her entire life.
“It’s something we always wanted to do,” Glaser said. “We adjusted just fine. I don’t know if I could go back up to Federal Way now with all the turmoil going on.”
The campground was in somewhat disrepair when the Glasers bought it and they revamped the camping sites and tackle shop. The campground currently has 40 recreation sites, 30 for RV hookups and 10 for tents. It also offers two large, grassy areas for group camping. The campground has electricity, water, showers, tables and a dump station for RVs.
The tackle shop and grocery store offers everything a fisherman needs on their trip, including fishing licenses, rods, reels, line, weights and lures. The small store also has groceries, beverages and snacks.
The main draw for campers is the fishing.
It’s located about a half-mile up Fuller Road from the Cowlitz River, which is known for its hot salmon fishery, early-winter and summer steelhead runs and plentiful trout. Don has been a fishing guide on the Cowlitz River since 1978.
The closest bend of the river to the campground has a public boat launch, as well as spots for bank fishing where Mill Creek drains into the river. They even post fishing reports at friendsofthecowlitz.org/category/fishing-reports.
There are plenty of other fishing opportunities nearby, as well, such as Mayfield Lake, which contains everything from largemouth bass to cutthroat trout. Kokanee salmon can be caught at Riffe Lake, and Swofford Pond is known for its bass, rainbow trout and channel catfish.
This summer was actually better than most, business-wise, Glaser said. They did have to close down for a month and a half when non-essential businesses were shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but when they opened back up, campers and anglers came back by the dozens. Glaser suspects it was due to everyone being quarantined at home for so long.
Now, this will likely be the last summer at the campground for the Glasers, so long as the pending sale goes through. They say they are ready for retirement and to let younger people come in, make some improvements and enjoy the solitude.
What Glaser will remember most about the campground is not the peaceful setting, not the awesome fishing, nor the visiting deer and other wildlife that make their rounds. It’s the people; customers who became friends over the years.
“Meeting people, working with people, helping people fish, getting them set up and showing them the Cowlitz River and Mayfield Lake,” Glaser said. “That’s what I’ll remember and miss.”