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The Road Bell Traveled: Taidnapam (WA)

Updated: May 16, 2021

DESTINATION: Taidnapam Park


ELEVATION: 948 feet

VEHICLE: 2006 Chevrolet Trailblazer

TRAILER: 2016 Jayco Jayflight 174BH


WEATHER: Mostly rainy and windy

TEMP RANGE: low 28º – high 69º

DATE ARRIVED: Friday March 12th

DATE DEPARTED: Monday Apr 5th


3/12/21 Arrived at almost midnight! It was a long day of getting in the swing of things.

3/13/21 Paid for two weeks up front and began to explore.

3/14/21 Almost every other RV in the park left, and we were left alone. Very surreal.

3/15/21 Check engine light on. Drove an hour to Centralia to drop it off for service.

3/16/21 Car shop called and said we needed a new engine for about $9k.

3/17/21 General anxiety ensued. The trip seemed over before it even began.

3/18/21 Decided to ignore the car issues and ride it out. The car seemed fine anyway.

3/19/21 Drove into town to do laundry and get groceries.

3/20/21 Mailed out postcards. Began to rain.

3/21/21 Visitors! Little did we know our friends were about to move to Alaska and this would be the last time we’d see them ;(

3/22/21 Huge rainbows. Took a walk at dusk to look for owls.

3/23/21 Deer in the campground.

3/24/21 Gloomy day, everyone grumpy. Maybe this was a bad idea.

3/25/21 Drove to Packwood to get a change of scenery. Elk along the roadside.

3/26/21 Hiked through Cowlitz Wildlife Refuge. Set up archery target along an old forest road.

3/27/21 Found a little northern pygmy owl to add to our owls list.

3/28/21 Incredible winds all evening. A massive 100 foot tree fell down a few feet from our trailer. Lucky to be alive! Are the cosmos trying to tell us something?

3/29/21 Made dandelion bread. Visited Cowlitz Falls Park.

3/30/21 Booked next campground in Oregon. Gloomy day again.

3/31/21 Up early to drive all the way back to Burien to pick up last storage items.

4/1/21 There. Is. A. Mouse. In. The. Trailer.

4/2/21 Spent the day mouse proofing the trailer.

4/3/21 Laundry again. Groceries. Propane. Check engine light on again.

4/4/21 Finished some work projects. Collected cedar strips from the fallen trip to make into a craft basket.

4/5/21 Last day. Stayed at a hotel for next two nights before moving on to Oregon.


Travel Tips

Taidnapam Park is one of four campgrounds in the Tacoma Power Utilities system, located along the Cowlitz River on the eastern end of Riffe Lake. Mossyrock Park is located on the western edge.

Campsites can be reserved up to nine months in advance for dates between May 15 and Sept 15. Since we arrived in March we did not have a reservation, but the park was mostly empty. Our site (#2) is the only one that is not reservable, therefore there will always be an "open site" available for last minute arrivals.

Taidnapam has a 14 day stay limit, but we requested a longer stay and were allowed to (again, this was only because the park was mostly empty).

Site #2 is very well situated by the restrooms/showers, near a playground, and right off the entrance to the camping loop. Heavily forested, all of the sites offer great privacy and access to nearby trails.

Our driving route was the shortest available on Google Maps, but in retrospect I do regret traveling through Puyallup and Eatonville during busy drive times. It would have been easier to travel all the way down I-5 to Hwy 12 (a longer but less-stressed drive).

Nearby Morton, WA has a decent grocery store, hardware store with propane, a couple of gas stations, and a laundromat. A few excellent meal choices include Mountain View Pizza and Spiffy's. We also tried Plaza Jalisco but didn't like it. East on Hwy 12 about 30 miles is Packwood, and north on Hwy 7 is Eatonville, which both offer even more options.


Activities Nearby

Mount Rainier National Park: We have been to this park numerous times, so we decided not to visit again. However it is definitely worth the drive! We've visited mostly from the south entrance to Paradise, but the northeast entrance through Sunset is great too. A few years ago during the total solar eclipse, we camped near Sunset for the event.

Mount St Helens National Volcanic Monument: Again another worthwhile visit. We've gone twice and decided not to go on this trip, mostly because everything is still closed due to COVID. Spectacular views of the volcano. Instead of driving out to visit in person, we watched a National Geographic special on Disney+ called Surviving the Mt St Helen's Disaster.

Northwest Wildlife Trek: Things have changed recently due to COVID, but this was always a fun trip for us. You used to go on a tram, but now you drive in your own car. We recently did a safari-style drive like this in Port Angeles, so we decided to skip NW Trek this time around.

Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery: Closed for us, but likely worth the stop. We love visiting hatcheries and learning about salmon!



• During our few weeks' stay in the transition to spring, we witnessed of a variety of native and migratory birds, (Canada goose, American robin, varied thrush, pacific wren, red breasted sapsucker, barred owl, northern pygmy owl, belted kingfisher, northern harrier, brown creeper, flicker, and hooded merganser) as well as elk, deer, raccoons, river otters, and newts.

Our favorite new sightings were the northern pygmy owl, which is so very tiny and uncommon to see! and the rough skinned newt which loves to hang out near water. Just don't touch it! They are toxic.

• The Taidnapam area is named for a small tribe of Native Americans who lived along the Cowlitz River. Their language is no longer spoken, but is considered to have been a Yakama/Sahaptian dialect. Like many other West Coast Indian tribes, the Taidnapam tribe was relocated to the Cowlitz Reservation during the 1800s, where they merged with other native peoples and their languages rapidly vanished. Most Taidnapam descendants still live in the Cowlitz area today.

• The campground and surrounding area are located in a beautiful valley between Mt Rainier, originally known as təqʷuʔməʔ (pronounced Tacoma) and Mt St Helens, originally called Lawetlat'la by the indigenous Cowlitz people. Everywhere you look are lightweight yellow rocks called pumice, which are remnants of devastating volcanic eruptions.

• For fun activities, we took advantage of an abundance of spring dandelions to make both bread and playdoh. Dandelions are highly nutritious and oh so plentiful!


Bell's Eyewitness Report


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