Relocating to Vancouver

Are you relocating to Vancouver USA or Clark County Washington? Are you thinking about it? Well this is your landing spot. This space will shed light on life in Southwest Washington and in particular, Clark County. If you are relocating from Northwestern Oregon, much of this may already be familiar, but there are distinct advantages to moving into SW Washington for a great many people in Oregon. Those coming from further away, places like California, or back east, may have more general questions about, lifestyle, weather and climate, housing expenses, schools and more. In any case you have arrived at an ideal web space. Be sure to check out my local lifestyle blog, The 'Couv' Life.

Table of Contents:

Climate and Weather

Weather seems to be a major topic from casual conversation, "So how 'bout this sunshine?" to genuine concerns about living in a particular place, one might ask, "Am I gonna' have to shovel a bunch of snow every winter?" To answer these questions we must first understand the difference in the terms "weather" and "climate." The former is what's happening right now and what is likely to happen in the next few days. The latter is what generally happens every year and what is likely to happen over the next few decades. Two very different things. I can paraphrase a local weather columnist, Pat Timm who has often written that "normal is just a collection of extremes." Very true Pat.

If weather and climate are major factors in choosing a place to live, then you have to dig a little deeper into the stats. Just reading the standard climate norms will not tell the story at all in Southwest Washington State. In fact it will deceive you. Vancouver, WA has a four season climate. Because the winters are fairly mild some would not call it a four season climate. Certainly cities in Washington State's interior are much more wintry in the winter, but there are four distinct seasons here in the Portland - Vancouver metro. I like having a distinction between the seasons. There is no doubt what season it is in Vancouver unless you are right on the change over point. Winter is dark, gloomy, and chilly. The deciduous trees are bare and the snow line is very low on the Cascades. Spring time is so flowery that it is hard to miss. Temps ride the roller coaster up and down as does the snow level. Summer is amazing, dry and warm and abundantly obvious. Fall color in this area is hard to beat, yes New England is even more fiery but we have blazing autumn hues across the cities and the wild lands.

The City of Vancouver, Washington has its official weather statistics gathered at Pearson Airfield very near Downtown. Pearson sits in a "dry" spot at just a a few feet above sea level, averaging about 40 inches of annual rainfall. But there are spots in the city that get 60 inches on average. Pearson gets about 6 inches of snow a year on average. My house sits less than ten miles away from Pearson and I average closer to 9 inches. But remember Pat's phrase, "normal is just a collection of extremes." There will be winters that have three times that amount and some that may have little to none at all.

When venturing beyond the city, one might quickly find themselves at an elevation in excess of 1000 feet. In the winter areas above one thousand feet will get significantly more snow than the valley floors that lie less than 300 feet above sea level.

Climate is a very subjective thing and it is also extremely relative to the place from which one is coming. Someone might ask, "Does it get cold here?" That depends entirely on a person's definition of "cold." Someone moving from Los Angeles will have a very different perception of cold than someone coming from Wisconsin. To those from LA, yes it gets cold here, to those in Wisconsin, not really.

How about this one, "I hear it rains all the time, is that true?" Well, sort of. Most cities east of the Rocky Mountains get more rain on average than we do here in Vancouver. But rainfall is typically measured in inches or millimeters of precipitation. Miami a large city in the "sunshine" state gets some 70 inches of rain a year on average. That's nearly double what Pearson Field receives. So who is really the rainy one, huh? Well as any Floridian knows, that rain tends to come in short bursts of drenching rain followed by the brilliant warm rays of the mighty Sol. Here in America's Vancouver it tends to drizzle and shower for eight or nine months. There is no sugar coating the Western Washington rainy season. It is in a word, "long."

Then you have this question; "Does it snow here?" This is one of my personal favorites as locals who have lived here for decades will say things like, "No, not really" or "Hardly ever." Snow is another relative term. If you are coming from the Great Lakes region, the "Hardly ever" could be a reasonable response. Those coming from Los Angeles, the answer is simply, "Yes." In 23 winters that I have tracked weather from my home in NE Vancouver, 21 of them had at least an inch of snowfall. 13 of them had more than 6 inches, and 6 of them had over a foot of snow.

The hardest thing for most people to overcome weather wise, is the long periods of gray skies. When you get weather reports on the evening news with excitement over a few potential "sun breaks," you know the weather is gloomy. For those in the sun belt, a sun break is a fleeting moment during an extended cloudy period whereby the sun peeks out from the clouds for a short "break" of sunshine.

I am not trying to chase people away with this bleak look at climate, because I like the climate here. Clouds don't bother me much. I don't much care for temperatures above 90° and we get less than a dozen of those per year on average. I prefer not to endure temps below 10° and we get very few of those, in fact I had only three days where the temperature fell into the single digits since 2002. I tend to prefer warmer summer nights, and we often stay well above 60° until midnight in the summer. I prefer to have consistent weather during the summer and winter, and we are very consistent. I have never been a fan of the type of winters in places like Denver, Colorado where one day it's 10 degrees and snowing and the next day it's 65° and sunny. Our fickle weather tends to come at spring time, which in general has moderate weather typically avoiding the extremes. 

Snow. Yes it does snow here. It does not snow regularly however. In the winter when a storm comes in the temperature will most likely rise up above freezing and produce rain rather than snow. If it does snow it is usually light in volume and generally wet and short lived. That said there are times every couple years where conditions are ripe for heavy snowfall. During these scenarios, we can and do receive snow events with 6-12 inches. This tends to overload our meager snow removal system and causes significant travel headaches. Those coming from the snow belt, you know who you are ;) We do not have a good snow removal system. We do not properly prep for winter driving. Why? Because these 'legit' snow events are only once every 2-3 years. 6 inches of snow will cause serious travel nightmares here, unlike areas in the upper Mid-west or New England where 6 inches is a routine winter event. It is what it is friends. Clark County Washington does have neighborhoods in the Cascade foothills where the elevation is above 1000 feet. It routinely snows at 1000 feet while raining at 300 feet. The higher one goes the snowier it gets. At 1500 feet one should expect a couple of feet of snow on average every year which is no worse than the "average" American city.

I sum up our climate simply like this:
  • Winter: December - February. It's dark, gray, chilly, cloudy, lots of showers, some snow, hardly any sun.
  • Spring: March - June. Fickle, bounces around between chilly and warm, a little more sun, a little less rain. Lots of flowering plants and trees, truly beautiful. Longest season of the year, tends to drag on till the 4th of July.
  • Summer: July - mid-September. Could be the best summer weather on planet Earth. Dry, almost never rains, warm but rarely hot, less than dozen days above 90°, almost never above 100°. Warm but comfortable nights, late sun. Usually low humidity. Glorious.
  • Autumn: mid-September - November, temps fall precipitously. Indian summer is rare, Fall colors are truly marvelous. 

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Schools are a very important factor to many home buyers and can be particularly concerning when relocating. It is important to understand that schools are not just a concern for families with school age children. Having a home in an area with desirable schools will lead to better resale later, but will also likely mean that the price of the home is higher and that property taxes may be higher as well. Schools get a large portion of their funding through property taxes and bonds issued for schools are often levied on property taxes. 

For those people moving to this area from outside of Washington State, the most important thing to take away about our schools is the Washington State Constitution. The Evergreen State has some of the strongest language in all fifty states about education. Take a look at the preamble of Article IX regarding education: 

"It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex."

The words "paramount" and "ample" are very important and create a tone that shows the state is very serious about proper education and mandatory spending levels. Many locals have strong preferences for certain school districts in our area, but the state constitution was written with language designed to ensure all of our state's schools are well funded and providing top grade education. Where ever you are coming from, our schools should be more than adequate when contrasted with other states. 

That is very reassuring. There are some school districts in our area whereby the residents have shown an abundance of generosity in passing additional bond measures to further promote quality education and expand facilities. The upside is even better schools and facilities, the downside is a spike in property taxes.

There is sometimes confusion in Vancouver regarding schools. Vancouver is by far the largest city in Southwest Washington and in fact 2 out of every 3 people in Clark County have a Vancouver address. The school district lines were drawn decades ago and now there is some cross over into Vancouver of districts not originally intended to serve Vancouver.

There are two primary school districts serving Vancouver. Generally the west side is Vancouver Schools and the east side is Evergreen Schools. But a small portion of Northwest Vancouver is served by Ridgefield Schools, a sizable chunk of northeast Vancouver is served by Battle Ground Schools, and a small sliver of northeast Vancouver is served by Hockinson Schools. As if that isn't enough, there is a small part of Vancouver city proper that still has the zip code for Camas. Those Vancouver homes with a Camas zip code (98607) are served by Evergreen Schools, NOT Camas Schools. Wait, there's more, a new development zone in SE Vancouver will feature some homes in Vancouver proper served by Camas Schools.

If schools are a big art of your decision on location, it is wise not to make assumptions in the City of Vancouver about what school serves a particular area. Check with the school districts to be certain.


Outdoor Activities

The Pacific Northwest is unparalleled for activities in the great outdoors. Our close proximity to the Columbia River Gorge and the mighty Cascade Range leaves us with a lifetime of bucket list adventures right here at home. Hiking and biking opportunities are so abundant I can't even scratch the surface here. Regardless of the type of outdoor activity one chooses, we have it here. Hunting, fishing, shooting sports, hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking, boating, swimming, skiing either downhill or cross country, and so much more. The gorgeous coast is only about 90 minutes away so that opens a large additional slate of potential activity as well. Below is just a few outdoor adventure spots to consider.

  • Mount Hood, OR
  • Mount Saint Helens, WA
  • Columbia River Gorge
  • Multnomah Falls, OR
  • Beacon Rock, WA
  • Long Beach Peninsula, WA
  • Northern Oregon Coast, OR
In the winter down hill skiing is only a touch more than an hour away at five resorts on Mount Hood in Oregon. Timberline Lodge is noted for having North America's longest ski season with runs available eleven months a year.

Even in town, the parks and hiking opportunities are amazing. People who like to be outside will love to be outside, here.

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Urban Amenities

Vancouver is located immediately adjacent to Portland, OR with the mighty Columbia River serving as boundary between two states as well as the two cities. Portland is the younger, but larger city. There is a bit of a rivalry between the two, but Portland is a major US city and as such is certainly more famous. Although Portland is not a particularly cosmopolitan city when compared to Seattle or San Francisco, it is the urban center for the whole Portland - Vancouver Metro area of some 2.5 million residents. It is notably more urban than Vancouver. Vancouver however, enjoys a border relationship with Portland and has access as good to much of Portland's urban amenities as does most of Portland's neighborhoods.

Vancouver itself is an increasingly urban city. This is most noticeable in the Downtown area which has become much more dense over the last 20 years. The new Vancouver Waterfront Project is a urban renewal that is currently midway through the development cycle. Phase one opened in 2018 and build out should happen over the next 5-7 years. Combined with the Port of Vancouver terminal one urban project this equates to a $2 billion investment in real estate covering roughly 25 city blocks. Visit "Urban Living in the 'Couv' here.

Every neighborhood in Vancouver can be reached from Portland International Airport in less than thirty minutes and most in about ten to fifteen. Vancouver is the only true urban city in Clark County and it is only built at urban density in a few areas in and around the core Downtown. Most Vancouver residents are living in 'Suburburia Americana'.

This Downtown and waterfront video was filmed in September of 2023

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Country Living

One of Clark Counties biggest attractions is the country living aspect. This is one of the best benefits to a smaller metro area like Portland - Vancouver, when compared to say Seattle or the Bay Area. The urbanized metro area is compact enough that there are still rural areas nearby. In Clark County one can be 25 miles from Portland International Airport and be in a neighborhood of homes on 5 acre parcels. For many that's the stuff of dreams. The notion of owning a country home on 5 acres with room for horses and other ranch and farm style stuff yet close in enough to be at the airport in half an hour is truly stupendous. With city densities increasing and lot sizes in suburbia shrinking to the minuscule, these close in small acreage homes are becoming rather hot in the marketplace. Clark County is also home to a variety of businesses that serve and support the rural lifestyle despite being so close to an urban center. It is the very best of both worlds.

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City Living

There is a city living opportunity in Clark County and it is Vancouver. The Waterfront and Downtown have seen a mass influx of urban apartments and condos rising up over the last 15-20 years and there is a huge inventory under construction now. The idea of living in a medium sized city with the feel of a major city is nice. Large cities often have a big good and bad spread. What I mean is that there are many good things about big cities like events, restaurants, urban services, and eclectic neighborhoods. But these are often countered with the city negatives of higher crime, noise, traffic and other big city woes. Vancouver has a fabulous balance offering the city style living on an upper floor in a mixed use mid to high rise building, underground parking, and access to the urban core on foot. But Vancouver has far less of the negatives associated with cities than her southern neighbor in Oregon. Crime in Vancouver is notably lower than Portland and traffic is much better. Downtown Vancouver also has a very close proximity to Portland with a short walk or swim *wink* across the Columbia into Portland and the two downtown areas are separated by only 7 miles along Interstate 5. Check out Urban Living in the 'Couv' here.

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Vancouver will have a hard time hiding its reputation as an experiment in urban sprawl. The city is predominately suburban in nature with tens of thousands of homes in perky little culdesac clad neighborhoods. It is still considered by some a suburb of Portland, OR. Not that there is anything wrong with suburbia, it is for many the American dream. But in reality, Vancouver is really a satellite city as it offers heavy industry, commercial, retail, has its own 5 terminal seaport, and other services on it's own sharing only the airport with Portland.

Vancouver's east side has a very Orange County California feel with big wide boulevards bisecting sections of massive suburban developments that date back to the 1970s but are mostly 1980s through 2020's.

It is interesting how Vancouver has grown into a pretty big city by growing into and over other towns from yesteryear. Orchards, Hazel Dell, Felida, Salmon Creek, Minnehaha, Walnut Grove, Barberton, Sifton, etc. Most of these were once separate towns / villages with a little "main street" of their own. These towns are still mostly intact but the urban area has grown them all together to form one big giant Vancouver with some 340,000 people. This is the Vancouver that everyone in Portland knows about and that they either love or hate.

The urban growth boundary for Vancouver covers roughly 90 square miles and at least 75 of those are built out to at least 1950s suburban density. This is another positive actually for Vancouver because the city has just about every kind of neighborhood there is. What ever someone is looking for, Vancouver has neighborhoods that align. Small house on big lot, check; big house on big lot, check; big house on small lot, check; small house on small lot, check. Modern neighborhood or classic tree lined Norman Rockwell style, we have it all in America's Vancouver.

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Living above the 45th Parallel

There is a strange thing about Portland and Vancouver. Most people in the USA don't realize just how far north this area is. It is south of Seattle so it isn't the furthest north in the lower 48 or anything like that. But is is further north than 97% of the American population and get this we are further north than HALF of the Canadian population! The 45th parallel is the halfway point between the equator and the pole. In our case, the north pole. That line of latitude is 55 miles south on Interstate 5 near Salem, Oregon. If you asked 1000 random Americans a series of questions about which is further north? "Portland or X" then list a series of traditionally northern US cities the fail rate would be very high.

The United States has three states that are entirely above the 45th parallel. They are Alaska, Washington, and North Dakota. That's it friends, every other state is either partially or completely south of the 45th.

So take a look at this list of traditionally "northern cities" that are further south than Vancouver, Washington.

  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Green Bay, WI
  • Detroit, MI
  • Buffalo, NY
  • Boston, MA
  • Portland, ME
  • Toronto, Canada
  • Montreal, Canada (very close)
As it stands there is only one major American city that is further north than Portland-Vancouver and that is Washington's own, Seattle.

So who cares how far north we are, right? Vancouver Canada is further north than us, big deal. Well, for most Americans the latitude shift from there to here is big. North of the 45th the winter days are very short and very dark. The sun doesn't climb very high into the sky so temperatures are rather cool. When cold air intrudes into the region it stays cold for a fairly long time. The Pacific Ocean and the westerly trade winds provide us with a natural warming that tends to keep sub-zero temperatures away, but the low hanging sun also keeps the warmth away. In the summer the daylight hours are dramatically extended compared to most of the US. Nearly 16 hours of daylight and another 2 hours of twilight make for wonderful summers. People from northern Europe get this phenomenon well. 

It takes a bit of getting used to, these wild shifts in daylight. The same low hanging sun in the winter that keeps us from having any warm weather in the winter applies to the summer. The sun still hangs relatively low in the summer compared to more southern locales. This is why 100° days are so few and far between for us. The low sun also helps create our lush shade gardens filled with natural Ferns and Hostas. 

So the good news is we get MORE sunshine in the summer than many places more noted for sunshine because the sun is out longer up here :) This higher latitude also leads us to flatter temperature curves between day and night. The average Low / High on January 1st is 32° / 42° and on July 1st it's 57° / 79° Compare that to say Sacramento, CA which is 39° / 57° on Jan 1st and 57° / 92° on July 1st.

In the summer it is light enough to read by till nearly 10pm. In the winter your car headlights are on at 3:00. That's just life above the 45th.

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Vancouver, USA

Vancouver is Southwest Washington's largest city and the defacto second largest city in Washington State. It has a very large urban growth boundary surrounding it that is largely built out yet much of it remains unincorporated. With roughly 350,000 people living in the fourteen postal zip codes that serve the city, 201,000 of which lie inside the city proper, Vancouver is merging from suburb of Portland to a rival city. There is little chance Vancouver will ever supplant Portland as the core city in this river and state split metro area, but it is rising up as an urban alternative to Portland.

Vancouver offers a wide variety of lifestyle, from suburbia to urban and even a little quasi-rural. Condos, apartments, single family homes, urban views, mountain views, house boats, you name it, Vancouver has it. The core of the city is small but fairly dense and becoming more and more vertical. Thousands of apartment and condo units in mid-rise and high-rise buildings are coming on line now and over the next few years. The new waterfront opened in the late summer, 2018. Build out of this new urban area will occur in a few years, This will be a fantastic urban riverfront community.

Vancouver enjoys a slighter lower housing cost than neighboring Portland, much better traffic, and schools that people seem to prefer. The city has a history as one of the oldest European settlements in the west, predating the Oregon Trail that ended in Oregon City. The Fort Vancouver National Historic Park is run by the National Park Service and is nearly 200 years old. Vancouver is the home to Southwest Washington's largest port and has some heavy industry along portions of the Columbia River providing good paying jobs. There is a sizable technology presence in the region including Vancouver. 

Vancouver real estate is all over the board. There are lots of older smaller cottage type homes that still can be found at well under the county wide median price. But Vancouver also has the counties most expensive real estate along the shores and bluffs above the Columbia River. Homes fetching millions of dollars lie along the Evergreen Hwy corridor.

Vancouver has nearly 15 miles of Columbia River waterfront with a range of residential, industrial, urban commercial and recreation as well as a 5 terminal port. The city has the very large yet shallow and urban Vancouver Lake, north of the port and west of the city. This lake serves as the "headwaters" for the Lake River which runs north along the western edge of Vancouver through Ridgfield and into the Columbia River. The Felida house boat community is located here. The City has many urban and "wild" park lands and green belts. The tree canopy throughout most of Vancouver remains dense.

Vancouver is served by several highways and freeways. Interstate 5 runs north and south from the Interstate Bridge (to Portland) along the waterfront downtown all the way through the city. Interstate 205 serves the east side running north and south from the Glen Jackson Bridge over the Columbia River (to Portland) all the way to the north end of the city where it merges with Interstate 5. SR-14 freeway runs east from its terminus at Interstate 5 downtown all the way through to Camas and beyond along the bluffs above the river. SR-500 is a freeway connecting Interstate 5 and Interstate 205 through the central portion of the city, the freeway currently terminates at 4th Plain Blvd but SR 500 continues east on Padden Parkway then out into the country as a back road to Camas. SR-501 runs from Downtown to the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge. SR-503 runs from Orchards North to Battleground.

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Cities and Towns in Clark County

Vancouver is the juggernaut city in Clark County with two thirds of the county population residing within its urban growth boundary. The rest of Clark County is a mix of rural and suburban. There are seven incorporated cities and towns in Clark County. Camas and Battle Ground have swapped titles as second largest city in the county several times but Camas has recently emerged as the definitive number two.


With just 27,000 residents, Camas is tiny compared to Vancouver, but it has a strong economy. The Georgia Pacific paper mill that used to define the city, is still operational, but is no longer the dominate employer. Tech firms such as Sharp and Wafertech operate large facilities in Camas. Fisher investments moved its world headquarters from the Bay Area to a large suburban campus in Camas a few years back. Camas borders Vancouver on the east and shares neighborhoods on the slopes of Prune Hill. Higher up on Prune Hill Camas developed nice neighborhoods with spectacular views to the west and south of Portland and Vancouver and to the east Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge. Camas residents enjoy popular schools, clean and tidy neighborhoods, and all the amenities of Vancouver's east side including the 164th and 192nd Avenue commercial corridors. Camas is one of the hottest real estate markets locally. It has the highest median home price of any city in Clark County. Camas has recently expanded its boundaries to develop more land north of Lacamas Lake and the population should see a spike as those housing units come online. Although Camas still clings a bit to its more rural history and small town charm, it has made the transition to upscale suburban whether it realizes it or not.

Camas lies on the Columbia River with a port shared with neighboring Washougal. The Washougal River empties into the Columbia at Camas. Camas has lovely parks including Lacamas Park and  Lacamas Lake. Camas is served by a freeway on SR-14 and also has SR-500 as a "back road" highway to Vancouver.

Battle Ground

With just about 21,000 residents this is the third largest city in the county. Battle Ground is not adjacent to any other city. It is the core commercial service center for a very large swath of rural area in the northern portion of the county. The town of Amboy is 12 miles north and the incorporated town of Yacolt is roughly the same 12 miles northeast. Battle Ground lies about 7 miles north of Vancouver's Orchards and about 15 miles to Downtown Vancouver. PDX is about 17 miles. There is a distinct separation between Battle Ground and Vancouver. Even with all the growth in Vancouver you still take a short "country" drive to get to Battle Ground. Some people enjoy that bit of space between the "town" and the "city." That same detachment can also lead some people to feel like battle Ground is too far out. Honestly, it isn't too far out at all. Perception is reality for many. Battle Ground serves as the gateway to the northern portions of Clark County including the three large reservoirs on the Lewis River; Lakes Merwin, Yale, and Swift. Battle Ground like Camas, still maintains a classic small town charm with a quintessential Main Street and a variety of classically rural business.

Just north of Battle Ground is the East Fork of the Lewis River and Lewisville Park. Immediately east of the city is the popular Battle Ground Lake State Park. Battle Ground has no freeway but is served by two state highways, SR-503 heads south to Vancouver and north to Cowlitz County. SR-502 heads west to I-5 in Ridgefield.


Coming in at around 17,000 residents, the 4th largest city in Clark County is a rising star. Washougal is the rival to Camas; it is immediately adjacent to the east of Camas. The rivalry dates way back to high school sports before either city was attached to the metro area. Washougal, like Battle Ground is a commercial service center for a massive swath of land that runs north up to Bear Prairie and east well into Skamania County and the Columbia River Gorge. The entrance to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, lies just east of Washougal. This ensures that Washougal will always be the eastern edge of the metro area. Washougal is a bit in between Battle Ground and Camas with regards to its small town heritage and upscale suburbia. Like Camas, Washougal has hills and bluffs overlooking the Gorge and the Columbia River, in recent years developers have been putting in nice view homes. Washougal is a bit more affordable than neighboring Camas. These homes in the hills are among my favorite in all of Clark County as they offer the same great views as Camas at a price 10-20% less. Check out Colorado Ridge.

Washougal hosts a national moto-cross event every year and many people in the area enjoy motocross and ATV recreation. There is a nice recreation area nearby called Jones Creek that allows for moto-cross and ATV use year round. Washougal is also the site for one of the three National Wildlife Refuge areas in Clark County. Steigerwald NWR. Washougal is further supported by a Port on the Columbia shared with Camas.

Washougal lies on the shores of the Columbia River and also features the Washougal River winding its way through town. The Washougal is an unimpeded river that offers substantial recreational opportunities. There is a large rural and suburban riverfront property opportunity along more than 10 miles of its lower run. Washougal is served by SR-14 between Camas to the west and the Columbia River Gorge to the east.


With 10,000 people, Ridgefield is on the verge of explosive growth. Back before the recession and subsequent real estate crash, Ridgefield had already annexed a large piece of territory stretching from the town proper on the Lake River to the other side of Interstate 5. With 7 square miles, the City of Ridgefield has the roughly the same physical area as Battle Ground which has double its population. The town itself is is three miles east of I-5 on the shore of the Lake River and adjacent to the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge which is a major "hub" for many migratory birds.

Ridgefield is home to one of three house boat communities in Clark County. The other two are in Vancouver at Caterpillar Island and Felida. Ridgefield has an adorable little downtown and features a number of annual events including their famous "old fashioned" 4th of July parade. Ridgefield is in the process of renovating its waterfront area on the Lake River.

Ridgefield's zip code penetrates into the Vancouver Urban Growth Boundary and the northern reaches of Vancouver's Mount Vista neighborhood are in Ridgefield and within Ridgefield's school district. This means that the high school school is 7 miles away. I'd love to see a school boundary and zip code rewrite in this area, but the bureaucracy is probably enormous. Some of the Ridgefield area homes feature spectacular views of the Cascade Range including prominent peaks, Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood. There is a large area around Ridgefield with large homes on small acreage (2-5 acres)

Ridgefield is served by Interstate 5 South to Vancouver and Portland and North to Seattle. SR-501 between the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge to the west and I-5 on the east. SR-502 connects Ridgefield and Battle Ground.

La Center 

This little town has just 1.25 square miles of land area and a population of roughly 3,000 people. Home to several card room casinos that used to do a robust business are now waning a bit under the intense pressure of the Ilani Casino opened in 2017 by the Cowlitz Indians. Ilani is in the Ridegfield zip code but is for all intents in La Center. The casino is a major draw and is also providing jobs as the Cowlitz tribe is nowhere near big enough to supply the thousands of jobs needed to support a large casino operation. The 14 story Ilani Resort Hotel is under construction now and should be completed by 2023. The town of La Center is charming and filled with adorable houses. There are some upscale neighborhoods on the hillsides offering nice territorial views. La Center also supports a large surrounding rural area with a great many small acreage properties with homes on five acres quite common. La Center has its own schools from K-12 that serve the immediate area in and around the city. The east Fork of the Lewis River passes through La Center. The city is served by I-5 at exit 16.


The smallest incorporated town in the county is home to roughly 1,700 people. The tiny logging town is one of Washington's smallest incorporated towns. Yacolt sits up in the Cascade foothills bordering state forestry lands and the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. People who like to hunt, fish, and ride in the vast State and Federal forest lands, will love Yacolt which lies right on the boundary. A few excellent parks lie along the east Fork of the Lewis River such as Moulton Falls, Sunset Falls, Lucia Falls and Wormwood State Park. At a base elevation of more than 700 feet Yacolt is the highest incorporated place in Clark County. Although Camas has the summit of Prune Hill which is higher, the base elevation at Camas is close to sea level.

Unincorporated Towns 

Hockinson has about 6,000 people and has its own school district with two elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school. There is a quaint little town with many small acreage home sites in the area. Hockinson lies at the base of the Cascade foothills between East Vancouver and Battle Ground.

Brush Prairie has about 3,000 residents. It has a classic little main street with a tavern, post office and other retail. Brush Prairie shares its zip code with Hockinson and lies just off SR 503 between Vancouver and Battle Ground. Prairie High School is part of the Battle Ground school district but is located in Vancouver just south of Brush Prairie. The school serves Brush Prairie, Barberton, and a sizable chunk of Vancouver's greater Orchards area.

Amboy has a middle school that serves Yacolt and the surrounding area. That school feeds Battle Ground High School. Amboy is a cute little town on SR-503 half way to the lakes from Battle Ground. There is a large surrounding area with many homes on small acreage.

Dollars Corner this little village is almost entirely wiped out by the huge SR 502 highway project. Once home to a number of antique and junk shops the area is now more of a local footnote. There are many homes on small acreage in the area.

Meadow Glade is on the verge of becoming part of the ever growing city of Battle Ground. Home to many homes on small acreage and a few little neighborhoods, the area also has two prominent private Christian schools.

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Taxes and Government

Washington State and Oregon are both moderate taxation states. Either will feel like a reprieve from places like New York or California. Oregon is noteworthy for two things regarding taxation. One is bad the other good. Oregon has no sales tax. This is widely regarded as good. Oregon however makes up for that with one of the nation's most aggressive state income taxes. One only needs to have an adjusted gross income of $8,500, yes you read that right, eight thousand five hundred (as of 2019) to be subjected to the ridiculous 9% tax bracket. Ouch, taxing the poor that's wrong on so many levels.

Washington state does not have an income tax. This is gloriously good. We do have a sales tax and it is a bit aggressive. Depending on the locale it runs between 7.2% - 10% with Clark county near the lower end at 8.2 - 8.4% For most people an income tax is more expensive than a sales tax. The income tax is applied to your gross earnings where as a sales tax is applied only to things you buy at a store or a service. Many Washingtonians that live near the border with Oregon are doing all their shopping on the Oregon side of the River thus avoiding sales tax. This will not work on registered things like a firearm, car, boat, RV, etc. It is of important note, that the state of Washington's sales tax is also a use tax and items purchased in Oregon for the use in Washington are subject to be taxed. It is a difficult enforcement for the State so they tend to look the other way. Businesses engaged with Washington State or local government agencies and those government agencies themselves do pay tax even on items purchased in Oregon unless otherwise exempt.

This border relationship has led to a bit of a retail desert in Vancouver and an oasis of retail shoved up against the southern shore of the Columbia River in Portland. Vancouver does have two Costco Stores but both Best Buy Electronics stores closed, one of them moving to Jansen Beach on the island in the middle of Columbia, in Portland. Furthering the retail woes on the north shore of the mighty river is the new Washington State law that requires Oregonians to claim tax exemption only once per year rather than showing ID at the store to be exempt. Oregonians now have to save up all the receipts in Washington and get reimbursed once each year. For Vancouver shoppers this is only a minor inconvenience as many Portland stores are just across the river a very short drive for locals.

Additionally our southern neighbor Oregon is the only western state that does not operate under community property law. California, Washington, Nevada, Idaho, and Arizona are Community Property Law states.


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