Castle Rock, the Gateway to Mount St. Helens, is situated between the Cowlitz River and Interstate 5 – located 134 miles south of Seattle, Washington and 63 miles north of Portland, Oregon. It is the northern most city in Cowlitz County, with a 2010 Census population of nearly 2,000 residents.

Spirit Lake Memorial Highway (State Route 504) connects the city to the Mount St. Helens National Monument and Spirit Lake recreation areas – two of the most outstanding tourist attractions in Washington State.


With close to 2,000 residents, Castle Rock’s population is little changed from a decade earlier. However, growth is occurring around the community. Population within a five-mile ring of Castle Rock increased by 10% over the last decade; countywide population increased at a similar rate, to a 2010 Census figure of just over 102,400.

More telling is the market population reached within a convenient drive from Castle Rock. As illustrated by the map to the right, as of 2010 there are an estimated:

  • 9,600 residents within a 5- mile radius of Castle Rock
  • More than 68,700 within 10 miles
  • 97,700 at 15 miles
  • 188,000 at 30 miles
  • More than 2.3 million within 60 miles

Demographics of the 10-mile trade area are favorable for household spending potential. At

$53,500+ per household, incomes exceed those of Cowlitz County. Housing values are also higher, as are homeownership rates.pop

Population by Distance from Castle Rock

5 miles:  9,600
10 miles:  68,700
15 miles:  97,700
30 miles:  188,000
60 miles:  2.3 million

Castle Rock is family oriented – with higher proportions of school age children than is the case for all of Cowlitz County and the state of Washington. Within an immediate 5-mile area, nearly 62% of persons age 15 and over are married – well above comparable rates county and statewide.

A Good Place to Work

Employers have a good base of workers from which to draw – both locally and for those who live within a reasonable driving radius.

The number of persons age 16+ who are employed is estimated at:

  • More than 3,600 within 5 miles of Castle Rock
  • 25,200 at a 10-mile distance
  • Over 35,700 within 15 miles
  • Close to 71,500 at 30 miles
  • More than 1 million workers within a 60-mile radius

Compared to the entire state of Washington, Castle Rock and Cowlitz County have a high proportion of its workforce employed in manufacturing industries. From an occupational perspective, relatively high proportions of Castle Rock area workers are employment in service, construction, production,

Employment by Distance from Castle Rockemployment

  • 5 miles:    3,600
  • 10 miles:  25,200
  • 15 miles:  35,700
  • 30 miles:  71,500
  • 60 miles:  1.025 million

Note: Employment is by place of residence. Source: ESRI, E. D. Hovee & Company, LLC and transportation/materials moving occupations.

There undoubtedly are area residents who would like opportunities for more employment closer to home. As of the 2010 Census, the average commute time for a Castle Rock resident was longer than for all workers statewide – and with relatively high rates of local ownership of two or more vehicles.

Full Service Shopping

Key businesses in town include grocery stores, hardware, auto repair, a variety of restaurants (both fast food and sit down), pharmacy, bakery, florist and gift shops, antiques, medical offices, dental, chiropractic, real estate offices, computer repair, child care facilities, lodging, gas stations, auto parts, UPS collection site, clothing, towing services, fish/game licensing, feed store, Fibre Federal Credit Union, Cowlitz Bank, insurance providers, women’s fitness, beauty/barber shops, and U.S. Post Office.

As of 2010, there were nearly 13,300 residents living in 5,150 households located within five miles of Castle Rock and extending beyond to cover the remainder of the north Cowlitz County area (including Toutle).

This north Cowlitz County population base supports a total retail spending potential estimated at $114 million per year. Of this, just over $61 million is provided from retail sales made by businesses actually located within the trade area. This leaves a retail gap (or sales leakage) approaching $53 million.

There are two categories of retail activity for which sales realized exceed what is supported by trade area population on its own – gasoline stations and non-store retailers (as with electronic shopping and mail order houses). These represent establishments with substantial sales to persons living outside of the north Cowlitz County area.

The retail gap for all under-represented merchandise categories increases to an estimated $71 million (excluding the two categories that experience above average sales performance). In effect, area residents are making about 62% of their retail purchases outside the immediate trade area – whether elsewhere in Cowlitz County or by traveling further as to Vancouver/Portland or the Puget Sound region.

The greatest sales leakage is noted for automotive and related activity, at $22-$23 million annually – followed by grocery, general merchandise (including department and discount store), and dining.

Despite the high dollar volume of lost sales, it should not be expected that Castle Rock will be able to fully recapture sales leakage across all categories. For example, the minimum threshold of sales volume for new auto dealers generally requires a population base that is greater than what Castle Rock and north Cowlitz County alone can support.

Castle Rock Trade Area Retail Sales Leakage (2010) (in millions of dollars) 

Note: Sales leakage is calculated as retail sales supported by the local resident purchasing power minus purchases actually made in the trade area.

Source: ESRI and E. D. Hovee & Company, LLC

For categories such as grocery, general merchandise, home furnishings, building materials and pharmacy/health care, the potential sales volume should support more local retail – whether for national, regional or local independent and franchise retailers not requiring a big box format for profitable business operations. And small independent businesses in rural communities can often compete well for some forms of apparel, specialty retail, and dining that cater both to resident and visitor clientele.

New Businesses

New businesses to locate in Castle Rock include: McDonald’s currently under construction, Parker’s Steakhouse and Brewery, and wine business.

Supporting Businesses

A number of public efforts are underway or completed to support local businesses, including the Mount St. Helens Broadband Study and the Fire and Ice Scenic Loop.

The Mount St. Helens Broadband Study, funded by the Broadband office of the Washington State Department of Commerce, was to complete a gap and needs analysis and an economic impact study of broadband and telecommunication availability along State Routes 503 and 504 in Cowlitz County and Forest Road 90 in Skamania County. Completed in June 2013, the report’s areas of focus included increasing:

  • Economic opportunities along the routes with identifying essential infrastructure gaps and needs
  • Tourism through accessibility
  • Public safety in remote locations
  • Educational opportunities at the Mount St. Helens Science and Learning Center at Coldwater Lake

The Fire and Ice Scenic Loop is a four-county regional effort to identify opportunities for infrastructure and transportation improvements, economic development opportunities, coordination of marketing and tourism-related information and materials, and work to mutually advance the success of tourists, potential businesses and current residents. The project includes private businesses, citizens, community organizations, local, county, state and federal elected officials and agencies. The purpose is to better link two nationally recognized and established Scenic Byways – White Pass and Lewis and Clark – and encourage visitation along mini-trips and/or larger loops throughout the region.

Great Recreation & Entertainment

Diverse outdoor activities available at Castle Rock’s doorstep include hiking, bicycling, fishing, boating, hunting, motorcycle racing, and numerous sporting events (baseball, wrestling, soccer, running, and football). In addition, the community hosts the annual Mountain Mania Festival and Castle Rock Fair, which are both held in July.

When the community puts on an event, it goes with class and style – as with the recently inaugurated end-of-year Festival of Lights.

The Sand and Misery Challenge is a 5-kilometer obstacle course located at the North County Sports Complex in Castle Rock. The obstacles include: K-9 obstacle, wire low crawl, ladder crawl, sand trap, pipe crawl, swamp pit, sea of tires, trenches, and barrier wall. This annual event started in March 2011, and the proceeds benefit the North County Sports Complex and the Boy Scouts of America.

The Sand and Misery Challenge illustrates the wide geographic appeal of Castle Rock festivals and events. The map to the right shows the counties from which people come for this annual event.

Based on a 2012 survey of participant zip codes, 18 Washington and Oregon counties are represented, reaching from Washington’s Skagit County on the north down to Oregon’s Lane County on the south.

The greatest numbers of participants hail from Cowlitz County. Other areas with strong representation are Mason and Clark Counties in Washington and Multnomah and Clackamas Counties in Oregon. A location midway between the Pacific Northwest’s two largest metro areas and outstanding I-5 freeway access reinforce this opportunity for other similar types of destination activity.

The Castle Rock Exhibit Hall/Visitor’s Information Center is located in the Historic Downtown of Castle Rock and displays carvings, photographs and exhibits relating to Mount St. Helens. The Exhibit Hall received just under 2,900 visitors in 2012. Since 2009, the number of visitors to the Exhibit Hall have increased an average of 20% per year.

The Mount St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake is situated approximately 6 miles east of Castle Rock on State Route 504. It is owned and operated by Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and receives more than 300,000 visitors per year.


Looking for the best place to relocate or expand your business? Working with Cowlitz County and the Cowlitz Economic Development Council, the City of Castle Rock has completed a Strategic Marketing Implementation Plan focused on providing options for businesses whether for an existing building or for vacant developable acreage.

Industrial & Commercial Sites

Castle Rock has identified sites suitable for industrial and commercial business location and expansion. As designated by the City’s Comprehensive Plan, these sites are situated in four economic development areas of Castle Rock:

  • Historic Downtown
  • Tourism Pocket at Exit 49
  • Industrial/Commercial Pocket at Exit 48
  • Four Corners Pocket west of the Cowlitz River

The City has inventoried existing buildings in each of these four districts, including opportunities for added business or investment. In addition, larger industrial and commercial site opportunities both east and west of the Cowlitz River have been identified.

Added information is available by contacting the Building and Planning office of the City of Castle Rock or the Cowlitz County Economic Development Council (see last page of this brochure).

Levee Certification

In 2010, the City of Castle Rock became only one of two entities in all of EPA Region 10 (covering Washington, Oregon and Idaho) to “certify” their levee system with FEMA to protect against a potential “100 year flood” event. That system protects properties located on the east side of the Cowlitz River from the north city limits to the intersection of Huntington Ave South and Front Ave SW. This equates to a 1% or less chance of flooding.

What does this levee certification mean to property owners and potential developers?

1) Those properties that are protected by this certified levee system are acknowledged by FEMA to be protected more so than most other properties that is behind any other levee system in EPA Region 10.

2) That certification greatly minimizes the need for flood insurance now or in the near future.

3) Bottom line, this certification should give developers a higher level of security about their investments in areas protected by the Castle Rock Levee System.


The City of Castle Rock has a community-supported road-map for the future. The City’s Vision Statement adopted with a Community Action Plan makes this commitment to a full-service, vibrant small town community abundantly clear:

Castle Rock: Where Past, Present and Future Come Together

Castle Rock is a wonderful place to live, work and play. It’s a community where the people are as resilient and vibrant as the natural features that surround their home; a place where life-long residents and visitors alike feel they are part of the same tight-knit family.

Castle Rock values and celebrates its historical roots, while always planning for and embracing its future.

Over the years, community organizations and volunteers have joined forces with local government to create an impressive menu of year-round recreational activities, town festivals and cultural attractions. They have helped make Castle Rock a place where people not only want to come…but a place people want to stay.

Citizens and government work in partnership with business and industry to support and enhance the city’s diverse economic base. The fruit of their efforts can be seen in a thriving downtown core, bustling I-5 business district and an ever expanding mix of employment opportunities. People in Castle Rock understand that a balanced, prosperous economy fuels a healthy social environment.

The community places a premium on life-long learning. Schools enjoy strong public support, and extended education opportunities – from specialized vocational training to personal-enrichment courses – are available to people of all ages.

Castle Rock is a place people are proud to call home; a place where each generation works to pass along to their children the sense of safety and comfort provided by their own parents. It’s a place where the past, present and future come together.

Strategic Marketing Plan

Following the completion of the Community Action Plan in 2002, the next step involved preparation of a Castle Rock Strategic Plan – intended to present a clear plan of action for improving business conditions and as a road map to attract and retain employers. Four specific goals were set in place by the plan, completed in 2005:

  • Make Castle Rock a desirable business location.
  • Grow retail and service business sector in order for residents to more frequently shop locally.
  • Enhance Castle Rock's appeal to visitors.
  • Create new investment and jobs in Castle Rock.

Successful implementation of Castle Rock’s Strategic Marketing Plan is being measured by Castle Rock’s ability to buck the trend of dying industries and downtowns in small towns. A related goal is to inspire Castle Rock's youth to pursue employment and entrepreneurial business opportunities in their hometown. Actions being put on-the-ground with this marketing plan are an industrial and commercial site marketing program coupled with creation of an ombudsperson to facilitate private business investment – as business liaison for site and development permitting assistance.

Community Awards

Castle Rock's community projects and volunteers are receiving local, statewide, and national recognition for a record of accomplishments, exemplified by the:

  • Recognition from the Lieutenant Governor’s office as one of the oldest cities in the State of Washington, celebrating the 150th anniversary of its settlement in October 2002.
  • U.S. Forest Service Rural Community Assistance National Action Award – in The Spirit Of Working Together For Rural America. This recognition is provided for outstanding accomplishments for recognizing the need and leading change to diversify the economy, improve the quality of life, and meet the needs of citizens of all ages.
  • Association of Washington Cities Municipal Achievement Gold Medal Award – awarded to the Cowlitz Riverfront Trail project.
  •  City of Castle Rock completion in 2011 of a downtown revitalization project with street, sidewalk and lighting improvements.
  •  Washington State Department of Transportation and Federal Highway
  • Administration Director’s Award for the rehabilitation of Cowlitz Street West in 2012.
  •  Cowlitz on the Move through the Healthy Lifestyles Coalition, in recognition of improving healthy lifestyles of Cowlitz County residents through policy and environmental change.
  •  National recognition for the best flower baskets in 2012 from America in Bloom plus
  • 2nd place award in the overall floral awards score for U.S. cities under 3,000 population.

Castle Rock is committed to see your business locate, grow and flourish in our community.

To find out how, visit us or contact:

City of Castle Rock |  Joanne Purvis Building & Planning 360-274-8181

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