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Posted By Toutle Trekker

With the upcoming hunting season in "sight", my family headed to the local shooting range to "scope" out our rifles.  (Puns intended!)  We had never been there before, and I was a bit uneasy about practicing at an official range.  But with smoke around and high fire danger the range was a better choice for practicing instead of the family's tree farm.  Afterward, we were all glad we tried the official route for sighting in our deer rifles.  It was so much fun that we have added a new activity for rainy days this winter, too.

The Cowlitz Public Shooting Range is operated by the Cowlitz Game and Angler's Club, but is owned by Cowlitz County Parks.  It is located at the end of Toutle Park Road on spoils dredged from the Toutle River.  As you shoot here, you are standing on the old top of Mount St. Helens which traveled down the river as a massive mudflow.   The US Army Corps of Engineers acquired several areas of property to store this mountain of sand and ash, and when all that work was completed the land was given to the County Parks for a public purpose.  The site is ideal, since the sandy mudflow material could be piled and scooped to form the backstops and berms needed for a range.

 As one would imagine, getting a new gun range started is a red-tape nightmare, and it took years of grants, volunteer hours, unexpected expenses, forty-four special provisions, lawsuit threats, and political name calling to see this new range built.  But, with partnerships and dedication, and a last second donation of large equipment hours, the range was finally opened to use in 2013.  (If you are interested in backstory politics, just search the archives of The Longview Daily News.)

When you arrive at the range, the volunteers will fill you in on all the safety procedures.  It takes a few "rounds" to fully understand the rules, some of which seem arbitrary, like do not touch paper targets during a no shooting time, but there is a good reason for each one.  Children and spectators are allowed, and since the shooting shed is open, face coverings are not required if six feet can be maintained.  Be sure to bring your own firearm and targets along with ear and eye protection.  The shooting benches are very solid, and sandbags are also available.  Targets can be set out between 50 to 300 yards, and there are seperate pistol and long-gun areas.  The range is currently applying for a state grant to expand the trap shooting area.  Check out the details at the range's website.




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