TUMWATER HISTORIC DISTRICT
Tumwater (the Chinook jargon word for a waterfall), known as the end of the Oregon Trail or Cowlitz Trail, is the oldest permanent American settlement on Puget Sound. It is located at the mouth of the Deschutes River where it cascades into Puget Sound at its most southerly point.
In 1845, Michael T. Simmons, led the first group of permanent American settlers to Tumwater Falls. The 31 members of the Simmons party laboriously cut a wagon trail that became the northern branch of the Oregon Trail. Others followed, with the establishment of Olympia in 1850 and settlement of the natural prairies and river bottom lands throughout the county in the 1850’s.
Tumwater, known as “Washington’s First Community,” was the starting point for further American settlements at Olympia, Seattle, Whidbey Island, and other points on Puget Sound. It was from Puget Sound that the movement to divide Oregon grew, resulting in the creation of Washington Territory in 1853.