Longview, Washington is an industrial/timber town on the banks of the Columbia River. I used it as an overnight stop, because the hotels were cheaper than in Portland. It’s the biggest place you’ll find along this stretch of I-5.
I ended up in Longview, Washington for the final night of my vacation. I had to fly out of Portland the following day, and it would have made sense to drive on into Portland for the night. But, for some reason, hotel prices in Portland were sky-high on this particular day, so I did a little searching…
… and discovered the Monticello Hotel. This grand old hotel is located off of R.A. Long Square. Long was the town’s namesake, and a lumber baron, who had the entire town of Longview built, using private funds, to provide a community for the thousands of workers he would need at his new milling operation nearby. The Monticello was part of that original town plan. It celebrated its grand opening two days after the town was dedicated, in July, 1923.
These days, the Monticello is a strange combination of historical treasure, luxury hotel, and haunted mansion. I’m not saying the place is filled with ghosts. I have no idea whether it is or isn’t. But, if ghosts were looking for a place to hang out, it would be in this lobby.
Once you pass through the revolving door, you’re in a cavernous room. Paintings, depicting Lewis and Clark’s journey through the northwest, surround you on the ceiling.
There’s an old elevator — and I mean, a really old elevator, complete with the kind of floor indicator you only see these days in cartoons.
Chandeliers hang over a long front desk. It’s not run-down, but it’s not modern either. It’s hauntingly quiet — maybe if some music was coming from the old piano it would feel more inviting.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see anything besides the lobby.
The Monticello Hotel also offers a “motel” section, next-door. This is where I stayed, because the rooms were cheaper. And that’s something I really don’t understand. The big old hotel was super creepy, while the motel was clean and modern and comfortable. It seems like the hotel should be cheaper, and the motel more expensive. I would have loved to have stayed in the hotel, just for the weirdness of it — but I don’t think it was worth the extra cash.
There’s one thing in Longview that I didn’t know about at the time, and therefore didn’t see. Arguably, it’s the most important reason to visit Longview. It’s the “Nutty Narrows Bridge”… a suspension bridge built for squirrels. The first Nutty Narrows Bridge was built in 1963, and it has since been moved, repaired, and other squirrel bridges have also been built. The idea was to provide a safe alternative to running across a busy street. The Nutty Narrows Bridge purports to be the world’s narrowest bridge, and the world’s longest animal crossing.
What’s most disappointing is, Nutty Narrows Bridge is located just a short, one-minute walk from my motel room at the Monticello. It crosses Olympia Way, which is one of the roads that turns off of the loop around the town square.
Next time, squirrels. Next time.
On the very opposite end of the bridge-size spectrum is the Lewis and Clark Bridge across the Columbia River. You’ll find it on the south side of town, near Longview’s port and industrial area. I crossed it while making a last-minute, end-of-the-day run out to the Pacific Ocean. US 30 is on the Oregon side of the bridge, which you can take west to Astoria and US 101.
The Bottom Line
Monticello provides a good place for an overnight stop, and serves as a good jumping-off location for trips to the coast or down to Portland. The Monticello is historically interesting, albeit spooky. The Nutty Narrows Bridge is not-to-be-missed, like I did.
Longview is located about an hour north of Portland on Interstate 5. It’s also about an hour east of Astoria, Oregon, and perhaps 90 minutes away from the closest Pacific beaches. In addition to I-5, you’ll find US 30 just to the south of town, on the Oregon side of the river.
Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive on I-5 into Longview…
… and Longview to Astoria…
… and Longview to Portland, Oregon: