Incorporated in 1890, Kalama is a community of just over 2500 people nestled near the lowest point of the Columbia river as it journeys out to sea. It has been the terminus of the Northern Pacific Railway, the county seat of Cowlitz county, and one of many filming locations for the first Twilight film.

Picture of banner denoting Kalama as a twilight film location.

It's either named for John Kalama, a Hudson's Bay Company employee said to have worked in the area in the early 1800s, or for a Cowlitz word meaning "beautiful," "stone," or "pretty maiden." Which of those two narratives you find more likely probably has more to say about how you feel about tribal rights and European imperialism than it does with how true either of them are.

The story the town wants to tell about itself is that of John Kalama, a native Hawaiian.

Picture of stone plaque dedicated to John Kalama on behalf of the town.

There's very little about the town that feels Hawaiian. Like many small sleepy towns long past their heyday, there's very little about Kalama to draw the average passer-by off the freeway. Perhaps this is why they cling to whatever bits of fame they can, such has having been a filming location for Twilight. Once the sparkle wears off all that's left is a gas station, several antique shops, and a gastropub named Willie Dick's.

Coming from a big city it's easy to poke fun at small towns like Kalama, but in so doing it's also easy to miss the people that live their whole lives in small town America. Their dreams are no less valid. Their stories are no less interesting. To disregard these places is to miss most of what America has to offer.

Coming from a big city it's easy to think that city life is superior. Late night eateries. The glitz and the glamour. The services and amenities. But nothing about what a city has to offer is inherently better. It's just different.

Small town America isn't better or worse than big city America. It's just different. And our differences have always been our greatest strength.

History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.
-- Napoleon Bonaparte