Located conveniently at the crossroads between two states, Rainier enjoys the patronage and favor of residents from Oregon and Washington.
The town, which is just a short distance across the Lewis and Clark Bridge, was at one time a small trading post known as Eminence. That was in 1836. Fifteen years later, it became known as Rainier. Rainier was incorporated in 1885.
With a current population of about 1,750, the city has seen its share of hardship - from fires in 1904 and 1924 that gutted the business district, to massive layoffs that occurred after the closure of the Crown Zellerbach sawmill at Wauna and through the subsequent powering down of the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant.
Despite these bumps in the road, the town continues to blossom along the shores of the Columbia River. A newly revamped city park offers scenic views of the waterfront, handy space for walkers and children, and a place for the seasonal Saturday Market-in-the-Park and the town's annual festival, Rainier Days in the Park.
Right near the new boat launching ramp is an impressive array of new apartments and condos overlooking the Columbia River; with more coming.
The downtown area is dotted with family-operated stores and various spots for visitors to sit and enjoy a good meal or a cold drink.
With a population of about 1,750, it's definitely a poor cousin to vibrant Longview directly across the Columbia River in Washington. Like most Oregon towns that face river or ocean, Rainier tumbles down a hill to the water. This makes for lots of residences with spectacular views, and lots of steep hills.
The path of U.S. 30, right through the heart of the city, means most people whiz by without stopping. Before spending a few days there, your image of the town might me shabby roadside businesses and a big white-columned City Hall - a town, it may seem, without a heart and not much soul.
Rainier is optimistic and pressing forward. Riverfront Park has been redeveloped, and a mile-long river walk is under construction. The town has a gritty, callused feel. Everyone wears jeans, and gregarious working people populate the taverns drinking beer- in one place from quart Mason jars. It's a boom-and-bust place. For years, lumber and fishing were the economy's mainstays. Those industries waned and the Trojan Nuclear Plant supplied a new employment base. Portland General Electric's decision in the '90s to mothball the plant shook Rainier badly, but U.S. Gypsum Co. put some back to work when it built a plant nearby.
Most of Rainier's products come the old-fashioned way - sawed, pulverized, welded or hammered together. This isn't the information economy. Consider tugboats pulling and grunting. Watching one of them haul a towering metal hulk down the river is a stirring sight. Tugs also are born in Rainier. Foss Maritime's Rainier shipyard builds two a year and has doubled its size since 2003. Foss doesn't permit sightseers in the boatyard, but anyone can go upstairs to the company's offices and view the shipyard and the river from the broad windows. You also can stand behind a cyclone fence near the main building and observe a Dolphin tugboat take shape.
Residents are reminded constantly that this is not a boutique town by the huge industrial plants and the Port of Longview across the river. Some find the belching smoke, the acres of buildings, the mountains of wood chips and the constant push and tug along the river blight.
Others find it wonderfully scenic, a constant blast of energy and life. Go to Rainier for the smokestacks and the kind of people who build them and work them.
Rainier was founded in 1851 on the south bank of the Columbia River by Charles E. Fox and was originally named Eminence. The name Rainier was taken from Mount Rainier in Washington, which can be seen from hills above the city.
In 1854 F. M. Warren erected a large steam sawmill and began producing lumber for the homes and other buildings of the settlers. Rainier was incorporated in 1885.
For much of the last quarter of the twentieth century, Rainier was known to the rest of Oregon as home to Trojan Nuclear Power Plant, the only commercial nuclear reactor in the state, which supplied electricity to Portland and its suburbs starting in March of 1976. This reactor was closed periodically due to structural problems, and in January 1993, it was decommissioned after cracks developed in the steam tubes. On May 21, 2006, the cooling tower was demolished.
The closing of the Trojan plant set off a decline in the number of businesses in the city. While some retail and services are available in the city, there is currently, for example, no supermarket remaining in the city. Services are available in neighboring Clatskanie, St. Helens, and in Longview, Washington.
Hudson-Parcher Park: Popular with family groups, sports groups and others looking for peaceful Forest and field campsites. This park offers easy access to fishing, boating and windsurfing in the nearby Columbia River.
Laurel Beach: A day use facility with access to one of the Columbia Rivers many fishing spots and outstanding bird viewing.
Prescott Beach: Hosts one of the Columbia Rivers finest fishing and windsurfing site. The Park includes a covered picnic shelter, playground, gazebo, horseshoe pit and sand volleyball courts.
Camp Wilkerson: 280 acres of secluded forest. It's easy to "get back to nature" at the beautiful park, which has been featured in a made-for-television movie. It includes cabins, adirondacks, tent sites and a rust day lodge complete with cooking facilities.
Rainier Days in the Park: Rainier's Annual Festival
Saturday Market-in-the-Park: Completed its second season in 2006. There was musical entertainment, a Parade Your Pooch competition, and new and creative vendors, along with veterans from the previous year, offering fresh fruits and produce, custom made jewelry, purses, arts and crafts, and more. Most importantly, the Saturday Market has become a "happening" that helps unite the community, meet with old friends, and find new friends.