Big Bottom Valley
As you head east out of Morton, the highway swings south again to link with roads that access the upper end of Riffe Lake and the Cowlitz River Valley. The broad lowland floodplain is surrounded by forested foothills, with occasional views of the big volcanoes. This district includes several more lakeside parks with boating, camping, and fishing. Randle, the largest community in the district, is the turning-off point for the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument and Columbia River Gorge. The valley bottom is prime elk habitat—especially in the winter months as elk come down from the highlands—and they can frequently be seen in large herds in the valley’s extensive grassland grazing areas. Side roads from the highway in this district provide access to the rich recreational opportunities in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, including hiking trails, scenic backcountry driving routes, and mountain biking sites.