Take a drive, away from the noise of the city and into the Washington country. Not too far lies an ornament of history. 15 minutes from I-5 and only 30 minutes from Vancouver, the roads to Cedar Creek Grist Mill are Sunday-drive perfect — windy, sleepy and nestled in the shadows of hazy hills and mountains. These roads know the way to the best-kept secrets and lead to wondrous surprises seen only in coffee table books. The Cedar Creek Grist Mill is one of those rare treats, a jewel at the narrow of Cedar Creek Gorge, and is a fine example of architecture that is most beautifully experienced in person.
Cedar Creek Grist Mill History
Built in 1876, the originally named “Red Bird Mill” served as a producer of flour, cornmeal and livestock feed for neighboring farmers. Changing hands and with the times, the mill had many roles serving as a blacksmith shop, machine shop, apartment and even an entertainment venue for music and dancing. A European style turbine developed in the 1840’s, known as the Leffel turbine, is still in use at Cedar Creek Grist Mill today and can power up to 600 cubic feet of water per minute at full potential.
Upstream, a 650-foot flume funnels water directly down to the intake, allowing the mill to be completely powered by hydroelectricity. The restoration focused on keeping the authenticity and is impeccable considering the number of owners and weathering it has endured. Though the mill is functional, it is now operating as a working museum and special events venue made possible by devoted volunteers and non-profit “The Friends of the Cedar Creek Grist Mill”.
Visiting Cedar Creek Grist Mill
The business of the mill may have struggled throughout its life, but an appreciation and respect of the structure itself is apparent in the efforts to maintain the magic it holds in its bones. The restored covered bridge before the mill entrance is a stunning surprise crossing over the rushing, cold creek and passes right through the moss-covered trees. A pedestrian path runs along the bridge leading visitors to the opposite side of the creek where a small trail and picnic table area allows for the most picturesque, daydream-inspiring view.
Cedar Creek Grist Mill is a historical gift to the Washington countryside. Stepping inside the great, dim room smelling of wood and freshwater stream, you can almost hear the clanging of old blacksmith tools and laughter of the social events from not so long ago. Take a drive and feel like a part of a story or scene from an old favorite movie. Bring a bit of history home in a bag of flour, cornmeal, or recipes gifted by the devoted volunteers. Make a trip in the Summer to taste strawberry shortcake, or venture out in October to take part in the crushing of apples for cider accompanied by the sounds of bluegrass music. And remember to take pictures — lots of pictures — the mill is quite the muse.