Buyer sought for Tumtum Mountain

Asking price for distinctive hill cut from $1.4 million to $699,900

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

Published:

 
Tumtum Mountain

Want to buy a mountain?

If so, real estate broker Terri Eklund has a deal for you.

Eklund is selling Tumtum Mountain, a symmetrical, cone-shaped hill in northern Clark County, near the tiny community of Chelatchie Prairie. Listed at $699,900, the asking price for the 1,400-foot-tall Tumtum has dropped about 50 percent from its earlier price of $1.4 million. That could draw prospective buyers to check out the bald-headed peak, said Eklund, hired to sell Tumtum as part of the estate of logging company owner Billie McKee Sr., who died in February.

“At this price, you can make it into whatever you want it to be,” said Eklund, a real estate broker with Re/Max Equity Group in Vancouver.

Her hunch is that Tumtum will be sold as a recreational site.

The 360-acre mountain property is under a forestry zoning, which means its physical characteristics are capable of management for long-term production of commercial forest products.

The mountain had been owned by McKee since he purchased it in 1988 from Delaware-based Cavenham Forest Industries Inc. Before that, the mountain was owned by San Francisco-based Crown Zellerbach Corp., former owner of the Camas paper mill.

It is unclear which company logged the trees off the top of Tumtum, which Eklund is calling “a 360-acre site with 360-degree views” in her marketing literature.

“You just have to find that one survivor who wants their own little piece of heaven on earth,” Eklund said. She suspects the mountain will interest area businesses that could offer bungee jumping and zip-line rides down the hillsides.

Others expect Tumtum to draw thrill seekers on their way to nearby Mount St. Helens, an 8,365-foot-tall active stratovolcano, one of the dominant peaks in the Cascade Range.

“It’s probably about 20 minutes away as the crow flies,” said Teresa Newton, an information officer at the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument administrative headquarters in Chelatchie Prairie.

Tumtum is one of north Clark County’s most noticeable geologic features, a lava dome that likely rose along the Chelatchie Fault zone about 70,000 years ago, said Charlene Montierth, a professor of geology at Clark College.

“It is very much like the dome that grew in Mount St. Helens,” she said.

Montierth explained that Tumtum and St. Helens were both formed out of thick, gooey lava that doesn’t travel far as it cools into dacite rock.

Unlike St. Helens, Tumtum isn’t likely to erupt, Montierth said.

She added that Tumtum’s symmetrical shape was formed by landslides collapsing along the dome’s steep sides over time. Evidence shows the landslide activity continues on Tumtum’s north slope.

“It would be an interesting place to buy, but I wouldn’t want to put a house on it,” Montierth said.

Eklund has marketed the site to logging companies and the Columbia Land Trust, a Vancouver-based nonprofit with a mission to conserve lands in the Columbia River Gorge.

Native American heritage

Newton said the term “Chelatchie” is a Native American word meaning “tall fern.” She did not know the background behind Tumtum’s name.

However, the neighboring town of Amboy annually hosts an event called the Mount Tum Tum Native American Encampment, a celebration that draws hundreds of American Indians. Columbian archives describe the mountain as a central point in the trade route Northwest tribes traveled when doing business with the Hudson’s Bay Company in the middle of the 19th century.

According to legend, Tumtum means heart.

Newton said a gated entrance off Forest Road 54 is the only access to Tumtum.

“To get there, turn right onto Healy Road at the Chelatchie Prairie General Store,” she said.

Healy Road turns into Forest Road 54, which leads past Tumtum’s entrance.

“There’s nothing there indicating that it is Tumtum,” Newton said. “It’s just a gate.”

The property that makes up north Clark County’s Tumtum Mountain includes six parcels that were assessed for a total of $1,055,678 in 2011 for 2012 property taxes, according to the county’s Community Development Department.

Editor's note: This story has been modified to reflect the correct county assessment total for the property.