The Klickitat Tribe’s range included the White Salmon River valley. However, little is known about the actual settlement patterns within the White Salmon valley before the 1850s. Archaeological evidence indicates that at least 12 Klickitat villages occupied the valley at this time. These occupations included summer gathering sites on the flanks of Mt. Adams, and permanent settlements adjacent to fishing sites at the Columbia confluence, Husum Falls, and falls at BZ Corner and Trout Lake. The village site known as Nakipanic (adjacent to Husum Falls) has been carbon dated to at least 900 years ago. The Klickitat’s lost their tribal identity after the Walla Walla Treaty of 1855 becoming one of the 14 bands to ultimately make up the Yakama Nation. The White Salmon River sub-basin is part of the area ceded by the Yakama Nation to the U.S. Government by treaty in 1855, and contains usual and accustomed hunting, fishing and gathering grounds as well as archaeological and cultural sites of tribal and national significance.
The Trout Lake valley was first settled in 1880 by Euro-American settlers; raising livestock was the principal activity of early settlers. The valley had numerous lava caves that provided natural refrigeration for their first cash crop, which was butter. Irrigated farming was introduced to the Trout Lake valley in 1887. Timber harvest became a significant economic pursuit once the first access roads were established in 1882. Near the turn of the century, splash dams became a common means of transporting logs down the White Salmon River. It is estimated that at least 90% of the forest within the White Salmon basin has been harvested at least once. As land clearing progressed after the turn of the century, a shift in land-use from pasture/hay to orchards occurred. Between 1890 and 1900, many small open tracts were planted to cherries, pears, and apples. Commercial orchard production started in about 1902. Today, a relatively narrow range of human economic activities are being practiced within the White Salmon watershed. Forestland management is overwhelmingly the predominant land use. Secondary land uses include agriculture, recreation, and residential and commercial development.
The human population of the White Salmon watershed is rural in character, and totals several thousand. Most residents of the valley live in vicinity of the unincorporated towns of Trout Lake, BZ Corner, and Husum. Other significant population centers within the watershed include the rural western outskirts of White Salmon, and the east side of Underwood Mountain in and around Underwood Heights.
The White Salmon basin is overlapped with a mosaic of many different land planning and management jurisdictions. These include the State of Washington, Klickitat County, Skamania County, U.S. Forest Service, and Columbia River Gorge Commission. (2003 WRIA 29 Report citing Stampfli, 1994)