Unlike other water-based cultures, the Cowlitz did not normally station their permanent villages near the water’s edge, but on the contrary, they usually built them on the river’s bluffs in close proximity to their horses grazing on the adjoining prairies.
Winter villages tended to be located in low-lying sheltered places that were warmer and shielded from the elements, usually on streams (especially at their mouths or where two came together), often where fall fish runs occurred, or at least where fresh water and other crucial resources were readily available. The Cowlitz, living on the west side of the Cascade Range, had a concern to be located at a high enough elevation to avoid flooding. Some people usually stayed in the winter villages year-round while the remainder moved to seasonal camps.
The Lower Cowlitz had twenty-nine villages between the river’s mouth on the Columbia and a short distance above the current Barrier Dam near the fish hatchery. They were: Kawimni (14 longhouses), Tiahanakshih "On Rock" (20 longhouses), Wakothmali "Perpendicular", Sthwe "Martin" (10 longhouses). Was this village named Martin because of the presence of that bird of the swallow family, or was it the village from which came the St. Martin family? This was a mixed village of Cowlitz and Cathlamet. Naiyakotsuith (The first half of this word means "place" or "home" and the second half means "bones". Was this the location of a war? Was this possibly the village where Ogden returned with 30 – 40 men that were mostly Iroquois and killed thirteen Cowlitz men, women, and children? Silkenstahlnsh "Slave town" (6 longhouses). In this village they spoke a mixture of Cowlitz and Cathlamet (Chinook). It was a place where slaves were brought and kept before being traded to northern and eastern tribes, Tsakalumh "Red Earth" (7 longhouses).
Today you can still scratch away ash from the 1980 Mount St. Helen’s eruption, which is on the surface, and see the red earth that is underneath, Kamalstn (20 longhouses), Whaluh (20 longhouses), Wiyamitih "Long Rifle" (More than 20 longhouses, Wahlahetkuk (about 30 longhouses), Tsqahlimihl "It is marked" (10 longhouses), Tskeletn "Elk" (10 longhouses), Skatiekatns "Crows Sweat Lodge" (22 longhouses), Kamatsih (12 longhouses), Stumtamanhl "Dentalium Shell" (8 longhouses), Tsqatiha "Gray Buck House" (8 longhouses), Tsiuhpunhl "An Edible Root" (10 longhouses), Hlaqul (8 longhouses), Awelkinhl "Red Paint" (20 longhouses), Matup (30 longhouses), Tawamiluhawihl "A Road, to Cut or Mow" referring to a road cut through a cat tail marsh (20 longhouses); these last two villages are the site of the present day Toledo, Washington. There were 50 longhouses where the city of Toledo now stands. Hatlakaluustn (10 longhouses), Sqehlapiluhawihl "Stump Road" (10 longhouses), Taqup "Spotted Buttock" (20 longhouses), Tskaiyuw "River Bend" (10 longhouses), Quelt (12 longhouses), and Shilalalh (10 longhouses).
There were approximately 407 – 445 Lower Cowlitz longhouses. The modern day Cowlitz know the locations of these ancient village sites, but elect to keep this as their sacred secret knowledge. Once each year they travel down the river and officiate a sacred ceremony at each of these sites. There was an average of 15 longhouses in each village, and the villages averaged approximately 1.6 miles between each of them. The village sites from Awelkinhl on upstream were chosen so that the prairie land opened up from behind; whereas, the lower river village sites were chosen for their fishing facilities.