Cle Elum Media Room: History of Cle Elum

The name Cle Elum, which means "swift water" in the language of the Kittitas Indians, was given to a river, a town, and also a beautiful tranquil lake created by the construction of the Cle Elum Dam.

Cle Elum was officially incorporated on February 12, 1902.

The town was the birthplace of astronaut Dick Scobee, the commander of the Space Shuttle Challenger on the day of its explosion. Headed by John Bresko, Cle Elum was the first to have 'organized' skiing west of Denver, Colorado.

Starting in 1921, 100-400 people would be on the ski hill every weekend through the winter. 1931 saw the largest crowd est. at 8,000 spectators for the ski jumping events. The depression ended the skiing and jumping events in 1934.

Cle Elum's greatest disaster occurred on June 25, 1918, when a huge fire wiped out over seventy acres of the city (29 city blocks) causing over $500,000 (about $8.14 million today) in damages. The cause was later determined to most likely to be a cigarette butt thrown into a pile of garbage behind a theater. Thirty businesses and 205 houses were destroyed, leaving more than 1,800 people homeless. Following the incident, aid from across the state began pouring in. The Red Cross brought tents from Camp Lewis to house displaced citizens while soldiers were sent from Ellensburg to guard businesses. Yakima and Portland also sent aid to the city.


According to the 2000 United States Census Bureau, the city originally had a total area of 1.5 sq mi. However, as part of the Development Agreement with the Suncadia Master Planned Resort, the city annexed the Bullfrog Sub-Area, which were lands comprising an area of 1.72 sq mi. Therefore, as of 2006, the City of Cle Elum had a total land area of 3.22 sq mi. Also, Cle Elum is a neighbor town to Roslyn, Washington.


As of the census of 2010, there were 1,872 people, 857 households, and 500 families residing in the city. The racial makeup of the city was 95.9% White, 1.4% African American, 3.2% Native American, 1.9% Asian, 0.85% from other races, and 1.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.8% of the population.

Read More about the History of Cle Elum.


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