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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Benson State Recreation Area, Oregon"
Includes ... Benson State Recreation Area ... Benson State Park ... Benson Lake ... Fish Rearing Pond ... The Golden Age of Postcards ...
Image, 2005, Columbia River Gorge an Benson State Recreation Area, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Benson State Recreation Area with the banks of the Columbia River Gorge rising on the right. Image taken October 22, 2005.


Benson State Recreation Area ...
Benson State Recreation Area stretches along the southern shore of the Columbia River, and is located approximately between River Miles (RM) 135 and 137, and passes such falls as Mist Falls, Wahkeena Falls, and Multnomah Falls. Benson Lake is within the park and is stocked with thousands of rainbow trout each month between March and October. The recreation area was named for Simon Benson who was a lumber magnate, philanthropist, and one of the principal promoters of the Historic Columbia River Highway. This same Benson was also the builder of the Benson Bridge which crosses Multnomah Falls.

Winema ...
"... The high rock pinnacles midway between Multnomah falls and Oneonta gorge have been named "Winema", a Lutuamian term meaning chieftainess, and applicable because of a mythical tale in which a maiden rallied her tribesmen and inflicted defeat on a band of invaders. She fell in the battle, and Talapus raised the pinnacles where she fell. ..."

Source:    Riddell, H.H., 1916, "The Lesser Waterfalls Along the Columbia": IN: Mazama, December 1916, vol.V, no.1.

Benson Park CCC Camp ...
Benson Park CCC Camp:

"An unnumbered CCC camp was reportedly established at Benson Park and may have been connected to Camp F-7 at Cascade Locks. An August 1934 Forest Service report mentions the Benson Park Camp assisting in extinguishing a fire in the town of Cascade Locks. Another report describes an inspection visit by ECW Director Fechner to the Eagle Creek Campground and Benson Park camp."


Source:    Otis, et.al., 1986, "The Forest Service and The Civilian Conservation Corps: 1933-42, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, FS-395, August 1986, Chapter 14, Mount Hood National Forest;


Benson Park in 1937 ...
From the 1937 Pittmon's Guide, "Pittmon's Portland, New Official Guide and Map":

"... Benson Park: 740 acres (32 miles up Columbia River Highway) includes Multnomah Falls, Wah-kee-nah Falls, Wah-kee-nah Spring, Larch Mountain Trail, Fairy Falls, picnic and camping grounds. Presented to city by S. Benson. ..."

Benson State Park in 1946 ...
BENSON STATE PARK

"Benson State Park, classified as a "minor" state park, was so named in honor of Simon Benson, a zealous and untiring worker for the development of the Columbia River Highway, who gave most liberally of his time and substance to make it a reality.

The park is a tract of land of irregular width, extending from Wahkeena Creek on the west to a vanishing point east of Multomah Creek, lying between the Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation Company's north right of way line and the meander line of the Columbia River. It is described as being in Lots 1 and 2, Section 12, Township 1 North of Range 5 East, W.M., and in Lots 1, 2, 3, and 4, Section 7, Township 1 North of Range 6 East, W.M., Multnomah County, containing 75.80 acres. This tract was a gift from the City of Portland to the State of Oregon, by deed dated November 8, 1939.

Some years previous the present Benson State Park area and a strip of land south of the railroad right of way, exclusive of the highway right of way, were acquired by the City of Portland from Simon Benson, the Railroad Company and the other owners extending from the Wahkeena Falls area to and including the Multnomah Falls area, where the City of Portland erected the commodious and substantial, chalet type of concession building that adorns this picturesque, widely known Multnomah Falls setting. In normal times it was well patronized by motorists and stage passengers.

When the Benson Park tract was conveyed to the State, the City transferred all of their holdings south of the railroad right of way to the United States Forest Service and they became a part of its previously established Columbia Gorge Park.

The state park is 800 or more feet in width at the west end, approximately 400 feet wide at Multnomah Creek, and from there to its eastern extremity it rapidly slivers to nothing. The entire area is low land. Prior to the construction of the Bonneville Dam, it was subject to overflow by the extreme freshets of the Columbia. A small portion of th wider west end supports a growth of cottonwood, ash, willow and underbrush, typical of the Columbia River bottom lands, having little or no commercial value, but is a soil stabilizer that affords shade and shelter for any future park development. East of this limited growth there are scattering, old cottonwood trees, but most of the ground is open.

When owned by the City a CCC Camp was established on the tract near Wahkeena Falls, and its members were employed several periods. They erected some buildings, built good trails to the scenic upland points, did considerable roadside and trailside clean up, and extensive fire hazard reduction. In this area, where forest fires are a potential danger throughout the entire fire season, clean up adjacent to highway and trails is essential.

All stages going either way, now stop for a few minutes at Multnomah Falls, and in the past, all daylight passenger trains paused giving passengers a chance to glimpse Oregon's highest waterfall which has a total drop of 620 feet (U.S.G.S.).

There are no facilities or improvements in Benson Park at this time."

Signed:
W.A. Langille, State Parks Historian.

RECOMMENDATIONS:
"This is an undeveloped tract situated between the highway and river. This should have detailed study for improvement purposes."

Signed:
S.H. Boardman, State Parks Superintendent, March 25, 1946.


Source:    W.A. Langille and S.H. Boardman, 1946, State Parks Historical Sketches: Columbia Gorge State Parks, courtesy of Oregon State Archives website, 2014.


Benson State Park in 1965 ...
BENSON STATE PARK

"Benson State Park occupies the area between the Union Pacific Railroad track and the new Columbia River Highway, beginning at Multnomah Creek, near the lodge of the same name, and running westward approximately one mile in Multnomah County. It contains 84.3 acres of lowland timbered with ash, maple and willow trees.

The city of Portland proposed in 1938 to deed to the State Highway Commission for park and right of way purposes all of the land which it owned in the Columbia River Gorge. That is, the areas known as Multnomah, Benson, Shepperd's Dell, McLoughlin and Crown Point. The Commission chose at that time to accept only the area north of the Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation Company track. Since the Commission did not wish to accept all of the city-owned land in the gorge, the city of Portland, in December, 1938, deeded to the state all of its land north of the O.W.R. & N. track, which was parts of Multnomah, Wahkeena and Benson Parks. Another gift of 8.5 acres from Multnomah County was made on May 20, 1958. These gifts, totaling 84.3 acres, then became a state park which the Commission named Benson Park in honor of S. Benson who had given the land to the city.

Development was started in 1950 by construction of a standard latrine, car parking area, tables, stoves and trails. A swimming beach was provided at Multnomah Lake. A good supply of water was secured from U. S. Forest Service's system across the railroad track at Wahkeena Park.

The terrain at Benson Park is generally level with only two low areas in which small lakes were formed. One lake, Multnomah Creek Lake, is open to the river but the other lake, unnamed, is not open. The Highway Commission gave the State Fish Commission the right to use the closed lake for experimental purposes in the propagation of fish. This lease is dated August 13, 1959, and runs for 10 years.

Attendance at Benson Park during 1963 was 115,772 visitors.

The Union Pacific Railroad Company gave the Highway Commission an undeterminable permit #373 covering right of way for use of a water pipe line across the railroad right of way. Permit is dated June 11, 1951, and runs for an indefinite period.

The U. S. Forest Service gave the Highway Commission permission to tap its water line on the south side of the highway for water at Benson Park. Use permit is dated March 7, 1951, and runs for an indefinite period."


Source:    Chester H. Armstrong (compiler), 1965, "History of the Oregon State Parks: 1917-1963, published by Oregon State Parks.


Autumn ...

Image, 2005, Benson State Recreation Area, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Fish rearing pond below Benson State Recreation Area, Oregon. Image taken October 22, 2005.
Image, 2005, Benson State Recreation Area, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Benson State Recreation Area, Oregon, looking towards Benson Lake. Image taken November 19, 2005.


Spring ...

Image, 2006, Benson State Recreation Area, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Spring, Benson Lake, Benson State Recreation Area, Oregon. Image taken April 22, 2006.
Image, 2006, Benson State Recreation Area, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Spring, Benson Lake, Benson State Recreation Area, Oregon. Image taken April 22, 2006.


Winter ...

Image, 2007, Benson State Recreation Area, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Winter, Benson State Recreation Area, Oregon. Image taken January 15, 2007.
Image, 2007, Benson State Recreation Area, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Winter, Benson State Recreation Area, Oregon. Image taken January 15, 2007.


Benson State Recreation Area, etc. ...

  • Benson Lake ...
  • Fish Rearing Pond ...
  • Mist Falls ...


Benson Lake ...
(to come)


Fish Rearing Pond ...
(to come)


Mist Falls ...
Mist Falls, one of the Columbia Gorge Waterfalls can be seen from Benson State Recreation Area.
[More]

Image, 2009, Mist Falls, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Mist Falls, Oregon, as seen from Benson State Park. Image taken January 13, 2009.
Image, 2006, Mist Falls, Benson State Recreation Area, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Mist at Mist Falls. View from Benson State Recreation Area, Oregon. Image taken April 22, 2006.


"The Golden Age of Postcards" ...

The early 1900s was the "Golden Age of Postcards". The "Penny Postcard" became a popular way to send greetings to friends and family. Today the Penny Postcards have become a snapshot of history.

Penny Postcard, Benson Park Entrance, ca.1910
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Benson Park Entrance, ca.1910. Penny Postcard, ca.1910, "At Benson Park Entrance, Columbia River Highway, Oregon.". Caption on back reads: This beautifukl park was donated to the city by one of Portland's pioneers and will be one of the beauty spots along the Highway in years to come, constant improvements are being made to it." Published by The Oregon News Company, Portland, Oregon. Card #O-73. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 2, 1805 ...
Examined the rapid below us [from their camp at Fort Rains, looking at the Cascade Rapids] more pertcelarly the danger appearing too great to Hazzard our Canoes loaded, dispatched all the men who could not Swim with loads to the end of the portage below, I also walked to the end of the portage with the carriers where I delayed untill everry articles was brought over and canoes arrived Safe. here we brackfast and took a Meridn. altitude 59 45' 45" about the time we were Setting out 7 Squars came over loaded with Dried fish, and bear grass neetly bundled up, Soon after 4 Indian men came down over the rapid in a large canoe.     passed a rapid at 2 miles & 1 at 4 miles opposite the lower point of a high Island on the Lard Side [Bradford Island], and a little below 4 Houses on the Stard. Bank, a Small Creek on the Lard Side [Tanner Creek] opposit Straw berry Island [Hamilton Island], which heads below the last rapid, opposit the lower point of this Island [Hamilton Island] passed three Islands covered with tall timber [today there are two, Ives and Pierce] opposit the Beatin rock [Beacon Rock]    Those Islands are nearest the Starboard Side, imediately below on the Stard. Side passed a village of nine houses [indentified on Atlas map#79 as the "Wah-clallah Tribe of Shahala Nation", location near today's Skamania and Skamania Landing], which is Situated between 2 Small Creeks [Woodard Creek and Duncan Creek], and are of the Same construction of those above; here the river widens to near a mile, and the bottoms are more extensive and thickly timbered, as also the high mountains on each Side, with Pine, Spruce pine, Cotton wood, a Species of ash, and alder.     at 17 miles passed a rock near the middle of the river [Phoca Rock], about 100 feet high and 80 feet Diamuter,     proceed on down a Smoth gentle Stream of about 2 miles wide, in which the tide has its effect as high as the Beaten rock [Beacon Rock] or the Last rapids at Strawberry Island [Hamilton Island],- Saw great numbers of waterfowl of Different kinds, Such as Swan, Geese, white & grey brants, ducks of various kinds, Guls, & Pleaver [today just below Beacon Rock is Franz National Wildlife Refuge]. ...     we encamped under a high projecting rock on the Lard. Side [Rooster Rock, with Crown Point rising above it],     here the mountains leave the river on each Side [leaving the Columbia River Gorge, Steigerwald Land NWR is on the north and the Sandy River delta is on the south], which from the great Shute to this place is high and rugid [Columbia River Gorge]; thickly Covered with timber principalley of the Pine Species. The bottoms below appear extensive and thickly Covered with wood.     river here about 2 miles wide.     Seven Indians in a Canoe on their way down to trade with the nativs below, encamp with us, those we left at the portage passed us this evening and proceeded on down The ebb tide rose here about 9 Inches, the flood tide must rise here much higher- we made 29 miles to day from the Great Shute [Cascade Locks]-





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*River Miles [RM] are approximate, in statute miles, and were determined from USGS topo maps, obtained from NOAA nautical charts, or obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website, 2003

Sources:    Armstrong, C.H., (compiler), 1965, "History of the Oregon State Parks: 1917-1963, published by Oregon State Parks;    Langille, W.A., and Boardman, S.H., 1946, State Parks Historical Sketches: Columbia Gorge State Parks, courtesy of Oregon State Archives website, 2014;    Oregon Parks and Recreation website, 2005;    "Rootsweb.com" website, 2006;   

All Lewis and Clark quotations from Gary Moulton editions of the Lewis and Clark Journals, University of Nebraska Press, all attempts have been made to type the quotations exactly as in the Moulton editions, however typing errors introduced by this web author cannot be ruled out; location interpretation from variety of sources, including this website author.
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June 2014