Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Biggs and Biggs Junction, Oregon"
Includes ... Biggs ... Biggs Junction ... Sam Hill Memorial Bridge ... Oregon Trail ... Oregon Southern Railway Company ...
Image, 2012, Biggs Junction, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Biggs Junction, Oregon, as seen Maryhill Museum, Washington. Spanish Hollow canyon can be seen heading south into the hills. Image taken May 29, 2012.


Biggs and Biggs Junction ...
Biggs and Biggs Junction, Oregon, are located on the south bank of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 208, where Interstate 84 (U.S. 30) and U.S. 97 meet. This is also the location of the junction of the main line of the Union Pacific Railroad and its branch south into Sherman County, Oregon.

Biggs is a station on the main line of the Union Pacific Railroad. Biggs Junction became the community which developed at the mouth of the Spanish Hollow canyon, where first the railway and then U.S. 97 head south into Sherman County. The Sam Hill Memorial Bridge crosses the Columbia River from Biggs Junction to Maryhill, Washington.

According to "Oregon Geographic Names" (McArthur and McArthur, 2003):

"Biggs (SHERMAN) ... Biggs is a station on the Union Pacific Railroad main line at what was the junction with the now-abandoned branch south into Sherman County. It was named for a nearby landowner, W.H. Biggs, who was born in Belmont County, Ohio, May 12, 1831, and who came to Sherman County in 1880. The small, local community is known as Biggs Junction because this is where US-97, running north and south, makes an important intersection with I-84. Biggs post office operated from June 1886 to July 1954. The original name of the OR&N station was Spanish Hollow. It should not be confused with Spanish Hollow post office, which was at the town of Wasco."

Three miles upstream of Biggs is the now-gone community of Grant and five miles upstream is the town of Rufus. Seven miles upstream is the John Day Dam. Five miles downstream of Biggs Junction is the mouth of the Deschutes River.


Early Biggs and Biggs Junction ...
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management's General Land Office (GLO) Records database (2011) shows William H. Biggs being granted title to 160 acres on July 10, 1883, for parts of T1N R17E, Section 10 (1820 Sale-Cash Entry). Biggs was also granted title on June 15, 1892, to 160 acres of parts of T1N R17E, Section 9 (1862 Homestead Entry Original) and on July 11, 1892, to 160 acres of parts of T1N R18E, Section 22 (1820 Sale-Cash Entry). Then, on April 27, 1897, Biggs was also granted title to 160 acres of T1N R17E, Secion 9 (1820 Sale-Cash Entry).

Early Maps ...

Image, 1897 Map, Lyle to Rufus, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
1897 "Post Route Map of the State of Washington" map detail, showing the Columbia River from Lyle, Washington, to Rufus, Oregon. The community of Columbia became Maryhill in 1909. Original Map courtesy University of Washington Libraries, 2006.
Historic Map, 1957, Wishram Quadrangle map detail, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
1957 "Wishram Quadrangle" topographic map detail, showing the Columbia River (Lake Celilo) and Biggs, Biggs Junction, Spanish Hollow, and U.S. 97. Original U.S. Geological Survey 1:62500, "Wishram Quadrangle, Oregon-Washington".


Views ...

Image, 2011, Biggs Junction, Oregon, from Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Biggs, Oregon, as seen from Interstate 97. Image taken October 15, 2011.


Biggs and Biggs Junction, etc.

  • Biggs to Maryhill Ferry ...
  • "Biggs, Where the Sand Plays Havoc" ...
  • Columbia Highway (I-84/U.S. 30) and the Central Oregon Highway (U.S. 97) ...
  • Columbia Southern Railway Company ...
  • Oregon Trail and Biggs Junction ...
  • Sam Hill Memorial Bridge ...
  • Spanish Hollow ...

Biggs to Maryhill Ferry ...
Biggs was once the southern end of a ferry route which was first established in 1868 by William Hicenbotham. The ferry went from Maryhill, Washington to Biggs, Oregon. In 1962 the Maryhill to Biggs Ferry was replaced by the Sam Hill Memorial Bridge.
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"Biggs, Where the Sand Plays Havoc" ...
Biggs, Where the Sand Play Havoc.
(by J.H. Cradlebaugh.)

"Perhaps the most desolate place in Oregon, or for that matter anywhere, is Biggs. The most dreary, sand-blown desert camp in Nevada or Arizona is a beauty-spot beside it, its only advantage over them being that it is on the bank of the Columbia, and that is always beautiful. But turn your back to the river and the place is desolation. Everybody has heard of Biggs, simply because it is a railroad jumction, the northern terminus of the Columbia Southern, built by E.E. Lytle and Walter Moore, 18 years ago.

I was going to say it boasts of half a dozen houses, but it doesn't. It has that many, but it doesn't boast about them.

Biggs is located at the mouth of a canyon some 10 miles long, up which the Columbia Southern climbs to the magnificent wheatfields of Sherman County, 1200 or 1500 feet above it.

There is more sand to the square rod at Biggs than anywhere in the world, and it is restless, roving, hobo sand, too. Originally it no doubt came from the far-away Snake River, and got piled up on the Oregon shore at Celilo, by the Columbia. As the river recedes, the west wind, sweeping up along its course, carries the sand back along the beach, a never-ending sheet of it, drifting like fine dry snow, up the longer slopes of the big sand drifts, to be deposited on the steep lea side of them. Thus slowly these big drifts travel, ever eastward during the Fall and Spring, carried up the slope, deposited on the other side, moving by imperceptible degrees, but always moving.

Its vagaries have caused the O.R. & N. officials more trouble and worry than all the floods and fires and other things that ever happened to it. ...

Other places on the road had sand, plenty of it, but Biggs was unreasonable. The railroad company built sand fences, regular billboards, set at an angle of about 45 degrees to the track, to change the course of the sand-stream. For miles on either side of the road, but a few feet apart, these fences line the track, looking for all the world like the backbone of some mightly fish 15 or 20 miles long might look ... This plan proved of great benefit, and is still in use, as being the best, in fact, the only thing that accomplished anything. ...

For a time great quantities of wheat were hauled down to Biggs and thousands of sacks were piled there for shipment, but the wind and the sand stopped this. It was discovered on one occasion that the wheat had blown out of innumerable sacks and the sand had blown in. That was one of the peculiarities of the Biggs sand. One could never tell what it would do next. Then the farmers began hauling their grain to a little town five miles further east, where vegetation grew and the sand was not. Some facetious railroader called it Rufus, because the wind was always whistling there ...

E.E. Lytle started the Columbia Southern Railroad from Biggs, probably thinking that anything that could would start from Briggs and keep on going ..."


Source:    "The Sunday Oregonian", September 12, 1909, courtesy Historic Oregon Newspapers Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, 2019.



Columbia Highway (I-84/U.S. 30) and the Central Oregon Highway (U.S. 97) ...
Biggs-Wasco Section of the Columbia Highway.

"The Central Oregon Highway begins on the Columbia River about one mile east of Biggs, at the mouth of Spanish Hollow, and extends southerly through the State by the way of Prineville to the California line on the east shore of Goose Lake, south of Lakeview.

The Biggs-Wasco Section of this road was located several years ago. This section is a link in both the Columbia Highway, and the Central Oregon Highway. In January, 1914, the Highway Commission decided to construct this section of road to assist in the problem of giving work to the unemployed of the State."



'The number of unemployed in Portland became so great, however, that in February a contract was let for building a short stretch of Columbia Highway in Sherman County. ... This section of road in Sherman County was chosen upon the recommendation of this office because of the favorable climate, the fact that a survey had been made in 1912 and presented to the department, and because this piece of road is a link in both the Columbia Highway and the Central Oregon Highway, two of the main trunk roads of the State. Thirty thousand dollars was appropriated for this contract."


Source:    Oregon State Highway Department, 1914, "Biennial Report", Vol.1.

Penny Postcard, Biggs, Oregon
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Penny Postcard: Dinty's Cafe, Motel, and Service Station, Biggs, Oregon.
Photo Postcard, Chrome, Divided Back, ca.1950s. A Mike Roberts Color Production, Berkeley, California. Postmarked September 25, 1956. Two cents stamp. Card #SC2680. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Caption on back: "Dinty's Cafe, Motel & Service Stations on Highways 30 & 97, 18 miles east of The Dalles dam. One of the oldest landmarks on the Old Oregon Trail. Built in 1918. Dug out of the rocks of the cliff. Mr. & Mrs. P.L. Finley, owners, Rufus, Oregon."


Columbia Southern Railway Company ...
"The Columbia Southern Railway Company was incorporated March 4th, 1897, for the purpose of constructing and operating a railroad from Biggs to Prineville, traversing the rich wehat field of Sherman county, and the stock and wool districts in Wasco and Crook counties. Surveying was commenced on the 23rd of March, and construction on June 19th, and by October 6th it was completed to Wasco.

The line as constructed is first-class and standard gauge, being laid with 56lb. rails, and 7x8 ties, the ties being laid 3000 to the mile, and the equipment of the line in every respect is complete.

At Biggs connection is made with the O.R. & N. Co., with which a general interchange of traffic is made. Since completion of the line to Wasco, it has been taxed to the utmost in handling the traffic tributary to it, which consists principally of wheat and lumber, coal, wood, machinery and merchandise, wheat being sent out and the balance being brought in."


Source:    "The Dalles Times-Mountaineer", January 1, 1898, courtesy Historic Oregon Newspapers Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, 2019.



Oregon Trail and Biggs Junction ...
The Oregon Trail pioneers crossed the John Day River at McDonald Ford, then headed west. At today's Biggs Junction the wagons topped a hill and saw their first views of the mighty Columbia River.

"After crossing McDonald Ford, the Oregon Trail slowly wound its way through the hills towards the Columbia River. About 25 miles west of the ford, emigrants abruptly topped a ridge and saw spread out before them the magnificent Columbia River Valley, with Mount Hood rising from the western horizon. This was one of the most impressive and joyful sights along the trail, for the Oregon country was finally beginning to resemble its publicized beauty, and reaching the Columbia River meant the long overland journey was almost at an end. Michael Fleenen Luark wrote on August 23, 1853, "4 miles further we reached the Columbia river for the first time after going down a long but not a steep hill. ... the river is quite low at this time leaving large banks of beautiful white sand showing that the river is extremely high at some seasons of the year." A one mile section of trail ruts cross a bench above Old Highway 30 west of the present-day town of Biggs Junction. This is one of the last remaining stretches of the Oregon Trail along the Columbia River not destroyed by highway and railroad construction in the past century."


Source:    U.S. National Park Service, Comprehensive Management and Use Plan and Final Environmental Impact Statement, Oregon National Historic Trail.

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Sam Hill Memorial Bridge ...
Biggs is located at the southern end of the Sam Hill Memorial Bridge (Interstate 97) which connects Oregon to Washington.
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Image, 2004, Highway 97 Bridge from Biggs Junction, Oregon, to Maryhill, Washington, click to enlarge
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Sam Hill Memorial Bridge (U.S. Highway 97, "Biggs Rapid Bridge"). View from Biggs Junction, Oregon. Image taken September 26, 2004.


Spanish Hollow ...
According to "Oregon Geographic Names" (2003, McArthur and McArthur):

"Spanish Hollow (SHERMAN) ... This is the hollow that opens on the Columbia River at Biggs. It is said to have received its name because a Spanish ox died in the canyon during the days of the immigrations. The name Spanish Gulch for this hollow is incorrect. A post office name Spanish Hollow was established in March 1870 and ran until May 1882, when the name was changed to Wasco. The office may have been moved a little when the name changed. The OR&N station at Biggs was first called Spanish Hollow in 1885, but this was several miles north of the post office."

(Note: McArthur and McArthur wrote under the "Biggs" entry: "... Biggs post office operated from June 1886 to July 1954. The original name of the OR&N station was Spanish Hollow. It should not be confused with Spanish Hollow post office, which was at the town of Wasco." )


Historic Map, 1957, Wishram Quadrangle map detail, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
1957 "Wishram Quadrangle" topographic map detail, showing the Columbia River (Lake Celilo) and Biggs, Biggs Junction, Spanish Hollow, and U.S. 97. Original U.S. Geological Survey 1:62500, "Wishram Quadrangle, Oregon-Washington".


"The Golden Age of Postcards" ...

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


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, October 22, 1805 ...




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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:
  • Historic Oregon Newspapers Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, 2019;
  • McArthur, L.A., and McArthur, L.L., 2003, "Oregon Geographic Names", Oregon Historical Society Press, Portland;
  • Oregon State Highway Department, 1914, "Biennial Report", Vol.1;
  • U.S. Bureau of Land Management's General Land Office (GLO) Records database, 2011;


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 2012