Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Blalock Islands"
Includes ... Blalock Islands ... "Long Island" ... Big Blalock Island ... Little Blalock Island ... Sand Island ... Rock Island ... Telegraph Island ... Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge ...
Image, 2005, Blalock Islands, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Blalock Islands, from Washington State Highway 14. Image taken May 24, 2005.


Blalock Islands ...
The Blalock Islands are a cluster of islands located between Boardman and Irrigon, Oregon and across from Canoe Ridge, Washington. Their downstream end begins at approximately Columbia River Mile (RM) 274 and the upstream end around RM 276. Originally Blalock Island was a large island, often split into two islands, until the area was inundated by Lake Umatilla, the reservoir behind the John Day Dam, leaving only the high ground behind as smaller islands. Today the Blalock Islands are a part of the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge.

The Islands ...
"Big Blalock Island" is 0.8 miles long and is the upstream-most of the islands. It is located 2 miles southwest of Paterson, Washington. The U.S. Board of Geographic Names made "Big Blalock Island" the official name in 1983.

"Little Blalock Island" is 0.7 miles long and located 0.3 miles west of Big Blalock Island and 0.8 miles north of Sand Island. The U.S. Board of Geographic Names made "Little Blalock Island" the official name in 1983.

"Sand Island" is 0.2 miles long and is located 0.8 miles south of Little Blalock Island and 2 miles west-southwest of Big Blalock Island. This island is the downstream-most of the islands. The U.S. Board of Geographic Names made "Sand Island" the official name in 1983.

"Rock Island" is 1/4 miles long and is located 0.3 miles southeast of Little Blalock Island and 0.2 miles southwest of Big Blalock Island. This webauthor could not find this island listed on "Topozone.com"'s map (2007). The U.S. Board of Geographic Names made "Rock Island" the official name in 1983.

"Telegraph Island" is another island in the area located north of Little Blalock and Big Blalock Islands, and was not a part of the original Blalock Island. It appears as an unnamed island on the 1906 "Block Island" topographic map. The U.S. Board of Geographic Names made "Telegraph Island" the official name in 1966. Previous variations on the name were "Telephone Island".

"Long Walk Island" is on the Oregon side of the Columbia River located between RM 274 and 275. It too was not part of the original Blalock Island and was instead part of the Oregon shoreline during pre-reservoir days. The island is 2.2 miles long and is approximately 1/2 mile southeast of Big Blalock Island. The U.S. Board of Geographic Names made "Long Walk Island" the official name in 1983.

"Coyote Island" was an island just south of the original Blalock Island, and was located just off the Oregon shore slightly upstream of the old Oregon town of Coyote. Coyote Island is now under the waters of Lake Umatilla.


Early Blalock Islands ...
In 1831 John Work of the Hudson's Bay Company called the main island "Big Island". Later fur traders called it "Long Island".

"... Wed.y. 12th Fine weather, fresh breeze from the Westward. Embarked before sunrise and had a nice sail wind all day. Encamped in the evening a little below Big Island. A good many Indians along the river, but not many salmon. ..." [Work, July 12, 1826]

The 1858 map "Map of military reconnaissance from Fort Dalles, Oregon, via Fort Wallah-Wallah, to Fort Taylor, Washington Territory, 1858. " has the island labeled "Long Island".

In 1899 the entire island was purchased by Dr. Nelson G. Blalock, a Civil War surgeon and a pioneer railroad developer. He built a pumping plant on the southeastern shore of Blalock Island to be used for irrigation. Dr. Blalock planted extensive orchards on the island. (Downstream of the Blalock Islands is Blalock Canyon, a location which Dr. Blalock had hoped to develop into another agricultural center.)

The 1906 USGS Topo 1:125,000 "Blalock Island" has the island labeled "Blalock Island".

Today the original large "Blalock Island" is under the waters of Lake Umatilla, the reservoir behind the John Day Dam, and only small islands dotting the Columbia are left. These islands are now known as "Blalock Islands". In 1983 the U.S. Board of Geographic Names made official the names of the smaller islands - "Big Blalock Island", "Little Blalock Island", "Sand Island", and "Rock Island".


Views of the Blalock Islands ...

Image, 2005, Blalock Islands towards Grain Elevator, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Blalock Islands toward Grain Elevator. Grain elevator is downstream of Irrigon, Oregon. Image taken May 24, 2005.
Image, 2005, Blalock Islands towards Grain Elevator, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Blalock Islands toward Grain Elevator. Grain elevator is downstream of Irrigon, Oregon. Image taken May 24, 2005.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, October 20, 1805 ...
A cool morning wind S. W. we concluded to delay untill after brackfast which we were obliged to make on the flesh of dog. after brackfast we gave all the Indian men Smoke, and we Set out leaveing about 200 of the nativs at our Encampment [near Irrigon, Oregon]; passd. three Indian Lodges on the Lard Side a little below our Camp [Irrigon, Oregon] which lodges <we> I did not discover last evening, passed a rapid at Seven miles one at a Short distance below we passed a verry bad rapid, a chane or rocks makeing from the Stard. Side and nearly Chokeing the river up entirely with hugh black rocks [Lewis and Clark called these rapids "Pelican Rapids"] an Island below close under the Stard. Side on which was four Lodges of Indians drying fish,- here I Saw a great number of pelicons on the wing, and black Comerants [American White Pelicans and Double-crested Cormorants]. at one oClock we landed on the lower point of <Some> an Island at Some Indian Lodges, a large Island on the Stard Side nearly opposit and a Small one a little below on the Lard Side on those three Island I counted Seventeen Indian Lodges, ...

[Lewis and Clark are passing through the Blalock Islands area. Today most of the islands are beneath the waters of Lake Umatilla, the reservoir behind the John Day Dam. In this vicinity are today's Boardman, Whitcomb Island, Canoe Ridge, slightly downstream is Crow Butte and historic Castle Rock, along with the many lands of the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge.]

after diner we proceeded on to a bad rapid at the lower point of a Small Island on which four Lodges of Indians were Situated drying fish; here the high countrey Commences again on the Stard. Side [Alder Ridge] leaveing a vallie of 40 miles in width, from the mustle Shel rapid [Umatilla Rapids at the McNary Dam]. examined and passed this rapid close to the Island at 8 miles lower passed a large Island near the middle of the river a brook on the Stard. Side [Alder Creek] and 11 Islds. all in view of each other below, a riverlit [Willow Creek] falls in on the Lard. Side behind a Small Island a Small rapid below. The Star Side is high rugid hills [Alder Ridge], the Lard. Side a low plain and not a tree to be Seen in any Direction except a fiew Small willow bushes which are Scattered partially on the Sides of the bank

The river to day is about of a mile in width; this evening the Countrey on the Lard. Side [area around Arlington, Oregon] rises to the hight of that on the Starboard Side [Columbia Hills], and is wavering- we made 42 <days> miles to day [to Roosevelt, Washington]; the current much more uniform than yesterday or the day before. Killed 2 Speckle guls Severl. ducks of a delicious flavour.





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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: Hitchman, R., 1984, Place Names of Washington, Washington State Historical Society; Mountain Men and the Fur Trade website, 2007, "The Journal of John Work, July 5-September 15, 1826"; University of Washington Library Archives website, 2007; U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) website, 2007;

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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September 2008