Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Bonneville, Oregon"
Includes ... Bonneville ... The Bonneville Project ...
Image, 2014, Union Pacific Arch, Bonneville, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Union Pacific Railroad Arch across road leading to Bonneville, Oregon. Image taken April 13, 2014.

Bonneville ...
Bonneville, Oregon, is located at Columbia River Mile (RM) 145, at the location of the Bonneville Dam. Across the Columbia lies North Bonneville, Washington. The Bonneville Post Office was established in March 1900.

"... This is an historic spot in Oregon. For many decades, it was a popular picnic grounds for people living along the Columbia River between Portland and The Dalles. The railroad company maintained an 'eating house' at Bonneville, where tired travelers paid a modest sum for all they could eat. ..." [McArthur and McArthur, 2003]

Captain Bonneville ...
Bonneville, Oregon, Bonneville Dam, and North Bonneville, Washington, were named after Captain (later Brig. General) Benjamin L.E. Bonneville, a West Point graduate who explored the west from 1832 to 1835, visiting many parts of northeast Oregon, although never getting any further west than the John Day River.

Early Bonneville ...
The name "Bonneville" did not appear on maps until the late 1880s, and even then it was not consistently shown. The name did appear on the 1886 "Map of the Northern Pacific Railroad and Connections" and on the 1888 "Tourist Map of the Union Pacific and Connecting Lines".

The 1897 "Post Route Map of the State of Washington, showing Post Offices with the Intermediate Distances on Mail Routes in Operation on the 1st of September, 1897, published by order of Postmaster General James A. Gary" showed Bonneville as "Bonneville (n.o.)". "Not Official" perhaps ???. McArthur and McArthur (2003) write that the Bonneville Post Office didn't come into existence until March 1900.

The 1908 "Railroad Commission Map of Washington" showed Bonneville on the "Ore. R.R. & Nav." line, and the 1911 topographic map "Mount Hood and Vicinity" listed Bonneville and the Fish Hatchery at Bonneville. The Fish Hatchery was built in 1909.

The Bonneville Project ...
Construction of the Bonneville Dam was known as the "Bonneville Project". Included in this construction was a small workers community at Bonneville, Oregon. As stated in the Bonneville Dam Historic District, National Historic Landmark 1986 Nomination Form:

"... Bonneville Dam was to be constructed 42 miles east of Portland and 144 miles upstream from the mouth of the Columbia. Work commenced in October, 1933 ... By June, 1934, the construction, carried out under the oversight of the Portland District, Corps of Engineers, had included excavation for the powerhouse foundation, relocation of the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway Company's main line (on the Washington shore), and commencement of construction on 20 permanent residences at Bonneville, Oregon. ... In the spring of 1935 the carpenters finished the residences at Bonneville, Oregon ... ..."


Early Maps ...

Topo Map, 1911, Columbia River at Bonneville, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Topographic map detail, 1911, Columbia River at Bonneville, before construction of the Bonneville Dam. Original 1:125,000 "Mount Hood" Topographic Map courtesy University of Washington Libraries, 2010.
NOAA chart, 1948, Bonneville Dam, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
HISTORICAL CHART detail, 1948, Hamilton Island, North Bonneville, and the Bonneville Dam, Skamania County, Washington. Note location of North Bonneville before the construction of Bonneville Dam's North Powerhouse. Note the arrangement of islands in the Bonneville complex before construction of the 1993 lock. NOAA Chart #6156 courtesy NOAA website.
NOAA chart, 1998, Bonneville Dam, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
HISTORICAL CHART detail, 1998, Hamilton Island, North Bonneville, and the Bonneville Dam, Skamania County, Washington. Note location of North Bonneville after relocation due to construction of Bonneville Dam's North Powerhouse, and the existence of three islands in the Columbia (Robins, Bradford, and Cascade) after construction of the new lock. NOAA Chart #18531 courtesy NOAA website.

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

  • Bonneville Dam Historic District, National Historic Landmark 1986 Nomination Report;
  • McArthur, L.A., and McArthur, L.L., 2003, Oregon Geographic Names, Oregon Historical Society Press, Portland;
  • University of Washington Digital Collections 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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April 2014