Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Bradford Island, Cascade Island, and Robins Island"
Includes ... Bradford Island ... Robins Island ... Cascade Island ... "Brant Island" ... Bradford Brothers ...
Image, 2008, Bradford Island, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Bradford Island, with paddleboat, as seen from the mouth of Eagle Creek. Image taken August 23, 2008.

Three Islands ...
The Bonneville Dam is a hydroelectric dam completed in 1938 and located on the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 146. The dam complex is built across three islands - Bradford, Robins, and Cascade.

When dam construction began the Columbia River was split only by Bradford Island. As the dam went in the Spillway Dam was built between the Washington shore and the north side of Bradford Island; the powerhouse was built between the south side of Bradford Island and the north side of a newly created island named "Robins Island"; and the locks were built on the south side of Robins Island and the Oregon shore.

In 1982 a second powerhouse, called the "North Powerhouse", was built. The Columbia River was re-routed and Cascade Island was created, with the North Powerhouse being built between the north side of Cascade Island and the Washington shore. The Spillway Dam was now anchored on the south shore of Cascade Island.

Early Maps ...

Cadastral Survey, 1860, Bradford's Island, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
1860, Cadastral Survey map detail (tax survey) for T2N R7E, showing "Brandford's Island". Original Cadastral Map courtesy U.S. Bureau of Land Management's General Land Office (GLO) Records Database, 2013.
Topo Map, 1911, Columbia River at Bonneville, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
1911, Topographic map detail, Columbia River at Bonneville, before construction of the Bonneville Dam. Original 1:125,000 "Mount Hood" Topographic Map courtesy University of Washington Libraries, 2010.

Bradford, Robins, and Cascade Islands

  • Bradford Island ...
  • Robins Island ...
  • Cascade Island ...
  • The Bradford Brothers ...

Bradford Island ...
Lewis and Clark called the Bradford Island "Brant Island", although Patrick Gass erroneously called the island "Strawberry Island" in his journal, an error which was perpetuated by many subsequent writers. Just downstream of Bradford Island is Hamilton Island, the true "Strawberry Island" of Lewis and Clark. On April 9, 1806, Lewis and Clark camped near Tanner Creek, on the Oregon shore opposite Bradford Island. A good view of the downstream end of Bradford Island can be had from the shore of Hamilton Island, and a a good view of the upstream end of Bradford Island can be had from the mouth of Eagle Creek on the Oregon side.

Image, 2004, Bradford Island
Click image to enlarge
Bradford Island. Bradford Island is one of three islands crossed by the Bonneville Dam. Greenleaf Peak is in the background. Image taken October 27, 2004.
Image, 2004, Bradford Island, from Hamilton Island, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Bradford Island, downstream tip, as seen from Hamilton Island. Image taken August 1, 2004.
Image, 2010, Bradford Island as seen from mouth of Eagle Creek, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Bradford Island as seen from the mouth of Eagle Creek, Oregon. The high point of Bradford Island use to be called "Bonny Rock" locally. The South (original) Powerhouse can be seen on the left and the Spillway Dam can be seen on the right. Image taken October 18, 2010.

"... passed a rapid at 2 miles & 1 at 4 miles opposite the lower point of a high Island on the Lard Side ..." [Clark, November 2, 1805]

Robins Island ...
Robins Island was built during the initial construction of the Bonneville Dam, and was named after the chief engineer in charge of the construction, Colonel Thomas M. Robins. Robins Island is located slightly downstream of Bradford and Cascade Islands at Columbia River Mile (RM) 145. The U.S. Board of Geographic Names made the name "Robins Island" official in 1974. The first powerhouse lies on the north side of Robins Island. The original Bonneville Locks lie on the north side of Robins Island while the new Bonneville Locks lie on the south side.

Image, 2005, Bonneville Locks from Hamilton Island, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
New Bonneville Locks, downstream end, as seen from Hamilton Island. Robins Island is on the left and the Oregon side of the Columbia River is on the right. Image taken June 29, 2005.
Image, 2014, Bonneville Locks from Hamilton Island, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Robins Island (left) and the western end of the Bonneville Locks. Image taken April 13, 2014.
Image, 2014, Bonneville Locks from Hamilton Island, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Sign, Robins Island Recreation Area, Bonneville Dam, Oregon. Image taken April 13, 2014.

Cascade Island ...
Cascade Island was built during constrution of the second powerhouse, now known as the "North Powerhouse". The North Powerhouse lies on Cascade Island north shore and the original Spillway Dam lies on the islands south shore.

Image, 2005, Looking downstream from Bonneville Dam, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Looking downstream from Bonneville Dam's North Powerhouse. View from the North Powerhouse, Bonneville Dam, towards Cascade Island. Beacon Rock is in the distance. Image taken June 19, 2005.
Image, 2010, Bonneville Dam from upstream, Washington side, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Bonneville Dam as seen from upstream, Washington side. View of the South Powerhouse (left), Spillway Dam (middle), Cascade Island (middle) and North Powerhouse (right). Image taken November 2, 2010.

The Bradford Brothers ...
Bradford Island was named after two brothers, Daniel and Putnam Bradford, who were prominent settlers, merchants, and entrepeneurs in the area. They also owned a mill on their Donation Land Claim (DLC) near Ashes Lake.
"... By 1852 a considerable community had developed on the north side of the Columbia River, just a mile or so west of what is now the town of Stevenson. Its existence came about largely because of its proximity to the upper end of unnavigable water at the Cascades rapids. At this point, all travel continued by portage for some four miles around the Cascades on the north (Washington) side of the river, either by a tramway that had been recently constructed or, more commonly, by wagon road. According to Origen Thomson, in 1852 the community consisted "of three houses, in which are two stores and one dwelling; one of the houses is two stories high. In the upper story is a boarding house, and below a store." Daniel and Putnam Bradford (brothers) owned the general store. The mill where Willis obtained lumber for his brother's coffin, also owned by the Bradfords, stood a short distance down the wagon road from the graveyard. None of these structures exists today. ..." [Washington State Historical Society website, 2006]

In 1856 during the Indian uprising the townfolks of Cascades took shelter in the Bradford's store.

"... The Indians attacked on the morning of March 26th, but failed to trap the two steamers Mary and Wasco above the rapids. However, the attackers managed to wound several of the crew and to kill other settlers in the area. Some settlers fled to the safety of a blockhouse near Fort Rains, on the Middle Cascades. Others took shelter in a sturdy, two-story store at the Upper Cascades, owned by brothers Daniel and Putnam F. Bradford. Settlers below the landing fled downriver in boats. By late in the day, some 40 men, women, and children were huddled in the Bradford store. As they watched, the Indians burned a sawmill and lumberyard owned by the Bradfords, along with several houses and a warehouse under construction. The Indians threw firebrands onto the roof of the store in an effort to burn it as well, but the refuges managed to douse the flames. ..." ["historylink.org" website, 2006, written by David Wilma]

The skirmish was over upon the arrival of Lieutenant Phil Sheridan and Lieutenant-Colonel Steptoe and the troups.

The Bradfords were also steamboat operators on the Columbia River and operated the portage road from the Lower Cascades on Hamilton Island to the Upper Cascades near Ashes Lake. In History Of The Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington, published in 1889:

"... Daniel F. Bradford, and Putnam his brother, late in the fall of 1855, commenced the construction of a tramway between the Upper and Lower Cascades, five miles in length, which was well-nigh completed in the early spring of 1856. ..."

The 1860 Washington Territory cadastral survey map (tax survey) for T2N R7E, shows "Bradford's Railroad" which followed the Washington shoreline. It's eastern end was at the location of today's Ashes Lake (just upstream of "U.S. Garrison", known today as Fort Lugenbeel) and the western end was just upstream of the location of today's Fort Rains Fort Rains was not shown on map.

The 1850 Federal Census for the Clark County, Oregon Territory (today parts of Clark County and Cowlitz County) listed a "D. Bradford, age 30, from New York", and a "P. Bradford, age 25, from New York", plus a soldier "Wm. S. Bradford, age 36, from New Hampshire. The 1860 Federal Census for Skamania County listed Danl. F. Bradford, age 42, occupation: "Merchant", from Massachusetts, Chloe Bradford, age 35, from Massachusetts, A.G. Bradford, age 36, occupation: "Merchant", from Massachusetts, B.F. Bradford, age 33, occupation: "Merchant", from Massachusetts, Hellen Bradford, age 25, from Illinois, and P.F. Bradford, age 4, from Oregon. There was also a listing for James Bradford, age 24, from New York, who was a Private at the "Garrison". The 1870 Federal Census for Skamania County listed no Bradfords.

Bureau of Land Management Records show a Donation Land Claim (DLC) of 639.781 acres on February 5, 1862, for Daniel F. and Chloe H. Bradford, in T2N R7E, Skamania County.

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, October 31, 1805 ...
A Cloudy rainey disagreeable morning I proceeded down the river to view with more attention [Cascade Locks area] we had to pass on the river below, the two men with me Jo. Fields & Peter Crusat proceeded down to examine the rapids the Great Shute [Cascade Rapids] which commenced at the Island on which we encamped [Ashes Lake, now under the waters of the Bonneville Reservoir] Continud with great rapidity and force thro a narrow chanel much compressd. and interspersed with large rocks for a mile, at a mile lower is a verry Considerable rapid at which place the waves are remarkably high, and proceeded on in a old Indian parth 2 miles by land thro a thick wood & hill Side, to the river where the Indians make a portage, from this place I dispatched Peter Crusat (our principal waterman) back to follow the river and examine the practibility of the Canoes passing, as the rapids appeared to continue down below as far as I could See, I with Jo. Fields proceeded on, at a mile below the end of the portage [Fort Rains] ...     at 2 miles lower & 5 below our Camp I passed a village of 4 large houses abandend by the nativs, with their dores bared up, ...     from a Short distance below the vaults the mountain which is but low on the Stard. Side leave the river, and a leavel Stoney open bottom Suckceeds on the Said Std. Side for a great Distance down, the mountains high and rugid on the Lard Side this open bottom is about 2 miles a Short distance below this village is a bad Stoney rapid and appears to be the last in view I observed at this lower rapid the remains of a large and antient Village which I could plainly trace by the Sinks in which they had formed their houses, as also those in which they had buried their fish- from this rapid to the lower end of the portage [vicinity of Fort Cascades at the lower end of Hamilton Island] the river is Crouded with rocks of various Sizes between which the water passes with great velociety createing in many places large Waves, an Island which is Situated near the Lard. Side [Bradford Island] occupies about half the distance the lower point of which is at this rapid. immediately below this rapid the high water passes through a narrow Chanel through the Stard. Bottom forming an Island of 3 miles <wide> Long & one wide, I walked through this Island [Hamilton Island] which I found to be verry rich land, and had every appearance of haveing been at Some distant period Cultivated. at this time it is Covered with grass intersperced with Strawberry vines. I observed Several places on this Island where the nativs had dug for roots and from its lower point I observed 5 Indians in a Canoe below the upper point of an Island near the middle of the river Covered with tall timber [???],    which indued me to believe that a village was at no great distanc below, I could not See any rapids below <for> in the extent of my view which was for a long distance down the river, which from the last rapids [Middle Cascades] widened and had everry appearance of being effected by the tide,- I deturmind to return to Camp 10 miles distant [on an island by Ashes Lake, across from Cascade Locks, Oregon], a remarkable high detached rock Stands in a bottom on the Stard Side [Beacon Rock] near the lower point of this Island on the Stard. Side about 800 feet high and 400 paces around, we call the Beaten rock.     a Brook [Hamilton Creek] falls into the narrow Chanel [Hamilton Slough, today's Greenleaf Slough] which forms the Strawberry Island [Hamilton Island], which at this time has no running water, but has every appearance of dischargeing emence torrents &c. &c. Jo. Fields Shot a Sand hill Crane. I returned by the Same rout on an Indian parth passing up on the N W. Side of the river to our Camp at the Great Shute [an island near Ashes Lake, across from Cascade Locks, now under the waters of Bonneville Reservoir]. found Several Indians from the village, I Smoked with them; Soon after my return two Canoes loaded with fish & Bear grass for the trade below, came down from the village at the mouth of the Catterack River [Klickitat River], they unloaded and turned their Canoes up Side down on the beech, & camped under a Shelveing rock below our Camp ...

This Great Shute or falls [Upper Cascade Rapids] is about a mile with the water of this great river Compressed within the Space of 150 paces in which there is great numbers of both large and Small rocks, water passing with great velocity forming & boiling in a most horriable manner, with a fall of about 20 feet, below it widens to about 200 paces and current gentle for a Short distance. a Short distance above is three Small rockey Islands, and at the head of those falls, three Small rockey Islands are Situated Crosswise the river, Several rocks above in the river & 4 large rocks in the head of the Shute; those obstructions together with the high Stones which are continually brakeing loose from the mountain on the Stard Side and roleing down into the Shute aded to those which brake loose from those Islands above and lodge in the Shute, must be the Cause of the rivers daming up to Such a distance above, <and Show> where it Shows Such evidant marks of the Common current of the river being much lower than at the present day

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]-

Lewis, April 9, 1806 ...
This morning early we commenced the operation of reloading our canoes; at 7 A. M. we departed [from their camp at Shepperds Dell] and proceeded on to the Camp of Reubin and Joseph Fields [near Dodson, Oregon] they had not killed any game; we made no halt at this place but continued our rout to the Wah-clel-lah Village which is situated on the North side of the river [upstream of the location of today's Skamania and Skamania Landing, between Duncan and Woodard Creeks] about a mile below the beacon rock [Beacon Rock]; here we halted and took breakfast. ...     this village appears to be the winter station of the Wah-clel-lahs and Clahclellars, the greater part of the former have lately removed to the falls of the Multnomah, and the latter have established themselves a few miles above on the North side of the river opposite the lower point of brant island [Bradford Island], being the commencement of the rapids, here they also take their salmon; they are now in the act of removing, and not only take with them their furniture and effects but also the bark and most of the boards which formed their houses. 14 houses remain entire but are at this time but thinly inhabited, nine others appear to have been lately removed, and the traces of ten or twelve others of ancient date were to be seen in the rear of their present village. ...     on our way to this village we passed several beautifull cascades which fell from a great hight over the stupendious rocks which cloles the river on both sides nearly, except a small bottom on the South side in which our hunters were encamped. the most remarkable of these casscades falls about 300 feet perpendicularly over a solid rock into a narrow bottom of the river on the south side. it is a large creek, situated about 5 miles above our encampment of the last evening. several small streams fall from a much greater hight, and in their decent become a perfect mist which collecting on the rocks below again become visible and decend a second time in the same manner before they reach the base of the rocks. [Multnomah Falls area]     the hills have now become mountains high on each side are rocky steep and covered generally with fir and white cedar. ...     at 2 P. M. we renewed our voyage; passed under the beacon rock [Beacon Rock] on the north side, to the left of two small islands situated near the shore [Ives and Pierce Islands].     at four P.M. we arrived at the Clah-clel-lah village; here we found the natives busily engaged in erecting their new habitations, which appear to be reather of a temperary kind; it is most probable that they only reside here during the salmon season. we purchased two dogs of these people who like those of the village blow were but sulky and illy disposed; they are great rogues and we are obliged to keep them at a proper distance from our baggage. as we could not ascend the rapid [foot of the Cascade Rapids] by the North side of the river with our large canoes [Hamilton Island area], we passed to the oposite side and entered the narrow channel which seperates brant Island [Bradford Island] from the South shore; the evening being far spent and the wind high raining and very cold we thought best not to attempt the rapids [Cascade Rapids] this evening, we therefore sought a safe harbour in this narrow channel and encamped on the main shore [Tanner Creek, Oregon]. our small canoe with Drewyer and the two feildses was unable to pass the river with us in consequence of the waves they therefore toed her up along the N. side of the river and encamped [upstream end of Bonneville Dam, location of today's North Powerhouse] opposite the upper point of brant Island [Bradford Island]. after halting this evening I took a turn with my gun in order to kill a deer, but was unsuccessful. I saw much fresh sign. the fir has been lately injured by a fire near this place and many of them have discharged considerable quantities of rozin. we directed that Collins should hunt a few hours tomorrow morning and that Gibson and his crew should remain at his place untill we returned and employ themselves in collectng rozin which our canoes are now in want of.

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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

  • "HistoryLink.org" website, 2006, "The Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History";
  • McArthur, L.A., and McArthur, L.L., 2003, Oregon Geographic Names, Oregon Historical Society Press, Portland;
  • Oregon Bureau of Land Management website, 2005;
  • Skamania County Chamber of Commerce website, 2006;
  • U.S. Bureau of Land Management's General Land Office (GLO) Records database, 2013;
  • U.S. GenWeb website, 2006;
  • U.S.G.S. Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) website, 2006;
  • Washington State Historical Society 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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November 2018