Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Browns Island"
Includes ... Browns Island ... "Rabbit Island" ... "black rock" ... "Short Narrows" ... "The Dalles" ...
Image, 2005, Mount Hood and Browns Island, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Browns Island with Mount Hood in the distance. View from upstream on Washington State Highway 14. The location of the "Short Narrows" or "Tenmile Rapids" was on the Oregon side (left in image) of Browns Island. Image taken May 24, 2005.


Browns Island ...
Browns Island is located in the middle of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 198. Upstream on the Washington side is Avery and Wishram, and downstream on the Washington side is Horsethief Butte and the Columbia Hills State Park. On the Oregon side rises Kaser Ridge, a Columbia River Basalt flow. Browns Island itself was once a large massive basalt feature jutting into the Columbia. In 1957 it became an island by the rising waters of Lake Celilo, the reservoir behind The Dalles Dam. Lewis and Clark called this basalt feature "black rock".

Lewis and Clark and Browns Island ...
Lewis and Clark passed this "black rock", today's Browns Island, on October 24, 1805. Captain Clark climbed to the top to view the head of the trecherous rapids later known as the "Short Narrows" below.
"... here a tremendious <heigh> black rock Presented itself high and Steep appearing to choke up the river nor could I See where the water passed further than the Current was drawn with great velocity to the Lard Side of this rock at which place I heard a great roreing. I landed at the Lodges and the natives went with me to the top of this rock which makes from the Stard. Side; from the top of which I could See the dificuelties we had to pass for Several miles below; [Clark, October 24, 1805]

The location of the Short Narrows, later called "Tenmile Rapids", was on the Oregon side of Browns Island. The Short Narrows and the Long Narrows below it ("Fivemile Rapids") became known as a stretch of rapids called "The Dalles".


Early Browns Island ...
The 1861 cadastral survey map (tax map) for T2N 14E shows "Rabbit Island" in the location of today's Browns Island.

Views ...

Image, 2005, Browns Island, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Browns Island with Kaser Ridge behind, as seen from Washington State Highway 14. Image taken May 24, 2005.
Image, 2005, Browns Island, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Browns Island, as seen from upstream on Washington State Highway 14. Image taken May 24, 2005.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, October 24, 1805 ...
The first pitch of this falls [Celilo Falls] is 20 feet perpendicular, then passing thro' a narrow Chanel for 1 mile to a rapid of about 18 feet fall below which the water had no perceptable fall but verry rapid ...     It may be proper here to remark that from Some obstruction below, the cause of which we have not yet learned, the water in high fluds (which are in the Spring) rise <nearly> below these falls nearly to a leavel with the water above the falls; the marks of which can be plainly trac'd around the falls. at that Stage of the water the Salmon must pass up which abounds in Such great numbers above- below thos falls are Salmon trout and great numbers of the heads of a Species of trout Smaller than the Salmon. those fish they catch out of the Salmon Season, and are at this time in the act of burrying those which they had drid for winter food. ...    Capt Lewis and three men crossed the river and on the opposit Side to view the falls which he had not yet taken a full view of-     At 9 oClock a. m. I Set out with the party and proceeded on down a rapid Stream of about 400 yards wide at 2 1/2 miles the river widened ito a large bason to the Stard. Side on which there is five Lodges of Indians. here a tremendious <heigh> black rock Presented itself high and Steep appearing to choke up the river [the future Browns Island] nor could I See where the water passed further than the Current was drawn with great velocity to the Lard Side of this rock at which place I heard a great roreing. I landed at the Lodges and the natives went with me to the top of this rock which makes from the Stard. Side; from the top of which I could See the dificuelties we had to pass for Several miles below; at this place the water of this great river is compressed into a Chanel [the "Short Narrows" or Tenmile Rapids] between two rocks not exceeding forty five yards wide and continues for a 1/4 of a mile when it again widens to 200 yards and continues this width for about 2 miles when it is again intersepted by rocks. This obstruction in the river accounts for the water in high floods riseing to Such a hite at the last falls. The whole of the Current of this great river must at all Stages pass thro' this narrow chanel of 45 yards wide. as the portage of our canoes over this high rock would be impossible with our Strength, and the only danger in passing thro those narrows was the whorls and Swills arriseing from the Compression of the water, and which I thought (as also our principal watermen Peter Crusat) by good Stearing we could pass down Safe, accordingly I deturmined to pass through this place notwithstanding the horrid appearance of this agitated gut Swelling, boiling & whorling in every direction (which from the top of the rock did not appear as bad as when I was in it;[)] however we passed Safe to the astonishment of all the Inds: of the last Lodges who viewed us from the top of the rock [this high rock became Browns Island when the waters of Lake Celilo inundated the valley]. passed one Lodge below this rock and halted on the Stard. Side to view a verry bad place, the Current divided by 2 Islands of rocks the lower of them large and in the middle of the river, this place being verry bad I Sent by land all the men who could not Swim and Such articles as was most valuable to us Such as papers Guns & amunition, and proceeded down with the Canoes two at a time to a village of 20 wood housies in a Deep bend to the Stard. Side [area of Horsethief Butte and Horsethief Lake] below which a rugid black rock about <the> 20 feet hiter <of> than the Common high fluds of the river with Several dry Chanels which appeared to Choke the river up quite across; this I took to be the 2d falls or the place the nativs above call timm, The nativs of this village reived me verry kindly, one of whome envited me into his house, ...    I dispatched a Sufficent number of the good Swimers back for the 2 canoes above the last rapid and with 2 men walked down three miles to examine the river Over a bed of rocks, which the water at verry high fluds passes over, on those rocks I Saw Several large Scaffols on which the Indians dry fish; as this is out of Season the poles on which they dry those fish are tied up verry Securely in large bundles and put upon the Scaffolds, I counted 107 <Scaff> Stacks of dried pounded fish in different places on those rocks which must have contained 10,000 w. of neet fish, The evening being late I could not examine the river to my Satisfaction, the Chanel is narrow and compressed for about 2 miles [the "Long Narrows" or Fivemile Rapids], when it widens into a deep bason to the Stard. Side ["Big Eddy", today the location of Spearfish Lake], & again contracts into a narrow chanel divided by a rock [head of Threemile Rapids] I returned through a rockey open countrey infested with pole-cats to the village where I met with Capt. Lewis the two old Chiefs who accompanied us & the party & canoes who had all arrived Safe; the Canoes haveing taken in Some water at the last rapids. here we formed a Camp near the Village [near Horsethief Butte and Horsethief Lake] ...






Clark, undated, winter of 1805-6 ...
"Estimated Distances in Miles Ascending the Missouri, Crossing the Rockey Mountains & decending the Kooskooskee [Clearwater River], Louises River [Snake River] and the Columbia River of the remarkable places and Latitud partially anexed. ...

[reformatted here from original entry, for information only]
  • Towahnahiooks River from the Lard Side 180 yd" [Deschutes River]
  • 4 miles to the Falls of the Columbia of 37 feet 8 ins near which is 40 Mat Lodges of the E-Nee-sher Nation [Celilo Falls]
  • 2 miles to the Short Narrows of 45 yds. wide ["Short Narrows", or Tenmile Rapids]
  • 4 miles to the E che lute Town of 21 large wood houses at the long narrows [head of the "Long Narrows", or Fivemile Rapids, Horsethief Lake area] of from 50 to 100 yds wide






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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:    U.S. Bureau of Land Management website, 2014;   

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