Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Burnt Bridge Creek, Clark County, Washington"
Includes ... Burnt Bridge Creek ... Missoula Floods ...
Image, 2018, Salmon Creek, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Burnt Bridge Creek drainage, Vancouver, Washington. View looking east from Fruit Valley Road near the mouth of Burnt Bridge Creek. Image taken, September 3, 2018.

Burnt Bridge Creek ...
Burnt Bridge Creek runs parallel to the Columbia River, and merges into Vancouver Lake on its east side. Four miles to the north lies Salmon Creek. Thousands of years ago the Missoula Floods deposted tons of sand and gravel through which both Burnt Bridge Creek and Salmon Creek carved their channels. The name of Burnt Bridge Creek comes from a little wooden bridge which first spanned the creek.

Burnt Bridge Creek Drainage ...
According to the Clark County Water Resources ("Burnt Bridge Creek Watershed", 2004), the Burnt Bridge Creek watershed is comprised of 28 square miles of mostly flat to somewhat hilly land. Burnt Bridge Creek originates in field ditches that drain a large wetland area between NE 112th Avenue and NE 164th Avenue, then flows through another large drained wetland between NE 86th Avenue and NE 18th Street. For its first eight miles, the creek channel alternates between ditches and natural channels. For its last five miles, it flows through a small canyon with a narrow flood plain before reaching Vancouver Lake, where it enters the lake on its southeast corner. Burnt Bridge Creek has few visible tributaries. Cold Creek, the largest tribuatry, drains the area north of Minnehaha Street while Peterson Ditch and Burton Channel drain from near Interstate 205 west to Burnt Bridge Creek. Another very small creek flows west from springs at Bagley Park to Burnt Bridge Creek. About 2/3 of the watershed is in the city of Vancouver. Over the years the City of Vancouver along with Clark County have created a greenway corridor and park system along the creek, with a goal of creating an eight-mile trail system between Vancouver Lake and Interstate 205.

Early Burnt Bridge Creek ...
Today's Burnt Bridge Creek separated Fort Vancouver from pastures and areas known as the "Back Plains". Initially called "Bridge Creek", it later became "Burnt Bridge Creek" after the first wooden bridge was destroyed. Since Hudson's Bay Company times, the creek has been known as "Bridge Creek", "Burntbridge Creek", "Stenegier's Creek", "Marble Creek", and "Burnt Bridge Creek".

In 1897 the U.S. Board of Geographic Names made "Burntbridge Creek" the official name of the creek. In 1970, the U.S. Board of Geographic Names revised their 1897 decision and made "Burnt Bridge Creek" the official name.

According to "Names in Clark County" ("The Columbian", 2014):

"Burnt Bridge Creek ... A creek of many names. At one time, when a bridge crossed the creek at 4th Plain, it was called Bridge Creek. Then the bridge burned. In the 1850s, it was also called Stenegier’s Creek, after a Hudson’s Bay employee on whose land the creek ran. In 1865, it appears on the maps as Marble Creek, for Ansil Marble, on whose land it then lay. However, by 1885, it appears as Burnt Bridge Creek. The stream was Vancouver’s primary water source until the city’s wells were dug."

According to "Clark County History" ("The Columbian", 2014):

"Burnt Bridge Creek ... In 1889 a small wooden bridge was built over Burnt Bridge Creek. Although it was a rude structure it was a boon to the people who traveled to Vancouver from this ever growing neighborhood. The bigger bridge which changed the road to its present location was built in 1895 and rebuilt in 1922. ... The first little bridge was destroyed by fire, hence the unromantic name “Burnt Bridge creek” for the beautiful little stream of water." ["The Columbian", 2014]

Burnt Bridge Creek, etc.

  • Bridge Creek ...
  • Hudson's Bay Company ...
  • Klickitat Trail ...
  • Missoula Floods ...
  • Vancouver to Orchards to Sifton Streetcar ...

Bridge Creek ...
Fort Vancouver: Transition, 1829-1846, "Circulatin Networks":

"The third principal road leading from the stockade area on Fort Plain was the Back Plains Road, which began about one-quarter of a mile east of the intersection of Upper Mill Road and the "river road," next to the schoolhouses on the north side of the road. It headed in a northeastly direction, up hills and along swamps to the Back Plains, crossing through the four plains and terminating in a north-south road running along Camas Plain, connecting on the south to the Upper Mill Road. About one-quarter of a mile before reaching First Plain, the road crossed a bridge over a stream leading to Big Lake on the east [Vancouver Lake]; this stream was called Bridge River (today, Burntbridge Creek). Bridge River appears to have drained in the swampy lowlands southeast of the Back Plains Road. Before the Back Plains Road left Fort Plain, a short, north-south connecting road between it and Upper Mill Road branched off to the south, leading directly to the north gate road and access to the stockade." ...

Fort Vancouver: Transition, 1828-1846, "The Landscape Beyond Fort Plain: Back Plains":

These plains were connected by a road which extended from Upper Mill Road northeast of the stockade through the forest and plains. To reach the Back Plains it was necessary to ford what is now known as Burntbridge Creek, where, by 1844, a bridge had been built."

Source:    Fort Vancouver Cultural Landscape Report, 1992, Chapter 2, Volume 2.

Hudson's Bay Company ...

"In regard to the creek north of Vancouver barracks, known as Marble or Burntbridge creek, concerning the true name of which inquiry was received from Marcus Barker, secretary of the United States board of geogrpqahical names, the following facts are furnished by T.A. Wood: A bridge was built across this creek by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1836, when the country around was covered with primeval forest. The creek was then known as Bridge creek. In 1840 a great fire swept over that section, consuming the forest and the bridge, leaving northing but blackened stumps. The creek after that was called Burntbridge creek. Some distance down the creek a man named Marble took up a donation land claim and built a mill. This was known as Marble's mill, and this section was known as Marble's, and the creek in that vicinity was called Marble creek. The original name of the creek was Bridge creek; but, after the fire and the burning of the bridge, this was changed to Burntbridge creek, which has since continued to be its designation. The most natural thing imaginable in connection with the creek is the bridge; but in the early days of the footlog and the trail, bridges were not so common as now, and the fact that a bridge was built across this creek by the Hudson's Bay Company made it notorious, and entitled it to the name of Bridge creek, to distinguish it from the scores of other creeks in that section which had no bridges. To name a creek Bridge creek now would be about on par with naming it Water creek."

Source:    "Burntbridge Creek", IN: "Oregon Native Son", October 1900, Oregon Native Son Publishing, Portland, Oregon.

Klickitat Trail ...
In 1853 Captain George McClellan followed the Klickitat Trail, mapping the route passing between the Hudson Bay Company's "Back Plains". Within the first two miles the troups crossed "a brook twenty feet wide".

"The country gradually rises back of Vancouver into a light range of hills running parallel to Columbia river, and generally about a mile and a half from it. Two miles from Vancouver the trail crosses a brook twenty feet wide [Burnt Bridge Creek], which empties into a lake [Vancouver Lake] three miles below that place; the lake communicating with the Columbia ten miles below. From this stream the country along the trail breaks into small openings or plains having no timber on them. They vary from a half to several miles in extent, are very level, as well as the adjacent country, and are separated from each other by narrow strips of woods. Kolsas [Fourth Plain], the largest of these plains, about seven miles from Vancouver, is six or seven miles long, and three or four in breadth ..." [Duncan, 1854, "Topographical Report"]

[More Klickitat Trail]

Missoula Floods ...
Burnt Bridge Creek carved its channel into Missoula Flood deposits.

"From Crown Point Gap, the water poured northwestward across the present sites of Washougal and Camas with a depth of nearly 500 feet. It swept up the Washougal and Little Washougal valleys and across the divide past Woodburn Hill north of Washougal into the valley of Lackamas Creek, where it was joined by a similar torrent that had surged up Lackamas Creek, scouring out the kolk depression now occupied by Lackamas Lake. ... Northwest of Lackamas Lake, one broad channel paralleled the main Columbia River channel courses westward along Burnt Bridge Creek; other split off to the northwest and continued on into Salmon Creek and to the north into the well-develped ridge-and-swale area along Mill Creek." [Allens, Burns, and Burns, 2009]

Image, 2018, Geologic Map detail, Burnt Bridge Creek, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Geologic Map detail, mouth of Burnt Bridge Creek, Vancouver, Washington. Original map: J.E. O'Connor, U.S. Geologic Survey Scientific Investigations Map 3357.

Vancouver to Orchards to Sifton Streetcar ...
The Vancouver to Orchards to Sifton streetcar line, or "electric trolley", was a line which ran from downtown Vancouver north, and then east to the small communities of Orchards and Sifton. The streetcar's "car barn" was located at 33rd and St. Johns where the eastern portion of the line headed east on 33rd, crossing Burnt Bridge Creek, Falk Road, Stapleton Road, and then heading northeast, parallelling the north side of Fourth Plain through Orchards Park and ending in. Today's State Route 500 generally follows the same path.

Image, 2017, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Bike path to Burnt Bridge Creek, east side of Burnt Bridge Creek at Nicholson Road dead end, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken June 4, 2017.

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, ...

Vancouver PlainsReturn to

*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

  • "Burntbridge Creek", IN: "Oregon Native Son", October 1900, Oregon Native Son Publishing, Portland, Oregon;
  • Clark County Water Resources, 2004, "Burnt Bridge Creek Watershed";
  • "The Columbian", 2014, "Clark History, Names in Clark County" and "Clark County History";
  • Duncan, Lieutenant J.K., 1854, "Topographical Report of Lieutenant J.K. Duncan, U.S.A., Topographer of the Western Division", February 21, 1854, IN: U.S. War Department, 1855, "Reports of explorations and surveys: to ascertain the most practicable and economical route for a railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, Volume 1", Joseph Henry and Spencer Fullerton Baird, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, A.O.P. Nicholson, Printer;
  • Fort Vancouver Cultural Landscape Report, 1992, Chapter 2, Volume 2;
  • O'Connor, J.E., Cannon, C.M., Mangano, J.F., and Evarts, R.C., 2016, Geologic Map of the Vancouver and Orchards Quadrangles and Parts of the Portland and Mount Tabor Quadrangles, Clark County, Washington, and Multnomah County, Oregon, U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 3357;
  • U.S. Geological Survey's Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) database, 2019;

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.
February 2019