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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Cape Horns of the Columbia River"
Includes ... Cape Horn (Wahkiakum County) ... Cape Horn (Skamania County) ... Cape Horn (Rowena Gap) ... Cape Horn (near Celilo) ... Carleton Watkins ...
Image, 2003, Cape Horn, Washington, from Dalton Point, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Cape Horn, Washington. Cape Horn as seen from Dalton Point, Oregon. Image taken October 25, 2003.


Cape Horns of the Columbia River ...
Throughout Columbia River history there have been FIVE Cape Horns associated with the river.

1)   The first location called "Cape Horn" was the big basalt flow feature on the Oregon side of the Columbia at Rowena Gap. Ross Cox (published in 1831, London, and 1832, New York) used "Cape Horn" in referencing the Rowena feature, dating his journal entry June 8, 1812. John Work with the Hudson's Bay Company used the name "Cape Horn" on this feature in his journal in 1825, and he used "Cape Heron" in 1826. Other early explorers also called the Rowena basalt flow "Cape Horn". Today this feature appears nameless on maps.

2)   The second Cape Horn, Cape Horn in Skamania County, was first labeled such by Wilkes in 1841 and Fremont in 1843, both members of the U.S. Exploring Expedition. This is the large basalt flow feature most folks know as "Cape Horn".

3)   Rev. Gustavus Hines wrote about a third "Cape Horn" in 1843, with this Cape Horn being a "low point of land". Its location quite possibly is today's Cape Horn Landing, just east of the basalt feature of that name.

"... At twelve o’clock, we passed a low point of land which has received the name of Cape Horn, in consequence of the difficulty of the navigation of this part of the river arising, from the strength of wind which generally prevails here. Often, when it is safe running on all other parts of the river, canoes, on arriving here, are obliged to lie by, sometimes for days, before they can possibly pass this point. Indeed, the Cape Horn of the Columbia is more difficult to double with the pigmy craft which is used on this river, than the Stormy cape bearing the same Name at the southern extremity of Terra del Fuego. ..." [Hines, May 1, 1843]

4)   In 1867, Carleton Watkins, an early Western photographer, took a famous image of "Cape Horn near Celilo". In 2000, one of these images just sold at auction for over $200,000.

5)   And the fifth Cape Horn is the Cape Horn of Wahkiakum County, located downstream on the Columbia River near Puget Island. This Cape Horn was labeled "Bell's Bluff" by Wilkes in 1841.


Views ...

Image, 2005, Rowena Gap, Oregon, from Chamberlain Lake, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
1)  Rowena Gap, Oregon, from Chamberlain Lake, Washington. View from west end of Chamberlain Lake. Image taken May 1, 2005.
Image, 2004, Rooster Rock State Park and Cape Horn, as seen from Crown Point, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
2)   Rooster Rock State Park, Oregon, and Cape Horn, Washington, as seen from Vista House, Crown Point, Oregon. Image taken October 11, 2004.
Image, 2005, Cape Horn, tunnel, train, landing, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
3)  Train leaving Cape Horn Tunnel and approaching Cape Horn Landing. View from Bridal Veil Overlook. Image taken October 22, 2005.
Image, 2005, Cape Horn near Celilo, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
4)   Cape Horn near Celilo, Oregon. Image taken June 4, 2005.
Image, 2003, Cape Horn of Wahkiakum County, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
5)   Cape Horn of Wahkiakum, Washington. Image taken November 9, 2003.


The Original Cape Horn ...
The original Cape Horn is the southernmost point of South America, around which early explorers and traders had to travel. According to the "WorldHistory.com" website (2004):

"The cape was first rounded on January 26, 1616 by a Dutch expedition of Willem Schouten and Jacob Le Maire. They named it Kaap Hoorn after the city of Hoorn, Schouten's birthplace. The Spanish name of the place is derived from the Dutch: Cabo de Hornos. Cape Horn is famous for the weather conditions that made it difficult to round in the days of sailing ships."


Early Cape Horn Excerpts


1805 (Skamania County) ...
Lewis and Clark passed by Cape Horn of Skamania County, on November 2, 1805.

"... S. 47° W. 12 miles to a Stard. point of rocks of a high clift of black rocks ..." [Clark, November 2, 1805, first draft]


1812, published in 1831 (Rowena) ...
Excerpt from Ross Cox's Adventures on the Columbia River, entry for June 8, 1812, narrative published in 1831, where the name "Cape Horn" appears (courtesy Early Canadiana Online website, 2007):

"... June 8, 1812: about half way between the first rapids [Cascades, now the Bonneville area] and narrows [The Dalles] a bold promontory of high black rock stretches a considerable distance into the river, which, from the difficulty we experienced in doubling it, received the name of Cape Horn [Rowena]. The current here is very strong and full of whirlpools; so that except in calm weather, or with a fair wind, it is rather a dangerous undertaking to "double the Cape.".


1825 (Rowena) ...
Excerpt from John Work, entry of June 23, 1825, where the name "Cape Horn" appears (From Washington Historical Quarterly, Vol. 5 No. 2 (1914), pp. 83-115, courtesy Mountain Men and the Fur Trade website, 2004):

"... June 22, 1825: Drizzling rain forenoon. Wind W. Embarked at 3 o'clock and reached the Cascades at 1 [Bonneville], had to carry at the New Portage, everything was got half way across the Portage by 5 oclock when the men were employed gumming the boats. ...

Thursday 23: Dry weather, blowing fresh from the N. W. Resumed carrying at 3 o'clock and by 6 everything was embarked at the upper end of the portage [Bonneville] where we proceeded up the river under sail with a fine strong wind till 12 oclock when we put ashore a little below Cape Horn [Rowena]. Mr. McLeod considering it too rough to proceed.

Friday 24: Dry weather a fine breeze from the N. W. Continued our journey at a little past 3 oclock with a nice sail wind and reached the lower end of the Dalles [rapids at The Dalles, Oregon] about two ..."


1826 (Rowena) ...
Excerpt from John Work, entry of June 12, 1826, where the name "Cape Heron" appears (From Washington Historical Quarterly, Vol. 5 No. 4 (1914), pp. 258-287, courtesy of Mountain Men and the Fur Trade website, 2004):

"... June 10, 1826: Cloudy fine weather, very warm though there was a little breeze of wind. Proceeded on our journey at daylight. Passed the portage at the Chutes [Deschutes River] and to near the lower end of the Dalles [rapids at The Dalles, Oregon] where we encamped to get the boats gummed ...

Sunday 11: Cloudy, Blowing fresh part of the day. All hands were in motion at daylight, and after proceeding down a small channel & making a portage at its lower end, continued our rout, but it blew so fresh that we had to put ashore before noon and could not proceed during the day. ... There was some trouble getting through the rapids and whirlpools below the Dalles. ...

Monday 12: Continued blowing fresh all night and all day. Storming in the afternoon. It being a little moderate we embarked at daylight, but had proceeded only a few hours when the wind reversed so that we had to put ashore & remain all day a little below Cape Heron [Cape Horn, Rowena]. ..."


1836, published in 1839 (Rowena) ...
From John Kirk Townsend, entry of June 29, 1836, IN: Narrative of a Journey across the Rocky Mountains, published 1839:

"... June 26th, 1835: ‘I left Vancouver yesterday, with the summer brigade, for a visit to Walla-walla, and its vicinity. ...

27th.: ‘ We arrived yesterday at the upper cascades [Cascade Locks], and made in the course of the day three portages. As is usual in this place, it rained almost constantly, and the poor men engaged in carrying the goods, were completely drenched. ...

29th.: In the afternoon, we passed the bold, basaltic point, known to the voyageurs by the name of "Cape Horn." [Rowena]. The wind here blew a perfect hurricane, and but for the consummate skill of those who managed our boats, we must have had no little difficulty. ..."

30th.: We were engaged almost the whole of this day in making portages [The Dalles], and I had, in consequence, some opportunity of prosecuting my researches on the land. We have now passed the range of vegetation; there are no trees or even shrubs; nothing but huge, jagged rocks of bassalt, and interminable sand heeps. ..."

Thwaites' footnote (1905):

"Cape Horn is a high basaltic cliff towering two thousand five hundred feet above the river bank, not far above Vancouver, in Skamania County, Washington. It was so named because boats were frequently wind-bound in passing this point."

NOTE: The Thwaites is in error of the location, as Townsen is referring to the basalt flow at Rowena and says nothing about today's Cape Horn in Skamania County.



1841 (Wahkiakum County, Skamania County, and Rowena) ...
In 1841 Charles Wilkes of the U.S. Exploring Expedition called Cape Horn of Wahkiakum County "Bell's Bluff", and the Cape Horn of Skamania County "Cape Horn".

"... From Lotiva Head [area of today's Cathlamet, Washington] the channel runs under the high bluff of the north shore [bluff between Cathlamet and Cape Horn], with deep water; when half a mile above Bag Island [today the location of Whites Island], near the east point of Puget's Island [Puget Island], haul over to the shore of Kintshotsh Island [floodplain north of Westport Slough], to avoid the shoal which extends from Bell's Bluff [Cape Horn of Wahkiakum County] to the west a mile, the outer edge of which is half a mile from the north shore. ..."

"... From the latter Rooster Rock] the channel passes to the high bluff on the north shore, called the Natural Wharf [below today's Cape Horn]. Three miles above this, on the same shore, is Cape Horn [Cape Horn]; the bluff continues 2 mile beyond. Hermit Islet [Phoca Rock ???] lies below, near the middle of the river; the channel is between it and the north shore, where the water is deep. On the south side the shores are low and sandy, the river quite shallow and filled with shoals and sandbanks. Grist Point [???], is a low sandy point. The point next above Grist Point [???] is Rounding Point [???], situated directly opposite to the east end of Cape Horn Bluff [basalt walls east of the point of Cape Horn]. ..."

Wilke's map of the Oregon Territory, Columbia River inset, shows "Lower Cape Horn" in the area of today's Cape Horn of Skamania County, and "Upper Cape Horn" in the area of today's Rowena Gap, Oregon.



1843 (Skamania County) ...
Captain Fremont passed by Cape Horn of Skamania County in early November 1843.

"... A few miles below the cascades [Bonneville/Cascade Locks] we passed a singular isolated hill; and in the course of the next six miles occurred five very pretty falls from the hieghts on the left bank, one of them being of a very picturesque character; and towards sunset we reached a remarkable point of rocks, distinguished, on account of prevailing high winds, and the delay it frequently occasions to the canoe navigation, by the name of Cape Horn. It borders the river in a high wall of rock, which comes boldly down into deep water; and in violent gales down the river, and from the opposite shore, which is the prevailing direction fo strong winds, the weater is dahsed against it with considerable violence. It appears to form a serious obstacle to canoe travelling; and I was informed by Mr. Perkins, that in a voyage up the river he had been detained two weeks at this place, and was finally obliged to return to Vancouver. ..."
[Fremont, November 7, 1843]


1843, published in 1851 ("low point of land") ...
From: Rev. Gustavus Hines Oregon: Its History, Condition and Prospects , published in 1851:

"... Monday, May 1st. At sunrise proceeded on our voyage, and were much delighted with the magnificent scenery on the shores of the great Columbia. At eight o’clock passed the Prairie Du——— [Prairie De The, today's Washougal, Washington], which lies on the north side of the river. This is a low, wet prairie, with but little land which will admit of cultivation, but well adapted to grazing purposes. As we proceeded, the land next to the river became more uneven, the shores more rocky and abrupt, and at length we found ourselves crawling along at the base of a frowning precipice of rocks rising more than three hundred feet perpendicular over our heads [today's Cape Horn, Skamania County]. A little farther on and huge masses of Basalt appeared thrown together in the wildest confusion, and these would be succeeded by another frightful precipice, causing one involuntarily to cringe while looking, upward towards its dizzy height. From the top, as if to add beauty to terror, came leaping down a limpid brook, which lost itself in spray, long before it reached the bottom; and then again large fir-trees, stuck upon the top of the rock three or four hundred feet directly over our heads, and leaning their waving tops far over the rolling waters, would seem to look down upon us with the most threatening aspect. Conical formations of rocks from thirty to one hundred feet high appeared, peering up out of the water, resembling in form the huge Haystacks of a Connecticut farmers. As we passed along at the base of these grand abutments of nature, swarms of swallows far above our heads, were delightfully playing around the holes and crevices of the precipice, in which they had built their nests.

At twelve o’clock, we passed a low point of land which has received the name of Cape Horn, in consequence of the difficulty of the navigation of this part of the river arising, from the strength of wind which generally prevails here. Often, when it is safe running on all other parts of the river, canoes, on arriving here, are obliged to lie by, sometimes for days, before they can possibly pass this point. Indeed, the Cape Horn of the Columbia is more difficult to double with the pigmy craft which is used on this river, than the Stormy cape bearing the same Dame at the southern extremity of Terra del Fuego. ..." [Hines, May 1, 1843]


1848 (Skamania) ...
From Ten Years in Oregon compiled by Miss A.J. Allen, published in 1848 (courtesy Washington Secretary of State website, 2007):

"... Here ... a long portage has to be made [Bonneville], ... Near this is the isolated rock, so far celebrated, rising from the river to the height of two hundred and seventy feet, and five hundred feet in circumference at its base, and, at a distance, in a form resembling a sugar loaf [Beacon Rock]. The river beyond this, is remarkable for its high, rocky bluffs, and occasionally small rivulets shooting over them into the river, with a fall of from five hundred to a thousand feet. It is the projection of one of these points, which forms, what the Canadian voyageurs have named Cape Horn, as, in stormy weather, it is very dangerous to pass. Here the Cascade mountains melt away, and a few miles farther down are the Fort Vancouver mills, six miles only from this great establishment. ..."


1867 (near Celilo) ...
Two famous views of "Cape Horn near Celilo" exist, taken by photographer Carleton Watkins in the late 1860s. One is "Cape Horn, near Celilo, Columbia River" (Stereograph #1329) and the other is "Cape Horn near Celilo" (year 1867). This last image hangs in many museums around the world. In 2000, a print of Watkin's "Cape Horn near Celilo" went at auction for $236,750 to a San Francisco dealer.


1897 (Rowena) ...
From: Alexander Henry and David Thompson Journals, Vol.III, published in 1897 (courtesy Early Canadiana Online website, 2005):

"... Cape Horn, the bold promontory of high, black rocks below the Dalles of the Columbia was so named by David Stuart's party in July, 1812 ..."


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, ...
 




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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: Columbia Gorge Discovery Center Photo Archive website, 2005; Early Canadiana Online website, 2005, 2007; Mountain Men and the Fur Trade website, 2005; "Photo Central" website, 2005; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art website, 2005; Washington State Secretary of State 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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November 2011