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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Cathlamet, Washington"
Includes ... Cathlamet ... "Birnie's Retreat" ... Pioneer Church ... Elliott House ... Warren Cannery ... River Rat Tap Tavern ... Wahkiakum County Historical Society Museum ... Cathlamet Channel ... Cathlamet Bridge ... National Register of Historic Places ...
Image, 2005, Cathlamet, Washington, click to enlarge
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Cathlamet, Washington. Cathlamet, Washington, as seen from Puget Island. Image taken March 5, 2005.


Yellowish building with red roof is the River Rat Tap Tavern and the long dark red roofed building to its left is the old Warren Cannery building. The River Rat Tap Tavern appeared in the 2000 film "Men of Honor". The Warren Cannery was established in 1869. The Cathlamet Channel is in the foreground.


Cathlamet ...
Cathlamet, Washington, is located on the Cathlamet Channel, just opposite Puget Island, at Columbia River Mile (RM) 40. (The main channel of the Columbia River is on the opposite side of Puget Island.) Cathlamet is connected to Puget Island by a 1/2-mile long fixed highway bridge. Just downstream of Cathlamet are the Hunting Islands and the head of the Elochoman Slough which separates the Hunting Islands from the Washington mainland. Seven miles downstream of Cathlamet is the town of Skamokawa. Immediately upstream of Cathlamet is Cape Horn of Wahkiakum County, near where Lewis and Clark spent the night of November 6, 1805. The location of today's Cathlamet was once the site of a large Chinookan village in the early 1800s. It takes its name from the Chinookans who called themselves Kathlamets of Kala-amat (see more below).

Image, 2011, Cathlamet, Washington, street scene, click to enlarge
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Banner, Cathlamet, Washington. Image taken July 6, 2011.
Image, 2005, Cathlamet from Puget Island, click to enlarge
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Cathlamet as seen from Puget Island. Image taken March 5, 2005.
Image, 2005, Cathlamet, Washington, as seen from Puget Island, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Cathlamet, Washington, as seen from Puget Island. Image taken March 5, 2005.


Lewis and Clark and Cathlamet ...
Lewis and Clark spent the night of November 6, 1805, upstream of Cathlamet, near today's Cape Horn. On the morning of November 7, 1805, the men visited the village "on the Stard Side behind a cluster of Marshey Islands". The village contained four houses.

"... we Set out early     proceeded under the Stard Shore under a high rugid hills with Steep assent the Shore boalt and rockey, the fog So thick we could not See across the river, two Canos of Indians met and returned with us to their village which is Situated on the Stard Side behind a cluster of Marshey Islands, on a narrow chanl. of the river through which we passed to the Village of 4 Houses, ...    Those people call themselves War-ci--cum ...     after delaying at this village one hour and a half we Set out piloted by an Indian dressed in a Salors dress, to the main Chanel of the river, ..." [Clark, November 7, 1805]

Chinookan Village ...
The location of today's Cathlamet was once the site of a large Chinookan village in the early 1800s. It takes its name from the Chinookans who called themselves Kathlamets of Kala-amat. However, the location of the main village has varied. When Lewis and Clark passed in 1805 on the north side of the river there was a small village of four houses which Lewis and Clark visited on November 6, 1805, which they call the "War ki a cum village" on their return. The four houses are shown on their route map [Moulton, vol.1, map#81]. The hills behind and to the north of the village are labeled "War ki a cum Nations". On their return on March 24, 1806, Lewis and Clark visit a larger village on the south side of the Columbia. The "Cath lah mah Nation" is shown [map#80 and 81] on the south side of the Columbia, near the location of today's Knappa, Oregon.

"... we Set out at half past 9 a. m. and proceeded to the Cath lah mah Village at 1 P. M. and remained untill 1/2 after 3 p. m.    at this village we purchased a fiew wappato and a Dog ...    we proceeded on through Some difficult and narrow Channels between the Seal Islands, and the south side to an old village on the south side opposit to the lower War ki a com village, and Encamped. ..." [Clark, March 24, 1806]

The Chinookan Village of the 1800s ...
The lower Columbia River area was once populated by large villages of Native people which historians group as "Chinook". Disease brought in by explorers and traders nearly wiped out the people in the early 1800s.

"The original inhabitants spoke a variety of languages in the family known as Chinookan.

The Chinook Nation is a confederation of the five westernmost tribes of Chinookan people: the Lower Chinook, the Clatsop, the Willapa, the Wahkia-kum, and the Kathlamet. Chinookan tribes once stretched from the Pacific Ocean up to the Dalles ...

Within a few years of Lewis and Clark's departure in 1806, surviving Cathlamets from the south bank crossed the river and joined with some Wahkiakums who had abandoned an ancient village site on Elochoman Slough to establish a new village called Cathlamet, it became one of the largest Indian centers on the lower Columbia, the site of the first white settlement in the future Wahkiakum County, and eventually the county seat."

Source:   Cathlamet Chamber of Commerce website, 2011.


Early Cathlamet ...
In 1846 a retiring Hudson's Bay Company employee from Astoria, James Birnie, set up a trading post at the location of today's Cathlamet, and for many years the site was called "Birnie's Retreat". The name "Birnie" still is used on "Birnie Slough", located across Cathlamet Channel on Puget Island.

The 1858 cadastral survey (tax survey) for T8N R6W has "Cathlamette" located at the location of today's Cathlamet. The map shows a "wharf" and a "store". The Cathlamet Channel was "Columbia River". Puget Island was "Pugets Island".

The 1863 cadastral survey does not have the town indicated. It shows the location of today's Cathlamet as the Donation Land Claim (DLC) of James Birnie, Claim No.37, for 637.06 acres. To the east was the DLC of A.C. Anderson (Claim No.38, 265.78 acres). To the west was the DLC of Wm. Strong (Claim No.39, 210.23 acres).

Since 1869, Cathlamet was the home of the Warren Cannery (see more below).


Street scenes ...

Image, 2011, Cathlamet, Washington, street scene, click to enlarge
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Street scene, Cathlamet, Washington. View from moving car. Image taken April 22, 2011.

Large three-story building on the left - built in the 1920s - is the "Columbia Saloon". A devastating fire destroyed part of the building in 1992. It is currently (2011) being remodeled.
Image, 2011, Cathlamet, Washington, street scene, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Street scene, Cathlamet, Washington. View from moving car. Image taken July 6, 2011.

The "Columbia Saloon", built in the 1920s, was partly destroyed by a fire in 1992. It is currently (2011) being remodeled.
Image, 2011, Cathlamet, Washington, street scene, click to enlarge
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Street scene, Cathlamet, Washington. View from moving car. Image taken April 22, 2011.
Image, 2011, Cathlamet, Washington, street scene, click to enlarge
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Street scene, Cathlamet, Washington. View from moving car. Image taken April 22, 2011.

View of the "Hotel Cathlamet", built around 1926.
Image, 2012, Cathlamet, Washington, street scene, click to enlarge
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Street scene, Cathlamet, Washington. View from moving car. Image taken September 17, 2012.

View of the "Hotel Cathlamet", built around 1926.
Image, 2011, Cathlamet, Washington, street scene, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Street scene, Cathlamet, Washington. View from moving car. Image taken July 6, 2011.
Image, 2011, Cathlamet, Washington, street scene, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Street scene, Cathlamet, Washington. View from moving car. Image taken July 6, 2011.
Image, 2011, Cathlamet, Washington, street scene, click to enlarge
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Street scene, Cathlamet, Washington. View from moving car. Image taken April 22, 2011.

Looking down Broadway towards the Public Dock. The River Rat Tap Tavern in on the right on the waterfront (yellowish building with red roof).


Cathlamet, etc.

  • Cathlamet - Puget Island Bridge ...
  • Cathlamet Channel ...
  • Cathlamet Waterfront ...
  • Elliott House ...
  • Marina ...
  • Pioneer Church ...
  • River Rat Tap Tavern ...
  • Road ...
  • Strong Park and Waterfront Trail ...
  • Wahkiakum County Historical Society Museum ...
  • Warren Cannery ...

Cathlamet - Puget Island Bridge ...
The bridge between Puget Island and Cathlamet (Washington State Route 409) was built in 1938, thus eliminating the need for the Puget Island to Cathlamet ferry. A ferry still exists on the south side of Puget Island however, connecting Puget Island to Westport, Oregon. The ferry terminal on Puget Island is the end of Washington State Route 409.

Image, 2005, Puget Island and Cathlamet Bridge, Washington, click to enlarge
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Puget Island and Cathlamet, Washington. Image taken March 5, 2005.
Image, 2007, Cathlamet Bridge, click to enlarge
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Driving the Cathlamet Bridge, Washington. Image taken October 13, 2007.


Cathlamet Channel ...
The Cathlamet Channel is the 10-mile long waterway on the northeast side of Puget Island separating the island from the Washington shoreline, while the main channel of the Columbia River is on the southwest side of Puget Island separating it from the Oregon shore. The downstream end of the Cathlamet Channel joins the main channel of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 37, across from the lower end of Tenasillahe Island and following the shoreline of the Hunting Islands. At the upstream end of Cathlamet Channel lies Nassa Point. The Washington State Route 409 bridge crosses between Puget Island and Cathlamet.
[More]

Image, 2005, Cathlamet Channel as seen from Puget Island, click to large
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Puget Island, Cathlamet Channel, Cathlamet Bridge, from Bradley State Wayside. Mount Rainier is in the distance, right. Image taken April 19, 2005.


Cathlamet Waterfront ...
The community of Cathlamet lies along the Cathlamet Channel. The Cathlamet Channel separates mainland Washington State from Puget Island.

Image, 2011, Cathlamet, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Cathlamet waterfront from Public Dock, looking upstream, along the Cathlamet Channel, Cathlamet, Washington. The old Warren Cannery building can be seen (red roof). Image taken August 7, 2011.
Image, 2011, Cathlamet, Washington, click to enlarge
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Cathlamet waterfront from Public Dock, looking downstream, along the Cathlamet Channel, Cathlamet, Washington. Image taken August 7, 2011.


Elliott House ...
The Elliott House was built in 1870 by James Birnie, for his daughter Charlotte Illsey.

Image, 2011, Cathlamet, Washington, street scene, click to enlarge
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Elliott House, Cathlamet, Washington. Image taken July 6, 2011.
Image, 2011, Cathlamet, Washington, click to enlarge
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Sign, Elliott House, Cathlamet, Washington. Image taken July 6, 2011.


Marina ...

Image, 2005, Cathlamet, Washington, click to enlarge
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Cathlamet, Washington. Cathlamet, Washington, as seen from overlook along Washington State Highway 4. Image taken March 5, 2005.


Pioneer Church ...
In 1973 the Cathlamet Pioneer Church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (Structure #73001893). The Church was built in 1895.

Image, 2011, Cathlamet, Washington, street scene, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Pioneer Church, Cathlamet, Washington. Image taken July 6, 2011.
Image, 2011, Cathlamet, Washington, street scene, click to enlarge
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Pioneer Church, Cathlamet, Washington. Image taken July 6, 2011.
Image, 2011, Cathlamet, Washington, street scene, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Pioneer Church, Cathlamet, Washington. Image taken July 6, 2011.
Image, 2011, Cathlamet, Washington, street scene, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Pioneer Church, Cathlamet, Washington. Image taken July 6, 2011.


River Rat Tap Tavern ...
The River Rat Tap Tavern, built in _____, is located along Cathlamet's waterfront, just downstream of the historic Warren Cannery building. The Tavern appeared in a scene in the 2000 movie "Men of Honor" staring Cuba Gooding Jr., Robert De Niro, and Charlize Theron. Currently (2011) the Tavern is closed and up for sale.

Image, 2011, Cathlamet, Washington, click to enlarge
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River Rat Tap Tavern, Cathlamet, Washington. Image taken August 7, 2011.
Image, 2011, Cathlamet, Washington, click to enlarge
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Sign, River Rat Tap Tavern, Cathlamet, Washington. Image taken August 7, 2011.


Road ...
"A Legislative act of 1866 made provision for a road from Cathlamet to Oak Point, but it was not until amany years later that this road was completed. Records show that sections of this highway were completed in 1928 and 1929."


Source:    Washington State Department of Transportation website, 2015, "History of Roads & Highways in the State of Washington, ca.1960s;


Strong Park and Waterfront Trail ...
Stong Park and Waterfront Trail is located in Cathlamet, Washington, and houses the Wahkiakum County Historical Museum, the "Six Spot" Willamette Locomotive, and the "Totem", a old fish buying boat.
[More]

Image, 2011, Cathlamet, Washington, click to enlarge
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Sign, Strong Park and Waterfront Trail, Cathlamet, Washington. Image taken August 7, 2011.
Image, 2011, Cathlamet, Washington, click to enlarge
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"Totem", a fish buying boat, Strong Park, Cathlamet, Washington. Image taken August 7, 2011.
Image, 2009, Six Spot, Cathlamet, Washington, click to enlarge
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"Six Spot" locomotive, Strong Park, Cathlamet, Washington. Image taken May 8, 2009.


Wahkiakum County Historical Society Museum ...
The Wahkiakum County Historical Society Museum is located in Cathlamet, Washington, and is housed in a building located at Strong Park.
[More]

Image, 2011, Lewis and Clark 1905 commemorative coin, click to enlarge
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1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Commemorative Coin. On display at the Wahkiakum County Historical Society Museum, Cathlamet, Washington. Image taken August 7, 2011.

Portland, Oregon, hosted the 1905 Centennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Commemorative coins were sold, one of which is on display at the Wahkiakum County Historical Society Museum in Cathlamet.
[More]
Image, 2011, Cathlamet, Washington, click to enlarge
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Displays, Wahkiakum County Historical Society Museum, Cathlamet, Washington. Image taken August 7, 2011.


Warren Cannery ...
One of the pioneer canners on the Columbia River was Frank.M. Warren, who not only owned many fishwheels in the Columbia Gorge area, but also operated two canneries, one at Warrendale, Oregon, and the other established in 1869 at Cathlamet, Washington. The Cathlamet structure still stands today (2011), one of the last remaining cannery structures along the Columbia River. Part of the roof fell in the summoer of 2010, leaving its future undecided.

Image, 2011, Cathlamet, Washington, click to enlarge
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Remains of the Warren Cannery, Cathlamet, Washington. Image taken August 7, 2011.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 7, 1805 ...
A cloudy foggey morning Some rain. we Set out [from their camp at Cape Horn, Wahkiakum County, Washington] early proceeded under the Stard Shore under a high rugid hills with Steep assent the Shore boalt and rockey, the fog So thick we could not See across the river [typical for this area in the winter], two Canos of Indians met and returned with us to their village which is Situated on the Stard Side behind a cluster of Marshey Islands [Puget Island and the Hunting Islands] , on a narrow chanl. of the river [Cathlamet Channel] through which we passed to the Village of 4 Houses, [Cathlamet, Washington area] ....

Those people call themselves War-ci--cum ...

after delaying at this village one hour [Cathlamet, Washington area] and a half we Set out piloted by an Indian dressed in a Salors dress, to the main Chanel of the river, the tide being in we Should have found much dificuelty in passing into the main Chanel from behind those islands [Puget Island and the Hunting Islands],     without a pilot, a large marshey Island [Tenasillahe Island] near the middle of the river near which Several Canoes Came allong Side with Skins, roots fish &c. to Sell, and had a temporey residence on this Island, here we See great numbers of water fowls about those marshey Islands; here the high mountanious Countrey approaches the river on the Lard Side [near Clifton, Oregon], a high mountn. to the S W. about 20 miles [Saddle Mountain], the high mountans. Countrey Continue on the Stard Side, about 14 miles below the last village and 18 miles of this day we landed at a village of the Same nation [Skamokawa, Washington]. This village is at the foot of the high hills on the Stard Side back of 2 Small Islands [today, Price Island lies between Skamokawa and the Columbia River] it contains 7 indifferent houses built in the Same form of those above, ... opposit to this Village the high mountaneous Countrey leave the river on the Lard Side [downstream of Aldrich Point] below which the river widens into a kind of Bay [Cathlamet Bay] & is Crouded with low Islands Subject to be Covered by the tides [today this is the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge, part of the Lower Columbia River Estuary] - we proceeded on about 12 miles below the Village [Skamokawa] under a high mountaneous Countrey on the Stard. Side. Shore boald and rockey and Encamped under a high hill [ridge of Jim Crow Point] on the Stard. Side opposit to a rock [Pillar Rock] Situated half a mile from the Shore, about 50 feet high and 20 feet Diamieter,     we with dificuelty found a place Clear of the tide and Sufficiently large to lie on and the only place we could get was on round Stones on which we lay our mats rain Continud. moderately all day & Two Indians accompanied us from the last village, they we detected in Stealing a knife and returned, our Small Canoe which got Seperated in the fog this morning joined us this evening from a large Island Situated nearest the Lard Side below the high hills on that Side, the river being too wide to See either the form Shape or Size of the Islands on the Lard Side [part of the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge].

Great joy in camp we are in View of the Ocian [Clark's famous "Ocian in view! O! the Joy"], this great Pacific Octean [Pacific Ocean] which we been So long anxious to See. and the roreing or noise made by the waves brakeing on the rockey Shores (as I Suppose) may be heard distictly

we made 34 miles to day as Computed





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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:    Cathlamet Chamber of Commerce website, 2011;    Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority website, 2004;    Hay, K.G., 2004, The Lewis and Clark Columbia River Water Trail, Timber Press, Portland;    U.S. Coast Pilot for the Columbia, Willamette, and Snake River, adapted from the U.S. Coast Pilot 7, 31st Edition;    U.S. Bureau of Land Management website, 2007;    U.S. Bureau of Land Management website, 2007, General Land Office Records;    Wahkiakum County Chamber of Commerce website, 2011;    Wahkiakum County Public Works website, 2004.    Washington State Department of Transportation website, 2015, "History of Roads & Highways in the State of Washington, ca.1960s;   

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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July 2011