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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Cathlamet Bay, Oregon"
Includes ... Cathlamet Bay ... "Swan Bay" ... "Seal Islands" ... Twilight Eagle Sanctuary ... Campsite of November 26, 1805 ... Campsite of March 23, 1806 ...
Image, 2004, Cathlamet Bay near Tongue Point, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Cathlamet Bay, Oregon, just upstream of Tongue Point, with Mott Island. Mott Island is treed island in the background, and is part of the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge. Image taken May 25, 2004.


Cathlamet Bay ...
Cathlamet Bay, Oregon, is east of Tongue Point (Columbia River Mile (RM) 18) and south of the main shipping channel of the Columbia River. On the Washington side lies Grays Bay. The many islands in Cathlamet Bay are part of the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge and are covered by tule in the summer and almost indiscernible in the winter. The islands are separated by numerous channels and sloughs. John Day Channel follows the Oregon coast line and extends between Tongue Point and John Day Point. At the junction with the John Day River, just north of John Day Point, the channel name changes to South Channel, which follows the shore closely to and around Settler Point to Svensen, Oregon, where it merges with Prairie Channel. Prairie Channel then continues along the shore, past Knappa and Blind Sloughs up to Aldrich Point. After the point the channel is called Clifton Channel until it's head at the eastern end of Tenasillahe Island. These channels are marked by buoys and daybeacons.

Image, 2003, Cathlamet Bay, looking towards Grays Bay, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Cathlamet Bay, Oregon, looking towards Grays Bay, Washington. Looking across from the Twilight Eagle Sanctuary viewing platform, towards Grays Bay, Washington (light tan at shoreline). Image taken August 2, 2003.


"Seal Islands" ...
Lewis and Clark refered to the area of Cathlamet Bay and the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife as the "Seal Islands".

"... Great numbers of Swan Geese Brant Ducks & Gulls in this great bend which is Crouded with low Islands covered with weeds grass &c. and overflowed every flood tide ..." [Clark, November 26, 1805, first draft]

"... crossed a Short distance above the rock out in the river, & between Some low marshey Islands to the South Side of the Columbia at a low bottom about 3 miles below Point Samuel and proceeded near the South Side leaveing the Seal Islands to our right and a marshey bottom to the left 5 Miles to the Calt-har-mar Village ..." [Clark, November 26, 1805]

The "rock out in the river" is Pillar Rock, Point Samuel is today's Aldrich Point and the Calt-har-mar Village is in the location of Knappa, Oregon.

Lewis and Clark again passed through the islands of Cathlamet Bay on March 24, 1806. They camped that evening at Aldrich Point.

"... at half after 3 P. M. we set out and continued our rout among the seal Islands; not paying much attention we mistook our rout which an Indian perceiving pursued overtook us and put us in the wright channel. ..." [Lewis, March 24, 1806]

"... 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]

"... passed through a number of Islands called the Seal Islands, which lay on the So side of the River ..." [Whitehouse, March 24, 1806]

Image, 2004, Dock on Knappa Slough, Knappa, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Knappa Slough, at Knappa, Oregon, east side of Cathlamet Bay. Karlson Island is on the left. Private dock in the foreground. Image taken June 16, 2004.


Campsite of November 26, 1805 ...
Lewis and Clark's campsite of November 26, 1805, was along the south bank of Cathlamet Bay's South Channel, downstream of Settler Point, in today's Twilight Eagle Sanctuary area, part of the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge.
[More]

Image, 2003, Columbia River Estuary, Cathlamet Bay, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Lewis and Clark NWR, Columbia River Estuary, Cathlamet Bay. Looking downstream from the Twilight Eagle Sanctuary viewing platform, across Cathlamet Bay (part of the Columbia River Estuary and the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge). Approximate site of Lewis and Clark's campsite of November 26, 1805. Image taken August 2, 2003.
Image, 2003, Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge, Cathlamet Bay, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Lewis and Clark NWR, Columbia River Estuary, Cathlamet Bay. Looking from the Twilight Eagle Sanctuary viewing platform, across Cathlamet Bay, part of the Columbia River Estuary and the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge. Image taken August 2, 2003.


Campsite of March 23, 1806 ...
Lewis and Clark camped a second time in Cathlamet Bay area on March 23, 1806, at a Mill Creek, a small creek on the east side of Tongue Point and one mile downstream of the mouth of the John Day River (Clatsop County).
[More]

Image, 2004, Tongue Point, east side, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Cathlamet Bay, Oregon, near Tongue Point, showing the east side of Tongue Point. Approximate site of Lewis and Clark's Campsite of March 23, 1806. Image taken May 25, 2004.


Early Cathlamet Bay ...
In 1792 Lieutenant Broughton of the British Captain George Vancouver Expedition, passed by Cathlamet Bay but took no special note of it, instead noting Grays Bay across the Columbia.

"Mr. Broughton proceeded in the cutter at a moderate distance from the shore, with soundings of 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 fathoms to Tongue point. On the eastern side of this point the shores first fall to the southward, and then stretch nearly E. N. E. From this point was seen the centre of a deep bay, lying at the distance of seven miles, N. 26 E. This bay terminated the researches of Mr. Gray; and to commemorate his discovery it was named after him Gray's Bay. "

Lewis and Clark camped twice in Cathlamet Bay, the first being the night of November 26, 1805 and the second being on their return on March 23, 1806. Lewis and Clark called the many islands in the bay the "Seal Islands". (See more above.)

In 1841 Charles Wilkes of the U.S. Exploring Expedition called the bay "Swan Bay". The "Termination Islands" are the many islands which hug the Oregon shore and are now part of the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge.

"Swan Bay, on the south shore, lies between Tongue Point and the Termination Islands. It is 3 miles wide by 2 deep, is shallow, has a muddy bottom, which in places becomes visible at extreme low water. "

In 1851, Rev. Gustavus Himes in his Oregon: Its History, Condition and Prospects: also uses "Swan Bay".

"... The Columbia below the Cascades, and after having swallowed up all its important tributaries, is from one mile to a mile and a half in width, until you reach to within twenty-five miles of the ocean. Here it opens to the width of four or five miles, forming, on the south shore, Swan Bay. In this bay, or rather broad space of the river, are a number of low sandy islands already formed, while others appear to be forming in various places. At the foot of this bay, is Tongue Point, which is a high rocky promontory extending into the river from the south shore. From this point to the high bluff on the north shore, the river is six miles wide. ..."

Cathlamet Bay in 1889 ...
From the 1889 U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey's "Coast Pilot":

"Cathlamet Bay. -- This is the broad and rather indefinite area of the south side of the river lying east of Tongue Point, and may be considered to embrace the channel extending directly east of Tongue Point and leading to the Prairie Channel, which lies between the Seal Islands and some unnamed, low, marshy islands nearer Tongue Point. This would extend it four miles directly east. Close around the southern shore of this bay (into which enters John Day's River) there is a very narrow channel carrying about seven or eight feet of water in the shoalest parts towards the eastern mouth. "



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






Clark, November 8, 1805 ...
A Cloudy morning Some rain, we did not Set out untill 9 oClock [from their campsite near Pillar Rock], haveing Changed our Clothing- proceeded on Close under the Stard. Side, the hills high with Steep assent, Shore boald and rockey Several low Islands [islands of the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge] in a Deep bend or Bay to the Lard Side [Cathlamet Bay], river about 5 or 7 miles wide. three Indians in a Canoe overtook us, with Salmon to Sell, passed 2 old villages on the Stard. Side [passing Altoona] and at 3 miles entered a nitch [Grays Bay. Harrington Point and Pigeon Bluff are the eastern end of Grays Bay where the explorers would first spot the Bay.] of about 6 miles wide and 5 miles deep with Several Creeks [Grays River, Deep River] makeing into the Stard Hills, this nitch [Grays Bay] we found verry Shallow water and Call it the Shallow <nitch> [Grays Bay] we came too at the remains of an old village at the bottom of this nitch and dined [Miller Point], here we Saw great numbers of fowl, Sent out 2 men and they killed a Goose and two Canves back Ducks here we found great numbers of flees which we treated with the greatest caution and distance; after Diner the Indians left us and we took the advantage of a returning tide and proceeded on to the Second point [Portuguese Point, just east of Grays Point, the first point being Rocky Point] on the Std. here we found the Swells or waves So high that we thought it imprudent to proceed; we landed unloaded and drew up our Canoes. Some rain all day at intervales; we are all wet and disagreeable, as we have been for Several days past, and our present Situation a verry disagreeable one in as much; as we have not leavel land Sufficient for an encampment and for our baggage to lie Cleare of the tide, the High hills jutting in So Close and Steep that we cannot retreat back, and the water of the river too Salt to be used, added to this the waves are increasing to Such a hight that we cannot move from this place, in this Situation we are compelled to form our Camp between the hite of the Ebb and flood tides, and rase our baggage on logs- We are not certain as yet if the whites people who trade with those people or from whome they precure ther goods are Stationary at the mouth, or visit this quarter at Stated times for the purpose of trafick &c. I believe the latter to be the most probable conjucture- The Seas roled and tossed the Canoes in Such a manner this evening that Several of our party were Sea Sick.






Clark, November 26, 1805, first draft ...
Cloudy and Some rain this morning at daylight wind blew from the E N. E, we Set out and proceeded on up on the North Side of this great river to a rock in the river from thence we Crossed to the lower point of an [blank] Island passed between 2 Islands to the main Shore, and proceeded down the South Side [Cathlamet Bay] passed 2 Inlets & halted below the 2d at a Indian village of 9 large houses [Knappa, Oregon] - those Indians live on an emenence behind a Island or a Channel of the river not more than 300 yds wide, they live on fish & Elk and Wapto roots, of which we bought a few at a high price they Call them Selves Cat-tar-bets description



We proceeded on about 8 miles and Encamped in a deep bend to the South [location of today's Twilight Eagle Sanctuary], we had not been Encamped long ere 3 Indians Came in a Canoe to trade the Wapto roots - we had rain all the day all wet and disagreeable a bad place to Camp all around this great bend is high land thickly timbered brushey & almost impossible to penetrate we Saw on an Island below the village a place of deposit for the dead in Canoes-

Great numbers of Swan Geese Brant Ducks & Gulls in this great bend which is Crouded with low Islands covered with weeds grass &c. and overflowed every flood tide [today the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge] The people of the last village is-[blank] ...     We are now decending to see if a favourable place should offer on the So Side to winter &c.

from a high Point opsd. a high Isd down the South Side is S. 30 W 6 mls to a point of low land opsd. upr. pt of Isd. passed lowr. pt. 1st Isd. marshey. at the upr. pt. of 2 low Isd. opsd. each other at 4 miles



S. 12 E 2 miles
to an Indn. Cat-tar-bet vilg of 9 houses [Knappa, Oregon] passed an inlet 300 yds wide on Std at 1/2 a mile

S. 60 W 1 mile
to high land on the South

S. 70 W 1 do.
to a South point Low land a low Isd. opsd. pass the former

S. 50 W. 6 miles
to a high point S.

South 2 miles to a bend Camped

N. 70 W. 6 miles
to a point No. 1 a deep bend to the left

S. 50 W 8 miles
to Point No. 2 passing a deep bend to the South

S. 50 W 1 1/2 miles S. 40 W 1 1/2 miles
to Pt in Bay

The bay turns to the N of East & recves 2 other small Brooks



Clark, November 26, 1805 ...
Cloudy and Some rain this morning from 6 oClock. wind from the E. N. E, we Set out out early and crossed a Short distance above the rock out in the river, & between Some low marshey Islands to the South Side of the Columbia at a low bottom about 3 miles below Point Samuel [Aldrich Point] and proceeded near the South Side leaveing the Seal Islands [islands in Cathlamet Bay, today a part of the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge] to our right and a marshey bottom to the left 5 Miles to the Calt-har-mar Village [location of Knappa, Oregon] of 9 large wood houses on a handsom elivated Situation near the foot of a Spur of the high land behind a large low Island Seperated from the Southerly Shore by a Chanel of about 200 yards Wide, ...    



we proceeded on through a Deep bend to the South and encamped under a high hill [past Settler Point to the location of today's Twilight Eagle Sanctuary], where we found much difficuelty in precureing wood to burn, as it was raining hard, as it had been the greater part of the day. ...     from the Village quite around this bend to the West the land is high and thickly timbered with pine balsom &c. a Short distance below the Calt har mer Village [Knappa, Oregon] on the Island which is Opposit I observed Several Canoes Scaffold in which Contained their dead, as I did not examine this mode of deposing the dead, must refer it to a discription hereafter.



Whitehouse, November 26, 1805 ...
Tuesday Novemr. 26th    A cloudy wet morning, & we set out early. we proceeded about 1 Mile up the River & then crossed it. In doing of which we passed through several Islands. We proceeded on down the South side of the River, & came to an Inhabited Village of Indians. [Knappa, Oregon] We halted at this place for a short time; ... We continued on still down the River; the day being wet, cold and very disagreeable. We encamped in a thicket on the South shore [today the location of the Twilight Eagle Sanctuary]. ... We saw along the shore, a number of Islands that lay very low & marshy. The Geese, swan & Ducks are in the greatest plenty at this place, & our Hunters killed a number of them.





Clark, November 27, 1805 ...
Rained all the last night and this morning it Continues moderately [the men are camped in Cathlamet Bay near the Twilight Eagle Sanctuary, today part of the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge] ...    we proceded on between maney Small Islands [west end of Cathlamet Bay] passing a Small river [John Day River, Clatsop County] of [blank] yds wide which the Indians Call ____ [Biddle added the notation Kekemar<qu>ke] and around a verry remarkable point [Tongue Point] which projects about 1 1/2 Miles directly towards the Shallow bay [Grays Bay] the isthmus which joins it to the main land is not exceding 50 yards and about 4 Miles around. we call this Point William [Tongue Point]

below this point [Tongue Point] the waves became So high we were Compelled to land unload and traw up the Canoes, here we formed a Camp on the neck of Land which joins Point William [Tongue Point] to the main at an old indian hut. The rain Continued hard all day we are all Wet and disagreeable. one Canoe Split before we Got her out of the Water 2 feet- The water at our Camp Salt that above the isthmus fresh and fine-






Clark, March 24, 1806 ...
Sent out 15 men verry early this morning for the flesh of the two Elk killed by Drewyer and Fields yesterday. they returned at 8 oClock ...     Set out at half past 9 a. m. [from their camp at Mill Creek, on the east side of Tongue Point] and proceeded [South Channel, along the shore of Cathlamet Bay. They pass the John Day River, the location of today's Twilight Eagle Sanctuary, and today's Svensen Island] to the Cath lah mah Village [near Knappa, Oregon] at 1 P. M. and remained untill after 3 p. m. at this village ...     we proceeded on through Some difficult and narrow Channels [possibly Knappa Channel] between the Seal Islands [islands in Cathlamet Bay, today part of the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge], and the south side to an old village on the south side opposit to the lower War ki a com village [Skamokawa, Washington], and Encamped [Aldrich Point]. to this old villg. ...     Soon after we made our Camp 2 Indians visited us from the opposite Side, one of them Spoke Several words of English and repeeted the names of the traders, and many of the Salors.     made 16 Miles





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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: NOAA Office of Coast Surveys website, 2005; NOAA "United States Coast Pilot", 31st edition; "Rootsweb.com" 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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September 2010