Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Cathlapotle Village ... Ridgefield NWR, Washington"
Includes ... Cathlapotle Village ... Cathlapotle Plankhouse ... Carty Unit ... Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge ... Wapato Portage ... Carty Lake ... Campsite of March 29, 1806 ...
Image, 2003, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Cathlapotle area, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Plankhouse construction sign, Carty Unit, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Duck Lake is in the background. Image taken, September 13, 2003.


Cathlapotle Village ...
Lewis and Clark, on their voyage down the Columbia River in 1805, identified a large Chinook village ("Cathlapotle") located at the confluence of the Columbia River, Lake River and the Lewis River. When they stopped to visit on their return in 1806, they estimated that 900 inhabitants lived at the village.

The site of this village is located on the Carty Unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, just downstream of the Wapato Portage, the location of Lewis and Clark's campsite of March 29, 1806. It is one of the few archaeological sites on the Columbia River that has not been lost to looting, development, or flooding. During the late 1990s a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland State University, and the Chinook Nation resulted in six field seasons which located the remains of six plankhouses and thousands of artifacts were recovered and catalogued.

The Cathlapotle Village is also known as the Cathlapotle Indian Town site, 45-CL-1. During the late 1990s a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland State University, and the Chinook Nation resulted in six field seasons which located the remains of six plankhouses and thousands of artifacts were recovered and catalogued.

"The site occurs in forested riparian habitat of the Carty Unit, 15-20 feet above mean sea level. Covered by stands of cottonwood, willow, alder, and ash trees, with a tangled understory of elderberry and stinging nettle, the site is bounded on the west by Lake River and on the east by Long Meadow. Radiocarbon dates indicate that the town was occuppied at its current location around 1450 A.D. ... Seriation of ceramic trade goods indicates that the Cathlapotle site was abandoned circa 1834 A.D. ...

Archaeologists located 11 house depressions on the surface, laid out in two rows on a ridge running parallel to Lake River. The largest of the house depressions measurs 200 feet by 45 feet, while the smallest is 60 feet by 30 feet. At least four are divided into compartments, as Lewis and Clark described when they visited the town in 1806. Other features described at the site include storage pits, cobble ovens, postholes marking temporary structures such as sheds and drying racks, middens, and debris fields. Although the site was periodically flooded, it was high enough not to be subject to annual flooding, and the archaeological record indicates that it was continuousely occupied."

Source:   Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan, September 2010.


Lewis and Clark and the Cathlapotle Village ...
Lewis and Clark, on their voyage down the Columbia River in 1805, identified a large Chinook village ("Cathlapotle") located at the confluence of the Columbia River, Lake River and the Lewis River.

"... a Canoe came from the upper house, with 3 men in its mearly to view us, passed an Isld. Covered with tall trees & green briers Seperated from the Stard. Shore by a narrow Chanel at 9 [8?] miles I observed on the Chanel which passes on the Stard Side of this Island a Short distance above its lower point is Situated a large village, the front of which occupies nearly 1/4 of a mile fronting the Chanel, and closely Connected, I counted 14 houses in front here the river widens to about 1 1/2 miles. ..." [Clark, November 5, 1805]

On March 29, 1806, they returned to trade and visit with this village, where they estimated that 900 individuals lived there. That evening the men camped in a meadow upstream of the village, today an area refered to as "Wapato Portage". This area is within the Carty Unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.

"... at the distance of three miles above the entrance of the inlet on the N. side behind the lower point of an island we arrived at the village of the Cath-lah-poh-tle wich consists of 14 large wooden house ..." [Lewis, March 29, 1806]

"... 3 oClock P. M. we arived at the Quath lah pah tle Village of 14 Houses on main Shore to the N E. Side of a large island. those people in their habits manners Customs and language differ but little from those of the Clatsops and others below. ..." [Clark, March 29, 1806]

Being late in the day, the men moved upstream from the Cathlapotle village and spent the night in a large meadow, now known as the "Wapato Portage".

"... after remaining at this place 2 hours we set out & continued our rout between this island, which we now call Cath-lah-poh-tle after the nation, and the Lard shore. at the distance of 2 miles we encamped in a small prarie on the main shore, having traveled 19 miles by estimate.     the river rising fast ..." [Lewis, March 29, 1806]

How many inhabitants ???
While wintering at Fort Clatsop Lewis and Clark wrote up an estimate of how many Indians lived west of the Continental Divide, and especially in the Columbia River drainage. Some of their information came from their own accounts, and some information came from informants and guides. Information on the Cathlapotle Village was written in Captain Clark's hand. The Captains first wrote the list in Codex I, then the list was placed in Voorhis No.4, often with adjustments in tribal populations.

"... Quath-lah-poh-tle Nation reside on the N. Side of the Columbia above the enterance of Cah-wah-na-hi-oos river and opposit the lower point of the Wappatoe Island.    14 Lodges    300 Probable No. of Souls. ..." [Clark, Codex No.1]

The number "300" which appeared in Codex I, appears as "900" in Voorhis No.4.


Views ...

Image, 2009, Ridgefield NWR, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Cathlapotle Village plankhouse location, looking north, Ridgefield NWR, Washington. Portland State University professor talking about Village history. Flagged tree shows the location of the northeast corner of the early plankhouse. Image taken, October 10, 2009.
Image, 2009, Ridgefield NWR, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Cathlapotle Village plankhouse location, looking south, Ridgefield NWR, Washington. Image taken, October 10, 2009.


Cathlapotle, etc.

  • Plankhouse Replica ...
  • Ridgefield Mural ...
  • Wapato Portage ...


Plankhouse Replica ...
Today a 37 by 78-foot replica of a Chinook plankhouse has been built near the site of the original townsite. Two hundred and fifty-six logs split into 305 planks went into building the house. The plankhouse foundation was prepared during Summer 2003 and the house was completed with opening ceremony on March 29, 2005, the 199th anniversary of Lewis and Clark's visit.
[More]

Image, 2005, Cathlapotle Plankhouse click to enlarge
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Finished Cathlapotle Plankhouse, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Image taken, April 27, 2005
Image, 2005, Cathlapotle Plankhouse click to enlarge
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Front, Cathlapotle Plankhouse, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Image taken, April 27, 2005
Image, 2011, Cathlapotle Plankhouse click to enlarge
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Interior, Cathlapotle Plankhouse, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Image taken, October 8, 2011


Ridgefield Mural ...
South of the Carty Unit of the Ridgefield Refuge lies the community of Ridgefield, which has many murals around town, including one of the Cathlapotle Village, showing the plankhouses.

Image, 2007, Ridgefield, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Mural, Cathlapotle Village, Ridgefield, Washington. Image taken, March 25, 2007.
Image, 2007, Ridgefield, Washington, click to enlarge
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Mural detail, Lewis and Clark, Cathlapotle Village, Ridgefield, Washington. Image taken, March 25, 2007.


Wapato Portage ...
"Wapato Portage" is the location of Lewis and Clark's campsite for March 29, 1806. It was located in a meadow bordering Lake River, upstream of the Chinook tribe's Cathlapotle Village and near "a large pond" which might be today's Carty Lake. All these sites are now located within the Carty Unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.
[More]

Image, 2014, Long Meadow, Carty Unit, Ridgefield NWR, click to enlarge
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Long Meadow at Wapato Portage, Carty Unit, Ridgefield NWR, Washington. Image taken October 9, 2014.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 5, 1805 ...





Clark, March 29, 1806 ...


Lewis, March 29, 1806 ...




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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:
  • "Plankhouse.org" website, 2005;
  • U.S. Bureau of Land Management website, 2007;
  • U.S. Bureau of Land Management website, 2007, "General Land Office Records (GLO)";
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan, September 2010;
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website, 2005, "Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge";


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.
/Regions/Places/cathlapotle.html
January 2012