Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Chinook River, Washington"
Includes ... Chinook River ... "Wap-pa-loo-che River" ...
Image, 2004, Chinook River, looking upstream, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Chinook River, looking upstream. Image taken April 9, 2004.

Chinook River ...
The Chinook River is a small salmon bearing stream in Southwest Washington that flows into Baker Bay at approximately River Mile (RM) 6, three miles (as the crow flies) upstream of Ilwaco, Washington, and four miles (along the shoreline) from Chinook Point. Just downstream from the Chinook River is the Wallacut River. The Chinook Indians controlled trade on the Columbia from their village on the north shore; during the winter they migrated to Willapa Bay, protected from southwesterly storms. The name "Chinook" came from the Chehalis Indian name for the Chinook summer village, "cinuk." A hybrid version of the Chinook language came to be known as the Chinook jargon, the language of maritime and river traders.

Chinook River Drainage ...
According to the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority website (2004), the Chinook River drains a small watershed of approximately 13.60 square miles. Conifer forests dominate land cover in the upper watershed while grassland dominates the lower river. Elevations range from 0 to just under 1,400 feet above sea level but the vast majority of land area lies between 0 and 200 feet above sea level.

"Wap-pa-loo-che River" ...
Edmund S. Meany wrote in his "Origin of Washington Geographic Names" (1923, University of Washington):

"A small stream flowing into Baker Bay has been mapped a number of times as Chinook River, while others use Wappalooche as its name. James G. Swan says: "which would carry us down the Wappalooche, or Chinook River, to its mouth." (Northwest Coast, 1857, page 98.)"

From the 1858 U.S. Coast Survey "Coast Pilot":

"... Baker's Bay lies between Cape Disappointment and Chinook Point. It runs 2 1/2 miles to the northward of the cape, and receives the waters of the small streams which head toward Shoalwater bay, and connect with it by a small portage. The western and largest stream is the Wal-la-khut; the eastern, half-way between the cape and Chinook Point, is the Wap-pa-loo-che. ..."

From the 1862 U.S. Coast Survey "Coast Pilot":

"... Baker's Bay -- This is the deep recession of the shore to the northward of Sand Island between the extremity of Cape Disappointment and Chinook Point. The western shore of this bay is the east side of the Cape for nearly three miles in a general northerly direction; thence the shore sweeps to the eastward and southeastward for six miles to Chinook Point. The latter stretch of shore is low, bordered by extensive marshes, and receives the waters of the Wallacut and the Chinook Rivers. The Wallacut River (Wal-la-khut) enters at the northernmost bend of the bay shore; it is a small stream coming through marshes from the direction of Shoalwater Bay, which it very nearly reaches. The Chinook River (Wap-pa-loo-chee) enters two miles farther to the eastward; it has more character of a slough, three or four miles long. ..."

Views ...

Image, 2004, Chinook River, looking downstream towards mouth, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Chinook River, looking downstream towards mouth. Image taken April 9, 2004.

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 18, 1805 ...
A little cloudy this morning I Set out [from their camp at Station Camp] with 10 men and my man York to the Ocian by land. i. e. Serjt. Ordway & Pryor, Jos. & Ru. Fields, Go. Shannon, W. Brattin, J. Colter, P. Wiser, W. Labieche & P. Shabono one of our interpreters & York. [according to Moulton, Clark gave the other men's names in two inconsistent lists --- those named included Clark, Ordway, Charbonneau, Pryor, the Field brothers, Shannon, Colter, Weiser, Labiche, Bratton, and York.] I Set out at Day light and proceeded on a Sandy beech

N. 80° W. 1 Mile to a point of rocks about 40 feet high [Chinook Point, now the location of Fort Columbia], from the top of which the hill Side is open and assend with a Steep assent [Scarboro Hill] to the tops of the Mountains, a Deep nitch and two Small Streams above this point, then my course was

N. W. 7 Mile to the enterance of a creek [Chinook River] at a lodge or cabin of Chinnooks passing on a wide Sand bar the bay to my left [Baker Bay] and Several Small ponds Containing great numbers of water fowls to my right; with a narrow bottom of alder & Small balsam between the Ponds and the Mountn. ...     This Creek appears to be nothing more than the conveyance of Several Small dreans from the high hills and the ponds on each Side near its mouth. here we were Set across all in one Canoe by 2 Squars to each I gav a Small hook

S. 79° W. 5 Miles to the mouth of Chin nook river, [today's Wallacut River] passed a low bluff of a small hite at 2 miles below which is the remains of huts near which place is also the remains of a whale on the Sand, the countrey low open and Slashey, with elivated lands interspersed covered with pine & thick under groth This river [Wallacut River] is 40 yards wide at low tide- here we made a fire and dined on 4 brant and 48 Pliver which was killed by Labiech on the coast as we came on. Rubin Fields Killed a Buzzard of the large Kind near the meat of the whale we Saw: [California Condor] ...     after dineing we crossed the river in an old canoe which I found on the Sand near Som old houses & proceeded on-

S. 20° W. 4 Miles to a Small rock island in a deep nitch     passed a nitch at 2 miles in which there is a dreen from Some ponds back, the land low opposite this nitch a bluff of yellow Clay and Soft Stone from the river to the Comencement of this nitch     below the Country rises to high hills of about 80 or 90 feet above the water- at 3 miles passed a nitch- this rock Island is Small and at the South of a deep bend [near Illwaco, Washington] in which the nativs inform us the Ships anchor, and from whence they receive their goods in return for their peltries and Elk Skins &c. this appears to be a very good harber for large Ships. here I found Capt Lewis name on a tree. I also engraved my name & by land the day of the month and year, as also Several of the men.

S. 46° E. 2 Miles to the inner extremity of Cape Disapointment passing a nitch [location of Fort Canby] in which there is a Small rock island, a Small Stream falls into this nitch from a pond [today O'Neil Lake lies between Fort Canby and McKenzie Head] which is imediately on the Sea Coast passing through a low isthmus. this Cape is an ellivated <Situat> Circlier point [location Cape Disappointment Lighthouse] Covered with thick timber on the iner Side and open grassey exposur next to the Sea and rises with a Steep assent to the hight of about 150 or 160 feet above the leavel of the water <from the last mentioned nitch-> this cape [Cape Disappointment] as also the Shore both on the Bay & Sea coast is a dark brown rock [basalt]. I crossed the neck of Land low and ˝ of a mile wide to the main Ocian [today Waikiki Beach is located on the ocean side of this isthmus], at the foot of a high open hill projecting into the ocian, and about one mile in Sicumfrance. I assended this hill [McKenzie Head] which is covered with high corse grass. decended to the N. of it and camped. I picked up a flounder on the beech this evening.-

from Cape Disapointment to a high point of a Mountn. which we shall call [the Nicholas Biddle version has Clarke's Point of View inserted here. "Clarke's Point of View" is today's Tillamook Head, a name received when Clark visited and climbed the formation in Janaury 1806.] beares S. 20° W. about <40> [WC?: 25] miles, point adams is verry low and is Situated within the direction between those two high points of land, the water appears verry Shole from off the mouth of the river for a great distance, and I cannot assertain the direction of the deepst Chanel, the Indians point nearest the opposit Side. the waves appear to brake with tremendious force in every direction quite across a large Sand bar lies within the mouth nearest to point Adams [Point Adams] which is nearly covered at high tide. I suped on brant this evening with a little pounded fish. Some rain in the after part of the night. men appear much Satisfied with their trip beholding with estonishment the high waves dashing against the rocks & this emence ocian.

Ordway, November 18, 1805 ...
Cloudy. Capt. Clark myself and 10 more of the party Set out [from their camp at Station Camp] in order to go down and see the passiffic ocean [Pacific Ocean]. we proceeded on round Hailys bay [Bakers Bay] crossed two Rivers [Chinook River and Wallacut River] in Sd. bay [Bakers Bay] . ...     we proceeded on round high clifts of rocks where we had much trouble to pass.- towards evening we arived at the Cape disapointment [Cape Disappointment] on the Sea Shore. went over a bald hill [McKenzie Head] where we had a handsom view of the ocean. we went on a Short distance on the coast and Camped for the night.

Clark, November 19, 1805 ...
after takeing a Sumptious brackfast of venison which was rosted on Stiks exposed to the fire, I proceeded on through ruged Country of high hills and Steep hollers [including today's North Head, Deadmans Hollow, and Beards Hollow] on a course from the Cape [Cape Disappointment] N 20° W. 5 miles on a Direct line to the Commencement of a Sandy Coast [Long Beach Peninsula] which extended N. 10° W. from the top of the hill above the Sand Shore to a Point of high land distant near 20 miles [Leadbetter Point]. this point I have taken the Liberty of Calling after my particular friend Lewis— at the commencement of this Sand beech the high lands leave the Sea coast in a Direction to Chinnook river [Chinook or Wallacut River] , and does not touch the Sea Coast again <untill> below point Lewis [Leadbetter Point] leaveing a low pondey countrey, maney places open with small ponds in which there is great numbr. of fowl     I am informed that the Chinnook Nation inhabit this low countrey and live in large wood houses on a river which passes through this bottom Parrilal to the Sea coast and falls into the Bay

I proceeded on the Sandy Coast 4 miles, and marked my name on a Small pine, the Day of the month & year, &c. [near the location of present day Long Beach] and returned to the foot of the hill, from which place I intended to Strike across to The Bay [Baker Bay], ...     after Dineing on the remains of our Small Deer I proceeded through over a land S E with Some Ponds [possibly one being Black Lake] to the bay [Baker Bay] distance about 2 miles, thence up to the mouth of Chinnook river [mistake, the Wallacut River, west of the Chinook River] 2 miles, crossed this little river in the Canoe we left at its mouth and Encamped [Wallacut River] on the upper Side in an open Sandy bottom— The hills [Ilwaco, Washington area] next to the bay [Baker Bay] Cape disapointment [Cape Disappointment] to a Short distance up the Chinnook river [Wallacut River] is not verry high thickly Coverd. with different Species of pine &c. maney of which are large, I observed in maney places pine of 3 or 4 feet through growing on the bodies of large trees which had fallen down, and covered with moss and yet part Sound. ...

Journey to the PacificReturn 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

  • Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority website, 2004;
  • Meany, E.S., 1923, "Origin of Washington Geographic Names", University of Washington;
  • NOAA Office of Coast Survey website, 2004;
  • Washington State Historical Society website, 2004, "Lasting Legacy";

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 2008