Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Columbia Gorge Hotel, Wah Gwin Gwin Falls, and Phelps Creek, Oregon"
Includes ... Columbia Gorge Hotel ... "Wau-Gwin-Gwin Hotel" ... Wah Gwin Gwin Falls ... Phelps Creek ... Columbia Cliff Villas Hotel ... National Register of Historic Places ...
Image, 2006, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon. Image taken May 10, 2006.


Columbia Gorge Hotel ...
Columbia Gorge Hotel is located four miles downstream of Hood River, Oregon, at Columbia River Mile (RM) 166.5, where Phelps Creek reaches the Columbia. Ruthton Point is downstream. The Columbia Gorge Hotel was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 (Building #79003736).

Image, 2005, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon. Image taken June 4, 2005.
Image, 2015, Columbia Gorge Hotel and Spa, click to enlarge
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Columbia Gorge Hotel and Spa, as seen from the frontage road. View from moving car. Image taken April 9, 2015.


Wah Gwin Gwin Falls ...
The 208-foot-high "Wah Gwin Gwin" Falls ("rushing water") is the falls on Phelps Creek and is located on the Hotel property. Wah Gwin Gwin Falls is one of the many falls in the Columbia River Gorge.

Image, 2006, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Wah Gwin Gwin Falls, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon. Image taken May 10, 2006.
Image, 2006, Wah Gwin Gwin Falls, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Wah Gwin Gwin Falls, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon. Image taken May 10, 2006.


Phelps Creek ...

Image, 2006, Wah Gwin Gwin Falls, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Looking over Wah Gwin Gwin Falls at Phelps Creek, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon. Image taken May 10, 2006.
Image, 2006, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Phelps Creek, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon. Image taken May 10, 2006.


Lewis and Clark and Wah Gwin Gwin Falls ...
The Lewis and Clark journals comment on Wah Gwin Gwin Falls on October 29, 1805.

"... 6 miles to a high Clift of rocks Std bend passed a large creek at 1 mile on the Stard. Side in which the Indians catch fish, a large Sand bar from the Lard. Side for 4 miles, at which place a small stream of water falls over a rock of 100 feet on the Lard Side passed 4 Indian Houses at 5 miles in a bot-tom on the Lard Side ..." [Clark, October 29, 1805, first draft]

"... a butifull cascade falling over a rock of about 100 feet ..." [Clark, October 29, 1805]

"... Saw a beautiful Spring on the Lard. Side, which run off a high clift of rocks, and fell of the clift upwards of a hundred feet perpinticular ..." [Ordway, October 29, 1805]

"... and a Spring on Lard. Side which ran of a high clift of rocks which looked curious ..." [Whitehouse, October 29, 1805, first draft]

"... & a spring which lay on the South side of the River, which ran from off a high Clift of Rocks & had a curious appearance ..." [Whitehouse, October 29, 1805]

Image, 2006, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon, as seen from Washington State, click to enlarge
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Columbia Gorge Hotel and Wah Gwin Gwin Falls, as seen from Washington State. View from near the Spring Creek Fish Hatchery, Washington. Image taken May 10, 2006.

"... a butifull cascade falling over a rock of about 100 feet ..." [Clark, October 29, 1805]
Image, 2012, View from Spring Creek Fish Hatchery, click to enlarge
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Columbia Cliff Villas, Wah Gwin Gwin Falls, and the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel, Oregon, as seen from the Spring Creek Fish Hatchery, Washington. Image taken June 12, 2012.


The Hotel History ...
The "Wau Gwin Gwin Hotel" was built in 1904 by Robert Rand (Bobby Rand), an early Hood River settler who arrived in Hood River in the early 1880s. The hotel was built overlooking the waterfall where Phelps Creek joins the Columbia River. It had twenty rooms and served guests until 1921, when it was torn down to allow construction of the Columbia Gorge Hotel."

From an interview with Fred Lockley, appearing in the "Oregon Daily Journal" of March 29, 1915 (as found on the "Geneoalogytrails.com" website, 2015):

"[According to Mr. Rand] 'In 1885 I bought the Mount Hood Hotel, which I conducted in Hoed River until 1893, when I sold out to C. A. Bell. Meanwhile I had opened a store in Hood River and conducted the business for five years with the assistance of my son, J. E. Rand. At the end of that time I disposed of the store and in 1904 built the Wau-gwin-gwin Hotel just west of Hoed River.' Mr. Rand took me over his place recently and set a pace which kept me going some. We went first to the north porch of his home. The porch overhangs a bluff which drops abruptly for nearly two hundred feet. Ten yards from the end of the porch Wau-gwin-gwin creek leaps over the cliff. At times, when the sun strikes the spray from the falling water, a rainbow trembles above the water. From below the wind-caught, milk-white water looks like a filmy veil of lace over the brow of the cliff. 'This used to be a great meeting place for the Indians in the early days,' said Mr. Rand. 'It was taken up by John Dye and his squaw. I bought it from a man named Amen and paid twenty-eight hundred dollars for the forty-three acres here. People thought I was an easy mark to pay that amount for forty-three acres of rocks and oak trees stretched along the bluffs overlooked the Columbia, They didn't know that sunsets and waterfalls, rugged old oaks and huge heaps of weather-worn rocks had any commercial value, but for every nickel I put into this place I will take a dollar out.' He later sold to Simon Benson for thirty-five thousand dollars which proved the wisdom of his opinion."


"The stately site on which the Columbia Gorge Hotel now stands was originally developed in 1904 by Bobby Rand, a Hood River pioneer, as the Wah Gwin Gwin Hotel (a Native American name "rushing water" for the 208' waterfall on the grounds).

These were the days of steamers navigating the waters of the Columbia River from the Cascades to The Dalles. To alert the hotel, the captains would sound the whistle once for each guest he had on board. Maids would then quickly make up the appropriate number of beds.

In 1920, Rand sold his interests in the hotel to Simon Benson. Benson had just helped complete what many of the era claimed to be the world's most beautiful road, the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway. Benson's dream was to create an opulent hotel for travelers at the end of this road. He hired some of the same Italian stone masons that had built the highway to embellish his hotel. ...

During the depression, the Hotel fell on hard times and was purchased by the Neighbors of Woodcraft as a retirement home. Such it remained for a quarter of a century, until the ongoing restoration began in 1977. Now corporately owned and operated, The Columbia Gorge Hotel has been brilliantly restored to a new opulence. The Hotel stands proudly atop a bluff overlooking the mighty Columbia River greeting its visitors with warmth and elegance continuing to be an elegant oasis in the heart of the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area.."


Source:    "ColumbiaGorgeHotel.com" website, 2015



"The hotel site was acquired in 1920 from Bobby Rand who, for the past 17 years, had run the Wah-Gwin-Gwin Hotel. The latter was named for Wah-Gwin-Gwin Falls, falls which are located on the site and drop 150 feet to the Columbia River below. The demolition of the old hotel and construction of a new concrete and stucco hotel began immediately by Dinwiddie Constuction and Company of Hood River.

During this time, SImon Benson was remarried to Mrs. Harriet King of Hood River. The Del Monte Lodge in Monterey, where the Bensons spent their honeymoon, was to have an influence on the new hotel.

Construction for the new hotel was completed in May of 1921 and a grand opening was held in June. The hotel became the hub for social life in Hood River. Weddings, parties, banquets and formal dances were often held there.

The hotel did not succeed as had been envisioned. Ironically, it was Simon Benson's good roads that led to the demise of the hotel. Motorists drove from Portland, enjoyed the fine cuisine of master chef Henry Thiele, returned to Portland the same day, leaving the guestrooms empty.

Simon's son, Amos Benson, took over the hotel in 1922, but he too could not turn it into a successful venture. Finally in 1925, the hotel was up for foreclosure. The hotel underwent numerous years of shifting ownership and management, all unsuccessful.

In 1952, the hotel was purchased by the Neighbors of Woodcraft and turned into a home for the aged. It remained in this ownership until 1978, when plans again were made to reopen the structure as a resort hotel."


Source:    U.S. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, 1979.


Auction of Wau-Gwin-Gwin Hotel, August 28, 1920 ...

Historic Advertising, Hood River Glacier, August 26, 1920, click to enlarge
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ADVERTISING: Auction of Wau-Gwin-Gwin Hotel, 1920, IN: Hood River Glacier, August 26, 1920. Courtesy Historic Oregon Newspapers Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, 2015.


Columbia Cliff Villas ...
In 2007 construction began on the Columbia Cliff Villas, immediately east of the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel.

"Columbia Cliff Villas is unique in the Gorge. Spacious Villas feature grand living areas, including master suites, balconies and several guest suites that lock out for complete privacy, most with panoramic views of mountains, forests, valleys, cliffs and/or rivers. Two Carriage Houses help isolate the courtyard and provide charming accommodations at very reasonable prices. From our vantage point over 200' above the majesty of the mighty Columbia River, we share the view with eagles as you look down on one of the world's most famous windsurfing beaches.

In addition to countless nearby scenic attractions, our owners and guests also enjoy the amenities and romantic manicured gardens of the adjacent historic Columbia Gorge Hotel & Spa. So, you can stroll the connecting pathways through award-winning "Gardens of Distinction" along the tumbling creek to a 208' waterfall, listen to its soft roar and breathe in the fresh clean mist as you recharge and stimulate your senses before indulging in fine and casual (indoor and outdoor) dining at Simon's Cliffhouse Restaurant or experience total relaxation at their recently renovated spa facility.

Only one hour from Portland, Oregon we're easy to get to, hard to leave and impossible to forget."


Source:    "ColumbiaCliffVillas.com" website, 2015.


Image, 2014, Columbia Cliff Villas sign, click to enlarge
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Sign, Columbia Cliff Villas, with the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel in the background. View from moving car. Image taken November 10, 2014.
Image, 2015, Columbia Cliff Villas, click to enlarge
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Columbia Cliff Villas as seen from the frontage road. View from moving car. Image taken April 9, 2015.
Image, 2012, View from Spring Creek Fish Hatchery, click to enlarge
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Columbia Cliff Villas, Wah Gwin Gwin Falls, and the historic Columbia Gorge Hotel, Oregon, as seen from the Spring Creek Fish Hatchery, Washington. Image taken June 12, 2012.


Views, Columbia Gorge Hotel, 2006 ...

Image, 2006, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon. Image taken May 10, 2006.
Image, 2006, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon. Image taken May 10, 2006.
Image, 2006, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Cupola, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon. Image taken May 10, 2006.
Image, 2006, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Front door, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon. Image taken May 10, 2006.
Image, 2006, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon. Image taken May 10, 2006.
Image, 2006, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Light, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon. Image taken May 10, 2006.
Image, 2006, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Stone Arch, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon. Stone arch walkway across Phelps Creek. Image taken May 10, 2006.
Image, 2006, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Ducks, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon. Image taken May 10, 2006.


Flowers Flowers Flowers ...

Image, 2006, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Tulip, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon. Image taken May 10, 2006.
Image, 2006, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Tulips, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon. Image taken May 10, 2006.
Image, 2006, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Tulips, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon. Image taken May 10, 2006.
Image, 2006, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Tulips, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon. Image taken May 10, 2006.
Image, 2006, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Flowers and Ferns, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon. Image taken May 10, 2006.


Views from the Hotel ...

Nice views of the Columbia River and Wells Island can be seen from the grounds of the Columbia Gorge Hotel, as well as looking across the Columbia at Hood, Washington, and the Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery.

Image, 2006, Columbia River as seen from the Columbia Gorge Hotel, click to enlarge
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Columbia River as seen from the Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon. Wells Island is on the right. Image taken May 10, 2006.
Image, 2006, Washington State as seen from the Columbia Gorge Hotel, click to enlarge
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Washington State and the Columbia River as seen from the Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon. Mouth of Phelps Creek is in the foreground. Image taken May 10, 2006.
Image, 2006, Underwood Mountain and Broughton Mill as seen from the Columbia Gorge Hotel, click to enlarge
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Underwood Mountain and the Broughton Mill, as seen from the Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon. Image taken May 10, 2006.
Image, 2006, Spring Creek Hatchery as seen from the Columbia Gorge Hotel, click to enlarge
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Spring Creek Fish Hatchery (Washington State), as seen from the Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon. Image taken May 10, 2006.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, October 29, 1805 ...
A cloudy morning wind from the West but not hard, we Set out at day light [from their camp on Rocky Island at Crates Point], and proceeded on about five miles Came too on the Stard. Side at a village of 7 houses built in the Same form and materials of those above, here we found the Chief we had Seen at the long narrows [The Dalles] ...     they are hospitable and good humered Speak the Same language of the inhabitants of the last village, we call this the friendly village [vicinity of Dougs Beach]. ...     after brackfast we proceeded on, the mountains are high on each Side [high basalt cliffs of the Rowena Gap, with Rowena Crest on the south and the Chamberlain Lake area on the north], containing Scattering pine white oake & under groth, hill Sides Steep and rockey; at 4 miles lower we observed a Small river falling in with great rapidity on the Stard. Side [Klickitat River] below which is a village of 11 houses [today the town of Lyle is on the upstream side of the Klickitat], here we landed to Smoke a pipe with the nativs and examine the mouth of the river, which I found to be 60 yards wide rapid and deep, The inhabitants of the village are friendly and Chearfull; those people inform us also those at the last village that this little river is long and full of falls, no Salmon pass up it, it runs from N. N. E. that ten nations live on this river and its waters, on buries, and what game that Can kill with their Bow & arrows

we purchased 4 dogs and Set out- (this village is the of the Same nation of the one we last passed) and proceeded on The Countrey on each side begin to be thicker timbered with Pine and low white Oake; verry rockey and broken [passing Mayer State Park on the Oregon side]. passed three large rocks in The river the middle rock is large long and has Several Squar vaults on it. we call this rockey Island the Sepulchar [Memaloose Island] - The last river we passed we Shall Call the Cataract River [Klickitat River] from the number of falls which the Indians say is on it- passed 2 Lodges of Indians a Short distance below the Sepulchar Island [Memaloose Island] on the Stard. Side river wide, at 4 mile passed 2 houses on the Stard. Side, Six miles lower passed 4 houses above the mouth of a Small river 40 yards wide on the Lard. Side [Hood River]    a thick timbered bottom above & back of those houses; those are the first houses which we have Seen on the South Side of the Columbia River, (and the axess to those dificuelt) for fear of the approach of their common enemies the Snake Indians, passed 14 houses on the Std. Side Scattered on the bank- from the mouth of this little river which we shall Call Labeasche River [Hood River], the falls mountain [Mount Hood] is South and the top is covered with Snow.    one mile below pass the mouth of a large rapid Stream on the Stard. Side [White Salmon River], opposit to a large Sand bar [from Hood River], in this creek the Indians above take their fish, here we Saw Several canoes, which induced us to call this Canoe Creek [White Salmon River] it is 28 yards wide, about 4 miles lower and below the Sand bar [Hood River sandbar] is a butifull cascade falling over a rock of about 100 feet [Wah Gwin Gwin Falls, location of the Columbia Gorge Hotel],

[On the route map (Moulton, vol.1, map#78) a "C___ Spring" is shown on the north side of the river, today the location of Spring Creek and Spring Creek Fish Hatchery, with no mention of it in any text. On the south side, at the location of Wah Gwin Gwin Falls, only "Cascade" is labeled and "4 Houses of Indians".]

a Short distance lower passed 4 Indian houses on the Lard. Side in a timbered bottom, a fiew miles further we came too at 3 houses on Stard. Side, back of which is a pond [today the location of Drano Lake. The Little White Salmon River empties into Drano Lake.] in which I Saw Great numbers of Small Swan, Capt. Lewis and went into the houses of those people ...     Here the mountains are high on each Side, those to the Lard. Side has Some Snow on them at this time, more timber than above and of greater variety.





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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:    "ColumbiaCliffVillas.com" website, 2015.    "ColumbiaGorgeHotel.com" website, 2015;    "Geneoalogytrails.com" website, 2015;    The History Museum of Hood River County, photo archives, 2015;    National Register of Historic Places website, 2015;   

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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June 2015