Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Columbia River Floods"
Includes ... 1894 "Great Flod" ... 1948 Vanport Flood ... Vanport City ... 1996 Columbia River Flood ...
Image, 2017, Chinook Landing Marine Park, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Bank cutting, 2017 high water, Columbia River. View from Chinook Landing Marine Park, Troutdale, Oregon. Image taken March 19, 2017.


Columbia River Floods ...
(to come)

Port of Vancouver ...
According to the National Weather Service (2018), flood stage for the Port of Vancouver is 16 feet. The top ten crests have been:

  1. June 7, 1894 ... 33.60 feet ... ("Great Flood of 1894")
  2. June 13, 1948 ... 31 feet ... (Vanport Flood)
  3. June 1, 1948 ... 30.8 feet ... (Vanport Flood)
  4. December 25, 1964 ... 27.7 feet ... ("Christmas Flood")
  5. June 4, 1956 ... 27.6 feet
  6. February 9, 1996 ... 27.2 feet ... ("Pineapple Express")
  7. June 19, 1933 ... 26.3 feet
  8. May 31, 1928 ... 26.2 feet
  9. June 12, 1921 ... 26 feet
  10. June 26, 1950 ... 25.9 feet


Columbia River Floods

  • 1894 "Great Flood" ...
  • 1948 Vanport Flood ...
  • 1964 "Christmas Flood" ...
  • 1996 Columbia River Flood ...
  • 2017 Columbia River Flood ...


1894 "Great Flood" ...
The "Great Flood of 1894" was the highest-recorded flood along the Columbia of all time. Rainfall was heavy during the winter of 1893-94 resulting in a heavy snowpack. A dry and warm spring resulted in massive snowmelt. Peaks reached nearly 35 feet at Umatilla, Oregon, and Longview, Washington hit a record 24.0 feet (12 feet over flood stage). A measured peak at The Dalles was 1,240,000 cubic feet per second (enough flow to cover a standard-size football field with water 1,500 feet deep in just one minute) while flood stage on the Willamette River at Portland, Oregon was measured at 33.0 feet. The town of Cascades, located near the location of today's Bonneville Dam, was wiped out.
[More]

Image, 2006, Staff Gage, Water Resources Education Center, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
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Staff Gage, Water Resources Education Center, Vancouver, Washington. Staff gage shows height of 1894 flood (top, left side of pole/gage), the 1948 "Vanport Flood" (center towards the top), and the 1996 flood (bottom of pole/gage). Image taken January 1, 2006.
Image, 2017, Water Resources Education Center, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
1894, 1948, and 1996 high water marks, Water Resources Education Center, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken August 30, 2017.
Image, 2017, Water Resources Education Center, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
1894 and 1948 high water marks, Water Resources Education Center, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken August 30, 2017.
Image, 2017, Water Resources Education Center, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
1894 high water mark, Water Resources Education Center, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken August 30, 2017.
Image, 2014, Cascades townsite location, click to enlarge
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General location of the town of Cascades, Washington, also known as "Lower Cascades". Image taken April 7, 2014.
Image, 2014, Cascades townsite location, click to enlarge
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Boulders uncovered during flood of 1894. Image taken April 7, 2014.


1948 Vanport Flood ...
A warm May in the spring of 1948 resulted in rapid snowmelt in the Cascades and rising waters of the Columbia River. By May 25, 1948, both the Columbia and the Willamette Rivers were nearly at 23 feet, eight feet over flood stage. On May 30, 1948, at approximately 4:17 p.m., the railroad dike between Smith Lake and Vanport City gave way. Within moments a 10-foot-high wall of water rushed over lands north of the Columbia Slough and inundated the city of Vanport. Sixteen lives were lost and Vanport City was forever gone. Today the area which once was Vanport City is now the location of the Portland International Raceway and the Huron Lakes Golf Course.

"In 1948 at 4:17 p.m. on Memorial Day, a portion of the dike surrounding Vanport was broken. The Columbia River, swollen with early spring snowmelt, flowed quickly into Vanport. Floodwaters fifteen feet deep washed Vanport away. Residents had been assured by authorities that the dikes were holding and that they would be warned in ample time to evacuate. The break caught everyone, including the authorities, by surprise. Thankfully, sloughs within Vanport absorbed the initial surge, allowing approximately 40 minutes for most people to flee Vanport to higher ground along Denver Avenue. Still, 18 people lost their lives in the flood."


Source:    Oregon History Sign, Vanport Wetlands Dog Park, Portland, Oregon, visited July 2016.

[More]

Penny Postcard, Vanport Flood, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Penny Postcard: The Vanport Flood, Vanport, Oregon. Penny Postcard, Real Photo, Divided Back, "Flood of 1948 - Vanport, Ore.". Copyright PV. Card #P91-3. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Vanport Flood, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: The Vanport Flood, Vanport, Oregon. Penny Postcard, Real Photo, Divided Back, "Flood destruction, Vanport, Ore.". Christian. Card #V-11. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Image, 2016, Staff gage, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Location of where the dike breached, Vanport Flood. Image taken October 12, 2016.
Image, 2017, Water Resources Education Center, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
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1894 and 1948 high water marks, Water Resources Education Center, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken August 30, 2017.
Image, 2017, Water Resources Education Center, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
1894 and 1948 high water mark, Water Resources Education Center, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken August 30, 2017.
Image, 2006, Staff gage, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Staff Gage, with 1894 high water and 1948 high water, Water Resources Education Center, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken January 1, 2006.
Image, 2016, Vanport, Oregon History sign, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Detail, Oregon History sign, Vanport, located at the Vanport Wetlands Dog Park, Portland, Oregon. Image taken July 6, 2016.

"Dikes surrounding Vanport presumably would protect it from flooding, but an old railroad cut that had been filled in as part of the dike on the western edge of Vanport unexpectedly gave way."


1964 "Christmas Flood" ...
"In December 1964, heavy snow followed by unusually warm temperatures and torrential rain triggered what became known as the Christmas Flood of 1964, which caused $430 million in property damage and killed 47 people across a four-state region. The Columbia River [at/near Vancouver] crested at 27.7 feet on December 25, 1964 ."


Source:    "clark.wa.gov" website, 2018, "Clark County Flood History".


1996 Columbia River Flood ...
"Clark County's last big flood occurred in February 1996. Extended rainfall and early snowmelt, triggered by an influx of warm, wet weather known as the "Pineapple Express," caused many rivers and creeks to flood.

Overall damage to Clark County businesses, residences and infrastructure was estimated to be $25 million. ...

Flooding occurred along the Columbia River and other waterways. The average river level for the Columbia River is 7 to 8 feet in winter. On February 9, 1996, the river crested at 27.2 feet, more than 11 feet above its flood stage."


Source:    "clark.wa.gov" website, 2018, "Clark County Flood History".


Image, 2017, Water Resources Education Center, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
1996 high water mark, Water Resources Education Center, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken August 30, 2017.
Image, 2017, Water Resources Education Center, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
1996 high water mark, Water Resources Education Center, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken August 30, 2017.
Image, 2006, Staff Gage, Water Resources Education Center, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Staff Gage showing 1996 high water, Water Resources Education Center, Vancouver, Washington. The wetlands in the background are flooded by high water from the Columbia River. Image taken January 1, 2006.
Image, 2013, Multnomah Channel from Sauvie Island Boat Ramp, Sauvie Island, click to enlarge
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Dock at the Sauvie Island Boat Ramp at Multnomah Channel, Sauvie Island, Oregon. Image taken May 31, 2013.
Image, 2013, Multnomah Channel from Sauvie Island Boat Ramp, Sauvie Island, click to enlarge
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February 1996 flood level ... sign on dock at the Sauvie Island Boat Ramp at Multnomah Channel, Sauvie Island, Oregon. Image taken May 31, 2013.


2017 Columbia River Flood ...
According to the National Weather Service's "Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, Historic Crests" (2018), the Columbia River's most recent flood was in 2017. On March 30th, the reading at the "Columbia River at Vancouver" showed the river crested at 17.60 feet, putting it in 22nd spot.

Image, 2017, Columbia River flooding, Tidewater Cove, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
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Columbia River flooding as seen from Tidewater Cove, Vancouver, Washington. View looking south down the marina jetty. Image taken March 6, 2017.

Note the bench at the end of the now-flooded marina jetty.
Image, 2017, Chinook Landing Marine Park, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Bank cutting, 2017 high water, Columbia River. View from Chinook Landing Marine Park, Troutdale, Oregon. Image taken March 19, 2017.


"The Golden Age of Postcards" ...

The early 1900s was the "Golden Age of Postcards". The "Penny Postcard" became a popular way to send greetings to friends and family. The Penny Postcard today has become a snapshot of history.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, April 2, 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:
  • "clark.wa.gov" website, 2018, "Clark County Flood History";
  • U.S. National Weather Service website, 2018;


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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March 2018