Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Cottonwood Island, Washington"
Includes ... Cottonwood Island ... Carrolls Channel ...
Image, 2003, Mouth of the Cowlitz River with Cottonwood Island, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Mouth of the Cowlitz River, Washington, with Cottonwood Island on the right. Image taken August 2, 2003.

Cottonwood Island ...
Cottonwood Island is located near the Washington side of the Columbia River and stretches between Columbia River Miles (RM) 68 and 71.5. The island helps define the mouth of the Cowlitz River. Cottonwood Island is separated from the Washington shore by Carrolls Channel and Carrolls Bluff rises alongside. Downstream are the Washington communities of Longview and Kelso and upstream is the community of Kalama. Across from Cottonwood Island, on the Oregon side of the Columbia River, is the Oregon community of Rainier and the small community of Prescott.

Lewis and Clark and Cottonwood Island ...
Lewis and Clark passed Cottonwood Island on November 6, 1805, on their way to the Pacific Ocean.

"... a bold rockey Shore on the Lard Side, opsd. the upper point of a Island [Cottonwood Island] close under the Stard Side the high lands closeing the river on that Side ..." [Clark, November 6, 1805, first draft]

"... the head of a long narrow Island close under the Starboard Side, back of this Island two Creeks fall in about 6 miles apart,> ..." [Clark, November 6, 1805]

On their return, Lewis and Clark pass by Cottonwood Island on March 27, 1806.

Early Cottonwood Island ...
Lieutenant William Broughton of the Captain George Vancouver Expedition passed by Cottonwood Island on October 27, 1792. "Knights River" is today's Cowlitz River.

"... The northern shore. instead of being the steepest, now consisted of low, flat, sandy, shores, through which, ... two other streams fell into it. The westernmost was named River Poole, and the easternmost Knight's River; this last is the largest of the two; its entrance indicated its being extensive, ... After dinner the party proceeded up the reach, extending S. 18 E. passing a low sandy island at its entrance against a very strong stream; ..." [Broughton, October 27, 1792]

Lewis and Clark passed Cottonwood Island on November 6, 1805, on their way to the Pacific Ocean, and then again on March 27, 1806, on their return.

In 1841, Wilkes, of the U.S. Exploring Expedition called the island by the Indian name, Kanem, meaning "canoe".

"... Kanem Island lies 1 mile above the mouth of the Cowlitz, on the northern shore, is 1 1/2 miles long, and one-sixth of a mile wide. The channel runs on the south side. ..." [Wilkes, Chapter XVI]

Cottonwood Island was changed to the present name by the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey for the abundant growth of cottonwood trees on the island. The 1888 navigation chart, "Columbia River Sheet No.4, Grim's Island to Kalama" shows "Cottonwood I.".

Views ...

Image, 2006, Cottonwood Island and Carrolls Bluff, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Cottonwood Island (left) and Carrolls Bluff (right). View heading north on Interstate 5. Image taken August 12, 2006.
Image, 2016, Cottonwood Island and Carrolls Bluff, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Cottonwood Island, Washington, as seen from Prescott Beach, Oregon. Image taken September 9, 2016.

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 6, 1805, first draft ...
a cold wet morning. rain Contd. untill [blank] oClock     we Set out early [from Prescott Beach, Oregon, area] & proceeded on the Corse of last night &c.

N. 50° W. 1 mile
on the Lard. Side under Some high land.    bold rockey Shore

N. 60° W. 1 mile
under a bold rockey Shore on the Lard Side, opsd. the upper point of a Island [Cottonwood Island] close under the Stard Side the high lands closeing the river on that Side [Carrolls Bluff]    above river wide

N. 75° W. 12 miles
to a point of high land on the Lard Side, passed two Lodges on the Lard Side at 2 miles in a bottom, The high land [Carrolls Bluff] leave The river on the Stard. Side.    passd. a remarkable Knob of high land on the Stard. Side at 3 miles Close on the Waters edge [Mount Coffin, Lewis and Clark missed the Cowlitz River mouth]...    passed a Island nearest the Lard. Side at 10 mile [Walker Island] the head of a Isd. on Std. [Fisher Island] opposit High Cliffs [Green Point, location of today's Mayger, Oregon], with Several Speces of Pine Cedars &c. arber vita & different Species of under groth.

N. 80° W. 2 miles
under a high clift on the Lard Side [Green Point, location of today's Mayger Island]     the lower point of the Island on Stard. [Fisher Island] opposit those hills are Covered thickly ...

N. 88° W. 5 miles
to a high Clift a little below an old village in the Stard. bend [possibly Bunker Hill, the location of today's Stella, Washington] and opposit an old village on a Lard. point of a handsom & extensive bottom [Beaver Slough/Clatskanie River bottom].     passed a Island in the middle of the river 3 miles long and one wide [Crims Island], passed a Small Island Close on the Stard. Side [Gull Island] & a lower point of a former Isld. below which the lands high & with Clifts to the river Stard. Side

S. 45° W. 5 miles
under a Clift of verry high land on the Stard. side [possibly the Oak Point and Eagle Cliff area] wind high a head. ...

S. 50° W. 1 mile
under a high rockey Hill of pine. The Indians leave us, Steep assent, Som Clifts

S. 75° W. 1 mile
under a high hill with a bold rocky Shore, high assent     river about 1 mile wide

West 1 mile
under a high Steep hill bold rockey Shore, Encampd under the hill on Stones [near Cape Horn of Wahkiakum County] Scercely land Sufficent between the hills and river Clear of the tide for us to lie. Cloudy & rain all wet and disagreeable. this evening made large fires on the Stones and dried our bedding. ...

Clark, November 6, 1805 ...
A cool wet raney morning we Set out [from their camp at Prescott Beach] early at 4 miles pass 2 Lodges of Indians in a Small bottom on the Lard Side I believe those Indians to be travelers. opposit is <the head of a long narrow Island close under the Starboard Side [Cottonwood Island], back of this Island two Creeks fall in about 6 miles apart,> [Cowlitz River delta, Longview, Washington. Today the "two Creeks" are the Cowlitz River and Coal Creek Slough.] and appear to head in the high hilley countrey to the N. E. opposit <this long Island is 2 others one Small and about the middle of the river> the other larger and nearly opposit its lower point [today the location of Walker Island and Lord Island complex], and opposit a high clift of Black rocks [Green Point, location of Mayger, Oregon] on the Lard. Side at 14 miles; ...     here the hills leave the river on the Lard. Side, a butifull open and extensive bottom [Clatskanie River delta] in which there is an old Village, one also on the Stard. Side a little above both of which are abandened by all their inhabitents except Two Small dogs nearly Starved, and an unreasonable portion of flees— The Hills and mountains are covered with Sever kinds of Pine— ...     Some willow on the waters edge,   passed an Island 3 miles long and one mile wide [Crims Island ... Crims Island is separated from the Oregon shore by the Bradbury Slough.], <one> close under the Stard. Side below the <long narrow Island> below which the Stard Hills are verry from the river bank and Continues high and rugid on that Side all day, ... [Lewis and Clark pass, but do not mention today's Germany Creek, Abernethy Creek, and Mill Creek]     we came too to Dine on the long narrow Island [Crims Island] found the woods So thick with under groth that the hunters could not get any distance into the Isld. ...     river about one mile wide hills high and Steep on the Std. [cliffs of Oak Point] no place for several Miles suffcently large and leavil for our camp we at length Landed at a place [Eagle Cliff and Cape Horn, Wahkiakum County] which by moveing the Stones we made a place Sufficently large for the party to lie leavil on the Smaller Stones Clear of the Tide     Cloudy with rain all day we are all wet and disagreeable, had large fires made on the Stone and dried our bedding and Kill the flees, which collected in our blankets at every old village we encamped near     I had like to have forgotten a verry remarkable Knob [Mount Coffin, Longview, Washington, now destroyed] riseing from the edge of the water to about 80 feet high, and about 200 paces around at its Base and Situated <on the long narrow Island> [Longview, Washington area, the Cowlitz River delta] above and nearly opposit to the 2 Lodges we passed to day, it is Some distance from the high land & in a low part of the Island [Cowlitz River delta]

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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

  • Hitchman, R., 1985, Place Names of Washington, Washington State Historical Society;
  • NOAA Office of Coast Survey website, 2005;

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 2016