Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Deer Island, Oregon"
Includes ... Deer Island ... "E-lal-lar Island" ... Tide Creek ... Merrill Creek ... Deer Island Slough ... Campsite of March 28, 1806 ... Hunters campsite of March 27, 1806 ...
Image, 2012, Deer Island as seen from Highway 30, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Deer Island as seen from Oregon Highway 30, Oregon. Image taken January 11, 2012.


Deer Island ...
Deer Island is a large island nearly 5 miles long and 2 miles wide, encompassing over 3,000 acres, and is located on the Oregon side of the Columbia River beginning at River Mile (RM) 77. Directly across the Columbia from Deer Island is Woodland, Washington, and Martin and Burke Islands. Downstream lies Goble, Oregon, and upstream lies Columbia City and St. Helens, Oregon. Just off the east shore of Deer Island lies Goat Island. Deer Island is one of the few remaining large islands in the Lower Columbia area that has remained largely undeveloped. The island, which contains sloughs and lakes interspersed with grassy marshes and pasture, receives heavy use by wintering waterfowl as well as bald eagles, purple martins, and a variety of other wildlife.

Lewis and Clark referred to this island as "E-lal-lar Island" or by the translated name of "Deer Island".

The town of Deer Island, located on mainland Oregon, was named for the island. The Deer Island Post Office was established in 1887.


Image, 2005, Deer Island as seen from Woodland, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Deer Island, Oregon, as seen from Woodland, Washington. View from Lions Community Day Park. Image taken July 24, 2005.


Lewis and Clark and Deer Island ...
Lewis and Clark referred to this island as "E-lal-lar Island" or by the translated name of "Deer Island".

"... the Indians call this large Island E-lal-lar, or Deer Island, which is a very appropriate name.    the hunters informed us that they had Seen upwards of a hundred Deer this morning on the island ..." [Clark, March 28, 1806]

On November 5, 1805, the Lewis and Clark expedition stopped on Deer Island to dine.

"... an extensive low Island, Seperated from the Lard side by a narrow Chanel, on this Island we Stoped to Dine     I walked out found it open & covered with grass interspersed with Small ponds, in which was great numbr. of foul, the remains of an old village on the lower part of this Island, I saw Several deer ... [Clark, November 5, 1805]

On the Corps' return trip in 1806, the men camp on Deer Island.


Hunters Campsite of March 27, 1806 ...
While Lewis and Clark spent the night of March 27, 1806, near Goble, Oregon, a group of hunters spent the night on Deer Island, near an old Indian Village on the northeast side.

"... This morning we Set out verry early and at 9 A. M. arived at an old Indian Village on the N E side of Deer island where we found our hunters had halted and left one man with the Canoes at their Camp, they arrived last evening at this place, and Six of them turned out very early to hunt ..." [Clark, March 28, 1806]

Campsite of March 28, 1806 ...
Early on March 28, 1806, Lewis and Clark met their hunters whoe had spent the night on Deer Island. The men then stopped and spent the day repairing canoes and drying equipment. They camped near an old Indian Village on the northeast side of Deer Island.

"... This morning we Set out verry early and at 9 A. M. arived at an old Indian Village on the N E side of Deer island where we found our hunters ...    at 1/2 after ten A. M. it became fair, and we had the canoes which wanted repairing halled out and with the assistance of fires which we had kindled for the purpose dryed them sufficiently to receive the pitch which was immediately put on them; at 3 in the evening we had them compleat and again launched and reloaded. we should have set out, but as some of the party whom we had permitted to hunt since we arrived have not yet returned we determined to remain this evening and dry our beding baggage &c. the weather being fair ..." [Lewis, March 28, 1806]

Lewis and Clark's previous campsite was near Goble, Oregon. Their campsite of March 29, 1806, was called "Wapato Portage", and was located near a Cathlapotle Village, now located within the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.


Oregon History Sign ...
An OREGON HISTORY sign about Deer Island is located along Oregon Highway 30 near the small community of Deer Island.

"... Deer Island in the Columbia River was named by the Lewis and Clark Expedition which stopped to dine here November 5, 1805 on it's way down river. Homeward bound, the explorers camped on the island on March 28, 1806. Captain Clark recorded "this morning we set out very early and at 9 a.m. arrived at an old Indian village on the NE side of Deer Island where we found our hunters had halted and left one man with the canoes at their camp. They arrived last evening and six of them turned out very early to hunt. At 10 a.m. they all returned to camp having killed seven deer ... the Indians call this island E lal lar, or Deer Island." ..."

Image, 2004, Deer Island from Oregon Highway 30, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Deer Island Historical Sign, Oregon. Located along Oregon Highway 30 at Deer Island. Image taken February 28, 2004.


Deer Island in 1940 ...
From the Oregon State Archives "A 1940 Journey Across Oregon":

"... DEER ISLAND, 34.2 m. (48 alt., 75 pop.), is a small community opposite the island of the same name visited in 1805 and again in 1806 by Lewis and Clark. The naming of Deer Island is thus accounted for in the report of Lewis and Clark: "We left camp at an early hour, and by nine o'clock reached an old Indian village.... Here we found a party of our men whom we had sent on yesterday to hunt, and who now returned after killing seven deer in the course of the morning out of upwards of a hundred which they had seen." ..."


Street Scenes ...

Image, 2011, Deer Island Store, Deer Island, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Deer Island Store, Deer Island, Oregon. View from moving car heading north on Highway 30. Image taken September 4, 2011.
Image, 2011, Deer Island Store, Deer Island, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Sign, Deer Island Store, Deer Island, Oregon. View from moving car heading south on Highway 30. Image taken September 2, 2011.


Views of Deer Island ...

Image, 2006, Deer Island from near Tide Creek, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Deer Island, Oregon. Deer Island, Oregon, as seen from Oregon Highway 30 near Tide Creek. Image taken October 31, 2006.
Image, 2006, Deer Island from near Tide Creek, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Deer Island, Oregon. Deer Island, Oregon, as seen from Oregon Highway 30 near Tide Creek. Image taken October 31, 2006.


Deer Island Slough ...
Deer Island Slough is a 6-mile-long backwater channel of the Columbia River and separates the western side of Deer Island to the adjacent floodplain. A dike was constructed about at the mid-point of the Slough and completely separates the slough into a northern and southern section, known as North Deer Island Slough and South Deer Island Slough. Water levels are regulated by tide gates located on the northernmost and southernmost ends of the two sloughs.

Tide Creek ...
Today the 16-mile-long Tide Creek is a tributary of South Deer Creek Slough. Historically, the lower 2.2 miles of Tide Creek flowed north parallel to Deer Island Slough before entering the Columbia River west of the north confluence of Deer Island Slough. This was once the location of a small community called Hunters and a ferry terminal for the Northern Pacific Railroad. Today however lower Tide Creek has been diverted from its historical floodplain into a constructed channel flowing south and then east before entering South Deer Island Slough at a point 2.5 miles upstream from the Slough's confluence with the Columbia River.

According to Oregon Geographic Names (McArthur and McArthur, 2003), the name "Tide Creek" is very old and most likely resulted from the creek showing tidal influences. In 1902 the Tidecreek Post Office was established. In 1903 the office closed and moved to Goble. In 1912 the Tide Creek Station was established by Burlington Northern.


Image, 2013, Tide Creek from Highway 30, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Tide Creek, Deer Island, Oregon. View from moving car heading north on Highway 30. Image taken January 11, 2013.


Merrill Creek ...
Merrill Creek, nearly 8 miles in length, is a tributary of lower Tide Creek and enters Tide Creek approximately one mile upstream from Tide Creek's confluence with South Deer Creek Slough.

According to Oregon Geographic Names (McArthur and McArthur, 2003), Merrill Creek was named after Geroge Merrill who settled on Deer Island in 1851 and filed a Donation Land Claim. Merrill Creek rises in the hills west of Deer Island.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management's General Land Office (GLO) website (2012) shows George and Ann Merrill being granted title to 640.68 acres of T5N R1W, sections 4, 5, 8, 9, 16, and 17, on June 16, 1868 (1850 Oregon-Donation Act).



From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 5, 1805 ...
Rained all the after part of last night, rain continues this morning, I [s]lept but verry little last night [Post Office Lake, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge] for the noise Kept dureing the whole of the night by the Swans, Geese, white & Grey Brant Ducks &c. on a Small Sand Island [one of the islands of the Ridgefield Refuge] close under the Lard. Side; they were emensely noumerous, and their noise horid- we Set out <at about Sun rise> early here the river is not more than 3/4 of a mile in width, passed a Small Prarie on the Stard. Side [quite possibly the location of today's Campbell Lake] passed 2 houses about 1/2 a mile from each other on the Lard. Side 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 [Bachelor Island] Seperated from the Stard. Shore by a narrow Chanel [Lake River or Bachelor Island Slough] at 9 [8?] miles I observed on the Chanel [Lake River or Bachelor Island Slough] which passes on the Stard Side of this Island [Bachelor Island] a Short distance above its lower point is Situated a large village [Cathlapotle Village, near where Lewis and Clark camped on March 29, 1806, a place now known as Wapato Portage], 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. ...    about 1 1/2 miles below this village on the Lard Side behind a rockey Sharp point [Warrior Point, Sauvie Island], we passed a Chanel 1/4 of a mile wide [Multnomah Channel] which I take to be the one the Indian Canoe entered yesterday from the lower point of Immage Canoe Island [Hayden Island, at this point Lewis and Clark had not discovered Hayden Island and Sauvie Island were two separate islands]     a Some low clifts of rocks below this Chanel [St. Helens, Oregon], a large Island Close under the Stard Side opposit [Lewis River floodplain, home of Woodland, Washington, possibly more of an "island" in 1805 ???], and 2 Small Islands, below [today's Burke and Martin Islands], here we met 2 canoes from below,- below those Islands a range of high hills form the Stard. Bank of the river [Martin Bluff], the Shore bold and rockey, Covered with a thick groth of Pine     an extensive low Island [Deer Island], Seperated from the Lard side by a narrow Chanel, on this Island we Stoped to Dine I walked out found it open & covered with <Small> grass interspersed with Small ponds, in which was great numbr. of foul, the remains of an old village on the lower part of this Island, I saw Several deer ...     below the lower point of this Island [Deer Island] a range of high hills which runs S. E. forms the Lard. bank of the river the Shores bold and rockey & hills Covered with pine, [Lewis and Clark are passing Goble, Oregon, and the area around the Trojan Nuclear Power Facility     The high hills leave the river on the Stard. Side a high bottom between the hill & river [Kalama, Washington]. We met 4 Canoes of Indians from below, in which there is 26 Indians, one of those Canoes is large, and ornimented with Images on the bow & Stern. That in the Bow the likeness of a Bear, and in Stern the picture of a man- we landed on the Lard. Side & camped [near Prescott Beach, Oregon] a little below the mouth of a creek [Kalama River] on the Stard. Side a little below the mouth of which is an Old Village which is now abandaned-;     here the river is about one and a half miles wide. and deep, The high Hills which run in a N W. & S E. derection form both banks of the river the Shore boald and rockey, the hills rise gradually & are Covered with a thick groth of pine &c. The valley [Columbian Valley] which is from above the mouth of Quick Sand River [Sandy River] to this place may be computed at 60 miles wide on a Derect line, & extends a great Distanc to the right & left rich thickly Covered with tall timber, with a fiew Small Praries bordering on the river and on the Islands; Some fiew Standing Ponds & Several Small Streams of running water on either Side of the river; This is certainly a fertill and a handsom valley, at this time Crouded with Indians. The day proved Cloudy with rain the greater part of it, we are all wet cold and disagreeable- I saw but little appearance of frost in this valley which we call <Wap-pa-too Columbia> from the root or plants growing Spontaniously in this valley only ...     We made 32 miles to day by estimation-






Clark, March 27, 1806 ...
a rainey disagreeable night     rained the greater part of the night     we Set out this morning verry early [from their camp on Walker Island] and proceeded on to two houses of the Skil-lute Indians on the South Side [downstream of Rainier, Oregon] here we found our hunters who had Seperated from us last evening.     the wind rose and the rain became very hard Soon after we landed here we were very friendly receved by the natives who gave all our party as much fish as they Could eate, ...     resumed our voyage at 12 oClock. The principal village of the Skil-lutes is Situated on the lower Side of the Cow-e-lis kee river [Cowlitz River] a fiew miles from it's enterance into the Columbia. ...     The Cow e lis kee river [Cowlitz River] is 150 yards wide, is deep and from Indian information navigable a very conslderable distance for canoes. it discharges itself into the Columbia about 3 miles above a remarkable knob [Mount Coffin] which is high and rocky and Situated on the North Side of the Columbia, and Seperated from the Northern hills of the river by a Wide bottom of Several Miles, to which it united [today the cities of Longview and Kelso, Washington]. I Suspect that this river Waters the Country lying west of a range of Mountains which passes the Columbia between the Great falls and rapids, and North of the Same nearly to the low country which Commences on the N W. Coast about Latitude 4o [blank] North. ...     at the distance of 2 miles above the village at which we brackfast we passed the enterance of this river [Cowlitz River]; we Saw Several fishing camps of the Skillutes on both Sides of the Columbia, and also on both Sides of this river. ...     late in the evening we passed the place we Camped the 5th of Novr. [Prescott Beach] and Encamped about 4 miles above at the Commencement of the Columbian Vally on the Stard. Side [near Goble, Oregon] below Deer Island [Deer Island, Oregon]. ...

[between Prescott Beach and Goble lies Coffin Rock, a basalt feature on the south side of the Columbia, now located on property owned by the Trojan Nuclear Facility]

Saw Cotton wood, Sweet Willow, w[hite] oake, ash and the broad leafed ash the Growth which resembles the bark &c. these form the groth of the bottom lands, whilst the Hills are almost exclusively Covered with the various Species of fir heretofore discribed. the black alder appears on Maney parts of the hills Sides as on the bottoms. before we Set out from the 2 houses where we brackfast we Sent on two Canoes with the best hunters, with orders to pro ceed as fast as they Could to Deer island [Deer Island, Oregon] and there to hunt and wait our arrival. we wish to halt at that place and repare 2 of our Canoes if possible. the Indians that visited us this evining remained but a Short time, they passed over to an Island [Sandy Island ???] and encamped. the night as well as the day proved Cold wet and excessively disagreeable. we Came 20 miles in the Course of this day.






Clark, March 28, 1806 ...
This morning we Set out verry early [from their campsite near Goble, Oregon] and at 9 A. M. arived at an old Indian Village on the N E side of Deer island [Deer Island] where we found our hunters had halted and left one man with the Canoes at their Camp, they arrived last evening at this place, and Six of them turned out very early to hunt, at 10 A. M. they all returned to camp haveing killed Seven Deer, those were all of the Common fallow Deer with a long tail [Columbian White-tailed Deer, currently being protected in the Julia Butler Hansen Refuge]. I measured the tail of one of these bucks which was upwards of 17 inches long; they are very poor, tho' they are better than the black tail Species of the Sea coast.     those are two very distinct Species of Deer.     the Indians call this large Island E-lal-lar, or Deer Island [Deer Island] which is a very appropriate name.     the hunters informed us that they had Seen upwards of a hundred Deer this morning on this island.     the interior of this Island is a prarie & ponds, with a heavy growth of Cotton wood, ash & willow near the river.     we have Seen more water fowl on this island than we have previously Seen Since we left Fort Clatsop [Fort Clatsop, where the men wintered over], ...     at after 10 A. M. it became fair and we had the Canoes which wanted repareing hauled out and with the assistance of fires which we had kindled for the purpose dryed them Sufficiently to receve the pitch which was imedeately put on them; at 3 in the evening we had them Compleated and lanced and reloaded.     we should have Set out but some of the party whome we had permitid to hunt Since we arrived heve not yet returned.     we determined to remain here this evening [near the northern end of Deer Island] and dry our bedding &c. the weather being fair. Since we landed here we were visited by a large Canoe with ten nativs of the Quathlahpohtle nation who are numerous and reside about fourteen Miles above us on the N E. Side of the Columbia [today within the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge] above the Enterance of a Small river which the Indians call Chh-wh-na-hi-ooks [Lewis River].     we saw a great number of Snakes on this island; ...     The men who had been Sent after the deer returned with four only, the other 4 haveing been eaten entirely by the Voulturs except the Skin. The men we had been permitted to hunt this evening killed 3 deer 4 Eagles & a Duck.     the deer are remarkably pore. Some rain in the after part of the day. we only made 5 miles to day.






Lewis, March 29, 1806 ...
We set out early this morning and proceeded along the side of Deer Island [Deer Island, Oregon]; halted at 10 A. M. near its upper point and breakfasted. ...     the upper point of this Island may be esteemed the lower side or commencement of the Columbian valley.




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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: NOAA Nautical Charts, U.S. Coast Pilot for the Columbia, Willamette, and Snake River, adapted from the U.S. Coast Pilot 7, 31st Edition; McArthur, L.A., and McArthur, L.L., 2003, Oregon Geographic Names, Oregon Historical Society Press, Portland; Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife website, 2004; Oregon State Archives website, 2005; U.S. Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office (GLO) Records website, 2012; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Columbia River Fisheries Program, 2009, Presence, distribution and movement of select aquatic species in Tide Creek, Merrill Creek and Deer Island Slough, Columbia County, Oregon; U.S. Geological Survey's Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) website, 2006.

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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January 2013