Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Dodson, Oregon"
Includes ... Dodson ... Reuben and Joseph Field's Campsite of April 7 and 8, 1806 ...
Image, 2005, Yeon Mountain and Dodson, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Yeon Mountain and Dodson, Oregon, from Skamania Landing, Washington. Image taken June 29, 2005.


Dodson ...
Dodson, Oregon, is located on the south side of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 140. Just upstream is the neighboring town of Warrendale. Downstream is Ainsworth State Park and Horsetail Falls. Dodson was a railway station named after Ira Dodson, an early settler. The Dodson station was moved many times during its history, including once being located near today's Warrendale. Today Dodson is a small community off of Interstate 84, with two boat ramps located along the Columbia River. Directly across from the Dodson ramps is Skamania Landing, Washington. Views of Beacon Rock and Pierce Island can be had upstream. Behind Dodson looms the massive Yeon Mountain.


Image, 2011, On the Columbia River Highway, Washington, click to enlarge
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Abandoned gas station and motel (???), Dodson, Oregon, along Interstate 84. View from car driving west along Interstate 84. Buildings are on the south side of the interstate. Image taken January 30, 2011.


Early Dodson ...
According to "Oregon Geographic Names" (McArthur and McArthur, 2003),   "Dodson is a railroad station just west of Warrendale. The name of the station comes from Ira Dodson, an early settler in that part of the country. Dodson station has been moved several times and was once near the present location of Warrendale.".

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records website shows an Ira Dodson being issued a land title on April 10, 1882, for 80 acres of parts of T1N R6E Section 2, under the 1820 "Sale-Cash Entry".


Dodson Cannery ...
Dodson, Oregon, was the home to the McGowan Cannery, owned by Patrick J. McGowan, during the heyday of Columbia River salmon fishing. Another cannery of McGowan's was located downstream between Chinook Point, Washington and Point Ellice.
[More Columbia River Canneries]

Dodson Boat Ramp ...

Image, 2005, Boat ramp at Dodson, Oregon, from Skamania Landing, Washington, click to enlarge
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Dodson, Oregon, boat ramp from Skamania Landing, Washington. Image taken June 29, 2005.
Image, 2005, Boat ramp at Dodson, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Boat ramp, Dodson, Oregon. Skamania Landing, Washington, is in the background. Image taken October 22, 2005.
Image, 2005, Boat ramp at Dodson, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Boat ramps, Dodson, Oregon. Image taken October 22, 2005.


Campsite of April 7-8, 1806 ...

While the main camp of Lewis and Clark for April 6 through April 8, 1806, was downstream at Shepperds Dell, two hunters, Reuben and Joseph Field, quite possibly set up camp at the location of today's Dodson, Oregon.

Historians have debated the location of the Lewis and Clark camp of April 6, 7, and 8, 1806, as conflicts appear between the journal text and Lewis and Clark's maps. According to Moulton (1991, vol.7):

"... Atlas map 79 leads one to believe that the camp of April 6 can be combined with that shown for April 7 and 8 and easily solve the problem. But that location is in error also. On April 9, after the party left the camp established on April 6, Lewis records that they passed several cascades (shown on Atlas map 79); these would be the Multnomah and other falls in the area. But they are all beyond the camp designated for April 7-8 on the Atlas map. According to mileage estimates and general descriptions, the party's camp for April 6, where they remained until the morning of April 9, was in Multnomah County, above present Latourell Falls and Rooster Rock State Park, in an area known as Sheppards Dell. ..."

As Captain Lewis wrote in his journal on April 9, 1806:

"... on our way to this village we passed several beautifull cascades which fell from a great hight over the stupendious rocks which cloles the river on both sides nearly, except a small bottom on the South side in which our hunters were encamped. the most remarkable of these casscades falls about 300 feet perpendicularly over a solid rock into a narrow bottom of the river on the south side. it is a large creek, situated about 5 miles above our encampment of the last evening. several small streams fall from a much greater hight, and in their decent become a perfect mist which collecting on the rocks below again become visible and decend a second time in the same manner before they reach the base of the rocks. ..." [Lewis, April 9, 1806]

The "village" refered to is at the location of today's Skamania and Skamania Landing, shown on the route map (Moulton, vol.1, map#79) as nine lodges located between two unnamed creeks, today's Duncan Creek and Woodward Creek. The "hunters" mentioned were Reuben and Joseph Field, who had left, along with George Drouillard (Drewyer), the morning of April 7 to head upriver to a "small bottom" to hunt and then wait for the party to catch up to them.

"... we also directed Drewyer and the two Feildses to ascend the river early in the morning to a small bottom a few miles above and hunt untill our arrival ..." [Lewis, April 6, 1806]

Drewyer returned that night:

"... Drewyer returned down the river in the evening & informed us that the nativs had Sceared all the Elk from the river above. Joseph & reuben Fields had proceeded on further up the river in the canoe, he expected to the village. ..." [Clark, November 7, 1806]

Lewis and Clark reached the Fields on April 9, 1806, on their way to the village.

"... This morning early we commenced the operation of reloading our canoes; at 7 A. M. we departed and proceeded on to the Camp of Reubin and Joseph Fields they had not killed any game; we made no halt at this place but continued our rout to the Wah-clel-lah Village which is situated on the North side of the river about a mile below the beacon rock; here we halted and took breakfast. ..." [Lewis, April 9, 1806]

Quite possibly this "small bottom" is the area of today's Dodson, Oregon, and the camp shown on the Route Map (Moulton, vol.1, map#79) for April 7 and 8, 1806, which was directly across from the village, is where the two Fields spent the night.



Views from Dodson ...

Image, 2005, at Skamania Landing looking upstream, click to enlarge
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Skamania Landing, Washington, as seen from the boat ramp near Dodson, Oregon. Image taken October 22, 2005.
Image, 2005, Beacon Rock from Dodson boat ramp, click to enlarge
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Beacon Rock, Washington, as seen from the boat ramp near Dodson, Oregon. Image taken October 22, 2005.
Image, 2005, Looking upstream from boat ramp at Dodson, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Looking upstream from boat ramp, Dodson, Oregon. View of (left to right): Hamilton Mountain, Beacon Rock, Aldrich Butte, and Pierce Island. Image taken October 22, 2005.
Image, 2005, Pierce Island, Dodson boat ramp, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Pierce Island, Washington, and the boat ramp near Dodson, Oregon. Downstream tip of Pierce Island. The Bonneville Dam area can be seen in the background. Image taken October 22, 2005.


Columbia River Gorge above Dodson ...

Image, 2004, Yeon Mountain, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Yeon Mountain, Oregon. View from off of Interstate 84, Oregon. Image taken June 27, 2004.
Image, 2004, St. Peters Dome and Rock of Ages, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
St. Peters Dome (left) and Rock of Ages (right), Oregon. View from off of Interstate 84, Oregon. Image taken June 27, 2004.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 2, 1805 ...
Examined the rapid below us [from their camp at Fort Rains, looking at the Cascade Rapids] more pertcelarly the danger appearing too great to Hazzard our Canoes loaded, dispatched all the men who could not Swim with loads to the end of the portage below, I also walked to the end of the portage with the carriers where I delayed untill everry articles was brought over and canoes arrived Safe. here we brackfast and took a Meridn. altitude 59 45' 45" about the time we were Setting out 7 Squars came over loaded with Dried fish, and bear grass neetly bundled up, Soon after 4 Indian men came down over the rapid in a large canoe.     passed a rapid at 2 miles & 1 at 4 miles opposite the lower point of a high Island on the Lard Side [Bradford Island], and a little below 4 Houses on the Stard. Bank, a Small Creek on the Lard Side [Tanner Creek] opposit Straw berry Island [Hamilton Island], which heads below the last rapid, opposit the lower point of this Island [Hamilton Island] passed three Islands covered with tall timber [today there are two, Ives and Pierce] opposit the Beatin rock [Beacon Rock]     Those Islands are nearest the Starboard Side, imediately below on the Stard. Side passed a village of nine houses [Skamania and Skamania Landing], which is Situated between 2 Small Creeks [Woodward Creek and Duncan Creek], and are of the Same construction of those above; here the river widens to near a mile, and the bottoms are more extensive and thickly timbered, as also the high mountains on each Side, with Pine, Spruce pine, Cotton wood, a Species of ash, and alder.     at 17 miles passed a rock near the middle of the river [Phoca Rock], about 100 feet high and 80 feet Diamuter,     proceed on down a Smoth gentle Stream of about 2 miles wide, in which the tide has its effect as high as the Beaten rock [Beacon Rock] or the Last rapids at Strawberry Island [Hamilton Island],- Saw great numbers of waterfowl of Different kinds, Such as Swan, Geese, white & grey brants, ducks of various kinds, Guls, & Pleaver [today just below Beacon Rock is Franz National Wildlife Refuge]. ...     we encamped under a high projecting rock on the Lard. Side [Rooster Rock, with Crown Point rising above it],     here the mountains leave the river on each Side [leaving the Columbia River Gorge, Steigerwald Land NWR is on the north and the Sandy River delta is on the south], which from the great Shute to this place is high and rugid [Columbia River Gorge]; thickly Covered with timber principalley of the Pine Species. The bottoms below appear extensive and thickly Covered with wood.     river here about 2 miles wide.     Seven Indians in a Canoe on their way down to trade with the nativs below, encamp with us, those we left at the portage passed us this evening and proceeded on down The ebb tide rose here about 9 Inches, the flood tide must rise here much higher- we made 29 miles to day from the Great Shute [Cascade Locks]-






Lewis, April 9, 1806
This morning early we commenced the operation of reloading our canoes; at 7 A. M. we departed [from their camp at Shepperds Dell] and proceeded on to the Camp of Reubin and Joseph Fields [near Dodson, Oregon] they had not killed any game; we made no halt at this place but continued our rout to the Wah-clel-lah Village which is situated on the North side of the river [upstream of the location of today's Skamania and Skamania Landing, between Duncan and Woodward Creeks] about a mile below the beacon rock [Beacon Rock]; here we halted and took breakfast. ...     this village appears to be the winter station of the Wah-clel-lahs and Clahclellars, the greater part of the former have lately removed to the falls of the Multnomah, and the latter have established themselves a few miles above on the North side of the river opposite the lower point of brant island [Bradford Island], being the commencement of the rapids, here they also take their salmon; they are now in the act of removing, and not only take with them their furniture and effects but also the bark and most of the boards which formed their houses. 14 houses remain entire but are at this time but thinly inhabited, nine others appear to have been lately removed, and the traces of ten or twelve others of ancient date were to be seen in the rear of their present village. ...     on our way to this village we passed several beautifull cascades which fell from a great hight over the stupendious rocks which cloles the river on both sides nearly, except a small bottom on the South side in which our hunters were encamped. the most remarkable of these casscades falls about 300 feet perpendicularly over a solid rock into a narrow bottom of the river on the south side. it is a large creek, situated about 5 miles above our encampment of the last evening. several small streams fall from a much greater hight, and in their decent become a perfect mist which collecting on the rocks below again become visible and decend a second time in the same manner before they reach the base of the rocks. [Multnomah Falls area]     the hills have now become mountains high on each side are rocky steep and covered generally with fir and white cedar. ...     at 2 P. M. we renewed our voyage; passed under the beacon rock [Beacon Rock] on the north side, to the left of two small islands situated near the shore [Ives and Pierce Islands].     at four P.M. we arrived at the Clah-clel-lah village; here we found the natives busily engaged in erecting their new habitations, which appear to be reather of a temperary kind; it is most probable that they only reside here during the salmon season. we purchased two dogs of these people who like those of the village blow were but sulky and illy disposed; they are great rogues and we are obliged to keep them at a proper distance from our baggage. as we could not ascend the rapid [foot of the Cascade Rapids] by the North side of the river with our large canoes [Hamilton Island area], we passed to the oposite side and entered the narrow channel which seperates brant Island [Bradford Island] from the South shore; the evening being far spent and the wind high raining and very cold we thought best not to attempt the rapids [Cascade Rapids] this evening, we therefore sought a safe harbour in this narrow channel and encamped on the main shore [Tanner Creek, Oregon]. our small canoe with Drewyer and the two feildses was unable to pass the river with us in consequence of the waves they therefore toed her up along the N. side of the river and encamped [upstream end of Bonneville Dam, location of today's North Powerhouse] opposite the upper point of brant Island [Bradford Island]. after halting this evening I took a turn with my gun in order to kill a deer, but was unsuccessful. I saw much fresh sign. the fir has been lately injured by a fire near this place and many of them have discharged considerable quantities of rozin. we directed that Collins should hunt a few hours tomorrow morning and that Gibson and his crew should remain at his place untill we returned and employ themselves in collectng rozin which our canoes are now in want of.





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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:    McArthur, L.A., and McArthur, L.L., 2004, Oregon Geographic Names, Oregon Historical Society Press, Portland;   U.S. Bureau of Land Management website, 2006, General Land Office Records;  

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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February 2011