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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Great Flood of 1894"
Includes ... Great Flood of 1894 ...
Image, 2014, Fort Cascades Historic Site, Hamilton Island, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Boulders uncovered during the flood of 1894, Cascades Townsite, Hamilton Island, Washington. Image taken April 7, 2014.


Great Flood of 1894 ...
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. The following is a compilation pulled from many resources (see "Sources" below).
  • Columbia River Mile (RM) 292 ... The town of Umatilla, Oregon, was inundated as well as much of the county, with a peak of 34.5 feet (June 5).

  • RM 189 ... A measured peak at The Dalles was 1,240,000 cubic feet per second (June 6) -- that's enough flow to cover a standard-size football field with water 1,500 feet deep in just one minute.

  • Downstream at Celilo a high water mark measured 40.1 feet (June 6).

  • RM 149 ... The highest stage of the 1894 flood was at Cascade Locks. Water there reached 49.7 feet at 4 p.m., June 6, corresponding to a discharge of 1,160,000 second-feet, or 4.89 second-feet per square mile.

  • RM 144 ... Forty-five miles downstream from The Dalles the flood destroyed the Washington town of Cascades. The town was never rebuilt. The force of the flood waters removed several feet of soil and exposed many boulders.

  • RM 106 ... Vancouver, Washington, with a normal flood stage of 16 feet, was estimated from the Portland stage to be 34.4 feet (June 7), and

  • Flood stage was measured on the Willamette River at Portland, Oregon at 33.0 feet (June 7).

  • RM 67 ... Longview, Washington hit a record 24.0 feet (June 7), 12 feet over flood stage.


1894 Flood

  • RM 189 ... Columbia River at The Dalles ...
  • RM 149 ... Cascade Locks ...
  • RM 144 ... Cascades Townsite ...
  • RM 144 ... Exposed boulders, Cascades Townsite ...
  • RM 109 ... Vancouver's Water Resources Education Center ...
  • RM 106 ... At Vancouver ...

RM 189 ... Columbia River at The Dalles ...
From: Wells, J.V.B., 1958, Compilation of records of surface waters of the United States through September 1950 : Part 14. Pacific Slope basins in Oregon and lower Columbia River Basin, USGS Water Supply Paper 1318.

COLUMBIA RIVER MAIN STEM, Columbia River near The Dalles, Oreg.

  • LOCATION:
    • Lat 4539'00", long. 12058'00", in N. sec. 20, T. 2 N., R. 15 E., 300 ft upstream from entrance to Celilo Canal, 3 miles downstream from Deschutes River, and 11 miles east of The Dalles.
  • DRAINAGE AREA:
    • 237,000 sq mi, approximately.
  • SUPPLEMENTAL RECORDS AVAILABLE:
    • Gage-height records collected at Cascade Locks from 1879 to 1928, at The Dalles since 1892, and at Celilo since 1903, are contained in reports of the U.S. Weather Bureau.
    • Records of chemical analysis and suspended-sediment loads for period January 1910 to January 1911 and August 1911 to August 1912 are published in Water-Supply Papers 339 and 363.
  • GAGE:
    • Water-stage recorder. Datum of gage is 0.12 ft above mean sea level, datum of 1929, supplementary adjustment of 1947.
    • 1858 to 1877, maximum stage for each year from levels to high-water marks at Lower Cascades Landing about 54 miles downstream and at different datum.
    • June 1 to Dec. 6, 1878, staff gage at Umatilla 88 miles upstream at different datum.
    • Dec. 12, 1878, to Oct. 9, 1879, and July I, 1881, to Jan. 31 1892, staff gage just upstream from Cascade Locks 52 miles downstream from present site and at datum 52.56 ft lower than present datum.
    • Oct. 10, 1879, to June 30, 1881, staff gage 2,000 ft downstream from ferry landing at The Dalles and at datum 40.86 ft higher than present datum.
    • Feb. 1, 1892, to Sept. 30, 1931, staff gage 300 ft upstream from ferry landing at The Dalles at datum 46.86 ft higher than present datum. Periods of no gage-height record at The Dalles were supplemented by gage-height record obtained at gage just upstream from Cascade Locks.
    • Oct. 1, 1931, to May I, 1935, staff gage in entrance to Celilo Canal 300 ft downstream from present site and at datum 37.59 ft higher.
    • Present site (report through 1950): 300 ft upstream from entrance to Celilo Canal, 3 miles downstream from Deschutes River, and 11 miles east of The Dalles.
  • AVERAGE DISCHARGE:
    • 72 years (1878-1950), 194,400 cubic feet per second (cfs) (revised).
  • EXTREMES:
    • 1858-1950: Maximum discharge, 1,240,000 cfs June 6, 1894 (gage height, 106.5 ft on gage at The Dalles, 160.1 ft present site); minimum observed, 35,000 cfs Jan. 12, 1937 (gage height, 126.0 ft).
  • REMARKS:
    • Storage and diversion for irrigation. of about 4,000,000 acres above station are only a small part of the total flow. Some regulation by Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake since about 1940, and by many other reservoirs above station.
  • MONTHLY MEAN DISCHARGE in cubic feet per second (cfs) for 1894:
    • Oct. 122,000 Nov. 142,000 Dec. 166,000 Jan. 145,000
      Feb. 114,000 Mar. 163, 000 Apr. 325, 000 May 580,000
      Jun. 1,002,000 Jul. 554, 100 Aug. 271,000 Sep. 175,000
  • MOMENTARY MAXIMUM
    • 1,240,000 cfs on June 6, 1894

RM 149 ... Cascade Locks ...
"The highest flood of which there is authentic record, that of June, 1894, was caused by the coincidence of floods in upper Columbia River and in Snake River, accompanied by heavy rainfall in the lower drainage area. The snowfall all over the Columbia River drainage basin had been exceptionally heavy during the previous winter. The highest stage at Cascade Locks was 49.7 feet at 4 p.m., June 6, corresponding to a discharge of 1,160,000 second-feet, or 4.89 second-feet per square mile."


Source:    Henshaw, F.F., and Dean, H.J., 1915, U.S. Geological Survey Water-supply Paper 370, Surface Water Supply of Oregon, 1878-1910.

RM 144 ... Cascades Townsite ...
The early town of Cascades, which had been located on Hamilton Island, was totally destroyed in the Flood of 1894. Soil was stripped exposing boulders. The town was never rebuilt.
[More]

Image, 2014, Fort Cascades Historic Site, Hamilton Island, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
General location of the town of Cascades, Washington, also known as "Lower Cascades". The townsite was founded in this general area in 1850. Image taken April 7, 2014.


RM 144 ... Exposed boulders, Cascades Townsite ...
The 1894 flood destroyed the Washington community of Cascades with the force of the flood waters removing several feet of soil and exposing many boulders. The trail through the Fort Cascades Historic Site goes through these exposed boulders.

Image, 2014, Fort Cascades Historic Site, Hamilton Island, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Boulders uncovered during the flood of 1894, Cascades Townsite, Hamilton Island, Washington. Image taken April 7, 2014.
Image, 2005, Moss covered boulders, flood of 1894, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Boulders uncovered during the flood of 1894, Cascades Townsite, Hamilton Island, Washington. Image taken April 2, 2005.
Image, 2005, Moss covered boulders, flood of 1894, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Boulders uncovered during the flood of 1894, Cascades Townsite, Hamilton Island, Washington. Image taken April 2, 2005.
Image, 2005, Moss covered boulders, flood of 1894, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Boulders uncovered during the flood of 1894, Cascades Townsite, Hamilton Island, Washington. Image taken April 2, 2005.


RM 109 ... Vancouver's Water Resources Education Center ...
Vancouver, Washington's Water Resources Education Center, located upstream of Ryan Point and downstream of Winter Park, has a staff gage on its property showing the high water marks of the 1894 "Great Flood", the 1948 "Vanport Flood", and the 1996 Columbia River flood.
[More]

Image, 2006, Staff Gage, Water Resources Education Center, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Staff Gage, Water Resources Education Center, Vancouver, Washington. Staff gage shows height of 1894 (top, left side of gage), 1948, and 1996 (bottom) Columbia River floods. Image taken January 1, 2006.
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, 2006, Staff Gage, Water Resources Education Center, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Staff Gage showing 1894 high water, Water Resources Education Center, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken January 1, 2006.


RM 106 ... At Vancouver ...
During the late 1900s, with only a railroad bridge crossing the Columbia River, ferry service was the method to get from Vancouver to Hayden Island and then on into Portland. The "Great Flood of 1894" destoryed that early bridge and disrupted ferry service.

"... The flood badly wrecked the Portland and Vancouver railroad trestle and it would have to be completely rebuilt. The last trip over the trestle by the electric cars was made on May 31st, and the ferry came up and tied to the trees in one local's yard. The flood also wrecked a large part of the elevated wagon road of the P & V road on the bottoms and the balance was under water. The entire road would have to be rebuilt and the teams could not cross for several months, cutting down on ferry loads. But the ferry still had plenty of work ahead of her carrying supplies for rebuilding back and forth. ..." ["Columbian.com" website, 2005]

According to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council website (2014):

"... At Vancouver, where the river level was monitored but not the flow velocity, the Columbia reached its all-time record high on June 7, 1894, 34.4 feet above sea level. The normal river level at the Vancouver gauge, which is located at river mile 106.5, five miles upstream from the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette, is 1.2 feet above sea level. ..." [Harrison, J., 2008, "Floods and Flood Control", Northwest Power and Conservation Council]


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, ...
 




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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:    Center for Columbia River History website, 2005;    "Columbian.com" website, 2005, "History";    Harrison, J., 2008, "Floods and Flood Control", Northwest Power and Conservation Council;    Henshaw, F.F., and Dean, H.J., 1915, U.S. Geological Survey Water-supply Paper 370, Surface Water Supply of Oregon, 1878-1910;    Nelson, E.R., 1949, Columbia River Basin Flood, May-June 1948, IN: Caskey, J.E., Jr. (ed.), Weather Bureau No.1535, Monthly Weather Review, January 1949, v.77, no.1, U.S. Weather Bureau, Washington D.C.;    Oregon Climate Service website, 2005;    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Broshure, 2004, "Fort Cascades Trail Guide, 1989 edition";    U.S. Geological Survey, Waterdata website, 2005;    U.S. National Weather Bureau website, 2005;    Wells, J.V.B., 1958, Compilation of records of surface waters of the    United States through September 1950 : Part 14. Pacific Slope basins in Oregon and lower Columbia River Basin, USGS Water Supply Paper 1318;   

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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April 2014