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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Fort Rains, Washington ... (Middle Blockhouse)"
Includes ... Fort Rains ... North Bank Railroad ... Sheridan Point ... Campsite of November 1, 1805 ... Campsite of April 10 and 11, 1806 ... The Golden Age of Postcards ...
Image, 2005, Columbia River Gorge from the Fort Rains viewpoint, click to enlarge
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Columbia River Gorge and the Fort Rains viewpoint. Image taken February 26, 2005.


The Forts of the Cascades Rapids ...
Throughout history four different forts or blockhouses existed along a rough stretch of the Columbia River Gorge between Hamilton Island and Cascades Locks, known throughout history as the "Cascade Rapids". The first fort was Fort Gilliam, established in 1848 and located at the upper end of the portage as a supply depot for the Cayuse Indian Wars. Next came Fort Cascades, built in 1855 at the lower end of the rapids (known as the "Lower Cascades"), and built to defend the portage. Next came Fort Rains which was located at the lower end of the portage around the "Upper Cascades". The last fort built was Fort Lugenbeel, located at the upper end of the "Upper Cascades" portage.
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Fort Rains ...
The Army established Fort Rains (also seen spelled "Raines"), a blockhouse built in October 1855 to defend the Middle Cascades. The location of this structure was on the north bank of the Columbia at the lower end of the portage around the Cascade Rapids, just above the present location of the Bonneville Dam and below the Bridge of the Gods and Sheridan Point. Fort Rains was known as the "Middle Blockhouse". Fort Rains was named for Major Gabriel Rains, under whose orders the fort was built.

"... During the previous winter (1855-56), a strong guard had been on duty at the blockhouse located a mile below the Upper Cascades landing, which had been erected by Major Rains in the fall of 1855; and from the name of its builder it had been uniformly but unofficially called Fort Rains. ..." [History of the Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington 1889]

Fort Rains withstood the 1856 "Cascades Massacre". It was destroyed in 1876. A Memorial Blockhouse was erected near the original location in 1927. That too is gone. Today two informational signs exist near the Fort Rains location.


Image, 2005, Fort Rains and the North Bank Railroad information signs, click to enlarge
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Information signs for Fort Rains and the North Bank Railroad. Image taken February 26, 2005.


Lewis and Clark and the Fort Rains location ...
Lewis and Clark's "Great Shoot" was at the head of a portage located on the Washington side of the Columbia, at Ashes Lake. The foot of the portage was at the location of Fort Rains. The men camped at the foot of the portage both on their journey to the Pacific in 1805, and the following year on their return back home.

Campsite of November 1, 1805 ...
Lewis and Clark had just passed the "Upper Cascades", an upper section of rapids at Cascade Locks and Bridge of the Gods. The four large houses appear on the route map (Moulton, vol.1, map#79) to be opposite of Bradford Island, in the area of today's Bonneville Dam. Moulton places the camp above Bonneville Dam in the vicinity of Fort Rains. On November 1, 1805, Captain Clark wrote in his journal:

"... Set all hands packing the loading over th portage which is below the Grand Shutes and is 940 yards of bad way over rocks & on Slipery hill Sides     The Indians who came down in 2 Canoes last night packed their fish over a portage of 2 1/2 miles to avoid a 2d Shute. four of them took their canoes over the 1st portage and run the 2d Shute, ... We got all our Canoes and baggage below the Great Shute     3 of the canoes being Leakey from injures recved in hauling them over the rocks, obliged us to delay to have them repaired     a bad rapid just below us ..."
[Clark, November 1, 1805, first draft]

"... Aa verry Cool morning wind hard from the N.E. The Indians who arrived last evining took their Canoes on ther Sholders and Carried them below the Great Shute, we Set about takeing our Small Canoe and all the baggage by land 940 yards of bad Slippery and rockey way     The Indiands we discoverd took ther loading the whole length of the portage 2 1/2 miles, to avoid a Second Shute which appears verry bad to pass, and thro' which they passed with their empty canoes. ...     we got all our baggage over the Portage of 940 yards, after which we got the 4 large Canoes over by Slipping them over the rocks on poles placed across from one rock to another, and at Some places along partial Streams of the river.     in passing those canoes over the rocks &c. three of them recived injuries which obliged us to delay to have them repared. ..."
[Clark, November 1, 1805]

"... 3 Miles to a large black rock in a Std. Bend at the foot of a sast rapid opposit the lower end of the Island on the Lard. Side, passing a village of 4 large houses at 1 1/2 miles an extensive Stoney bottom on the Stard. Side, the mounts. on the Lard Side high and ruged. passing maney large rocks against which the water beats with great force. Last rapid 7 Miles from the Grand Shute. ..."
[Clark, November 1, 1805, "Course Distance & Remarks Decending the Columbia River from the Lewis's River ..."]

Lewis and Clark's previous campsite was on the Washington side of the Columbia River near Ashes Lake. The camp of November 2, 1805, was downstream at Rooster Rock, Oregon.


Campsite of April 10-11, 1806 ...
Lewis and Clark's campsite of April 10-11, 1806 is unmarked on any of their maps. It was located at the lower end of the portage around the "Lower Falls of the Columbia" on the north side, close to the location of their camp of November 1, 1805.

"... by evening we arrived at the portage on the North side where we landed and conveyed our bagage to the top of the hill about 200 paces distant where we formed a camp.     we had the canoes drawn on shore and secured. ..." [Lewis, April 10, 1806]

"... by evening we arived at the portage on the N. Side where we landed and Conveyed our baggage to the top of the hill about 200 paces distant where we found a Camp.     we had the Canoes drawn on Shore and Secured. ..." [Clark, April 10, 1806]

Lewis and Clark's previous campsite was on the Oregon side upstream of Tanner Creek. Their camp of April 12, 1806, was on the Washington side near Ashes Lake.


Image, 2003, Columbia River looking downstream Brige of the Gods, click to enlarge
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Columbia River looking downstream from Bridge of the Gods. View towards Fort Rains location, on right. Image taken June 15, 2003.
Image, 2005, Columbia River looking downstream Bridge of the Gods, click to enlarge
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Columbia River looking downstream from Bridge of the Gods. Image taken May 13, 2005.


Fort Rains Blockhouse ...

Image, 2006, Fort Rains information sign, click to enlarge
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Information sign, Forts of the Columbia Rapids. Image taken April 22, 2006.
Image, 2006, Fort Rains information sign, click to enlarge
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Fort Rains Blockhouse. Image taken April 22, 2006.


Fort Rains blockhouse model, Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center ...
(to come)
Image, 2011, Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center, click to enlarge
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Model, Fort Rains, Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center, Stevenson, Washington. Image taken July 15, 2011.


Note: sign leaning on model is not correct sign.
Image, 2011, Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Information sign, Fort Rains, Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center, Stevenson, Washington. Image taken July 15, 2011.


North Bank Railroad ...
"The North Bank Railroad", "The North Bank Road", "Columbia River Scenic Route", and "The Northwests Own Railway" are all phrases used to refer to the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway, which was completed in 1908, with a celebration being held at Sheridan Point upstream of the Fort Rains location.
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Image, 2005, North Bank Road information signs, click to enlarge
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Information sign for the North Bank Road. Image taken June 29, 2005.
Image, 2005, North Bank Road information signs, click to enlarge
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Information sign for the North Bank Road. Caption for the left image reads: "Washington boasts the river's first railraod, which was built in 1851. A wooden cart on wooden rails and pulled by mules, it assisted early settlers around the Columbia's rapids. Despite this early start, modern locomotives were a long time coming." Caption for the right image reads: "In a driving rain on March 11, 1908, delighted locals joined dignitaries here at Sheridan's Point to celebrate completion of the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway between Pasco and Vancouver." Image taken June 29, 2005.
Image, 2005, Fort Rains and the North Bank Railroad, click to enlarge
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View across the Columbia River, with the North Bank Railroad tracks. View taken from the Fort Rains location. Image taken February 26, 2005.


Fort Rains Memorial Blockhouse ...
In 1927 a reconstruction of the Fort Rains Blockhouse was built on the banks of the Columbia River (see "The Golden Age of Postcards" below).

"... Work was begun February 9, 1927, on the new memorial blockhouse, Fort Rains, which withstood a siege of hostile Indians during the Cascades battle. The site was donated to the society by Peter Birkeland and wife of Cascades, and P.A. Bredeen of St. Johns, Or. It had been planned to complete and dedicate the blockhouse March 26, the 71st anniversary of the siege, but owing to inclement weather the work was delayed and the new dedication date was announced as May 30. Fort Lugenbeel, the upper Cascades blockhouse, will be erected and dedicated next in order after Fort Rains. the new memorial blockhouses will be converted into public museums at a later date and historical relics will be on display. Many contributions of relics already have been received ...

The original site of Fort Rains was destroyed in 1876 and a new site has been selected near the old one. It is near the point where Sheridan landed his troups in 1856 when he came to the relief of the besieged garrison. The grounds surrounding the restored blockhosue will contain many interesting historic features ... ..." [Spokane-Review, 1927, article written by Joseph L. Brogan]


Fort Rains in 1941 ...
From "The New Washington: A Guide to the Evergreen State, Federal Writers' Project, 1941":

"... FORT RAINS BLOCKHOUSE was rebuilt by the Skamania County Historical Society in 1927 partly from old timbers that formed the structure erected by Major Gabriel Rains after the Indian Wars of 1856 and the Cascades Massacre. A band of Yakima, Klickitat, and Cascade made raids on two white settlements near Bradford Island, March 26, 1856. The besieged settlers withstood attacks for two days, until two forces from The Dalles, Oregon, commanded by Colonel Edward J. Steptoe and Lieutenatnt Phil Sheridan (later General Sheridan of Civil War fame) came to the rescue. ..."


Penny Postcard, Fort Rains Block House Memorial, ca.1920
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Fort Rains Block House Memorial, ca.1920.
Photo Postcard, ca.1920. Caption on front reads:"Fort Rains Block House Memorial, Evergreen Highway, Wash.". Wesley Andrews Card #48. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


North Bonneville Mural ...
Two murals are located in North Bonneville, just off of Cascade Drive. One depicts the "Middle Blockhouse" of the Columbia River, and the other depicts the "Regulator", one of the Sternwheelers which made the journey from the Bonneville Dam to The Dalles, Oregon.
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Image, 2012, North Bonneville, Washington click to enlarge
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Blockhouse Mural, North Bonneville, Washington. Image taken January 3, 2012.
Image, 2012, North Bonneville, Washington click to enlarge
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Blockhouse Mural, North Bonneville, Washington. Image taken January 3, 2012.


"The Golden Age of Postcards" ...

The early 1900s was the "Golden Age of Postcards", with the "Penny Postcard" being a popular way to send greetings to family and friends. The postcards now have become a image of history.

Penny Postcard, Fort Rains Block House Memorial, ca.1920
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Penny Postcard: Fort Rains Block House Memorial, ca.1920.
Photo Postcard, ca.1920. Caption on front reads:"Fort Rains Block House Memorial, Evergreen Highway, Wash.". Wesley Andrews Card #48. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


View from the Fort Rains Location ...

Image, 2005, Columbia River and Oregon as seen from the Fort Rains area, click to enlarge
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Columbia River and Oregon, as seen from the Fort Rains and North Bank Railroad information signs. Image taken May 1, 2005.
Image, 2006, Fishing Camp across from Fort Rains, click to enlarge
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Fishing Camp on the Oregon side, across from Fort Rains location. Image taken April 22, 2006.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, October 31, 1805 ...
A Cloudy rainey disagreeable morning I proceeded down the river to view with more attention [Cascade Locks area] we had to pass on the river below, the two men with me Jo. Fields & Peter Crusat proceeded down to examine the rapids the Great Shute [Cascade Rapids] which commenced at the Island on which we encamped [Ashes Lake, now under the waters of the Bonneville Reservoir] Continud with great rapidity and force thro a narrow chanel much compressd. and interspersed with large rocks for a mile, at a mile lower is a verry Considerable rapid at which place the waves are remarkably high, and proceeded on in a old Indian parth 2 miles by land thro a thick wood & hill Side, to the river where the Indians make a portage, from this place I dispatched Peter Crusat (our principal waterman) back to follow the river and examine the practibility of the Canoes passing, as the rapids appeared to continue down below as far as I could See, I with Jo. Fields proceeded on, at a mile below the end of the portage [Fort Rains] ...     at 2 miles lower & 5 below our Camp I passed a village of 4 large houses abandend by the nativs, with their dores bared up, ...     from a Short distance below the vaults the mountain which is but low on the Stard. Side leave the river, and a leavel Stoney open bottom Suckceeds on the Said Std. Side for a great Distance down, the mountains high and rugid on the Lard Side this open bottom is about 2 miles a Short distance below this village is a bad Stoney rapid and appears to be the last in view I observed at this lower rapid the remains of a large and antient Village which I could plainly trace by the Sinks in which they had formed their houses, as also those in which they had buried their fish- from this rapid to the lower end of the portage [vicinity of Fort Cascades at the lower end of Hamilton Island] the river is Crouded with rocks of various Sizes between which the water passes with great velociety createing in many places large Waves, an Island which is Situated near the Lard. Side [Bradford Island] occupies about half the distance the lower point of which is at this rapid. immediately below this rapid the high water passes through a narrow Chanel through the Stard. Bottom forming an Island of 3 miles <wide> Long & one wide, I walked through this Island [Hamilton Island] which I found to be verry rich land, and had every appearance of haveing been at Some distant period Cultivated. at this time it is Covered with grass intersperced with Strawberry vines. I observed Several places on this Island where the nativs had dug for roots and from its lower point I observed 5 Indians in a Canoe below the upper point of an Island near the middle of the river Covered with tall timber [???],    which indued me to believe that a village was at no great distanc below, I could not See any rapids below <for> in the extent of my view which was for a long distance down the river, which from the last rapids [Middle Cascades] widened and had everry appearance of being effected by the tide,- I deturmind to return to Camp 10 miles distant [on an island by Ashes Lake, across from Cascade Locks, Oregon], a remarkable high detached rock Stands in a bottom on the Stard Side [Beacon Rock] near the lower point of this Island on the Stard. Side about 800 feet high and 400 paces around, we call the Beaten rock.     a Brook [Hamilton Creek] falls into the narrow Chanel [Hamilton Slough, today's Greenleaf Slough] which forms the Strawberry Island [Hamilton Island], which at this time has no running water, but has every appearance of dischargeing emence torrents &c. &c. Jo. Fields Shot a Sand hill Crane. I returned by the Same rout on an Indian parth passing up on the N W. Side of the river to our Camp at the Great Shute [an island near Ashes Lake, across from Cascade Locks, now under the waters of Bonneville Reservoir]. found Several Indians from the village, I Smoked with them; Soon after my return two Canoes loaded with fish & Bear grass for the trade below, came down from the village at the mouth of the Catterack River [Klickitat River], they unloaded and turned their Canoes up Side down on the beech, & camped under a Shelveing rock below our Camp ...

This Great Shute or falls [Upper Cascade Rapids] is about a mile with the water of this great river Compressed within the Space of 150 paces in which there is great numbers of both large and Small rocks, water passing with great velocity forming & boiling in a most horriable manner, with a fall of about 20 feet, below it widens to about 200 paces and current gentle for a Short distance. a Short distance above is three Small rockey Islands, and at the head of those falls, three Small rockey Islands are Situated Crosswise the river, Several rocks above in the river & 4 large rocks in the head of the Shute; those obstructions together with the high Stones which are continually brakeing loose from the mountain on the Stard Side and roleing down into the Shute aded to those which brake loose from those Islands above and lodge in the Shute, must be the Cause of the rivers daming up to Such a distance above, <and Show> where it Shows Such evidant marks of the Common current of the river being much lower than at the present day






Clark, November 1, 1805 ...
A verry Cool morning wind hard from the N. E. [Lewis and Clark's camp of October 31, 1805, was across from Cascade Locks, on an island off the Washington shore near Ashes Lake, now under the waters of the Bonneville Reservoir.] The Indians who arrived last evining took their Canoes on ther Sholders and Carried them below the Great Shute ["Lower Falls of the Columbia", the "Cascade Rapids"], we Set about takeing our Small Canoe and all the baggage by land 940 yards of bad Slippery and rockey way [this rocky location later became the location of the Bridge of the Gods]     The Indians we discoverd took ther loading the whole length of the portage 2 miles, to avoid a Second Shute [Lower Cascades, by Bonneville Dam] which appears verry bad to pass, and thro' which they passed with their empty canoes. Great numbers of Sea Otters [Harbor Seals], they are So cautious that I with dificuelty got a Shot at one to day, which I must have killed, but could not get him as he Sunk

we got all our baggage over the Portage of 940 yards, after which we got the 4 large Canoes over by Slipping them over the rocks on poles placed across from one rock to another, and at Some places along partial Streams of the river. in passing those canoes over the rocks &c. three of them recived injuries which obliged us to delay to have them repared. [the lower end of the portage at Fort Rains] ...






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 [indentified on Atlas map#79 as the "Wah-clallah Tribe of Shahala Nation", location near today's Skamania and Skamania Landing], which is Situated between 2 Small Creeks [Woodard 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]-






Clark, April 10, 1806 ...
Collins went out in the bottom to hunt [on the Oregon side of the Columbia in the Bonneville Dam area] agreeable to the order of last evening, and gibsons Crew was derected to delay for Collins dureing which time they were derected to Collect rozin from the pines in the bottom near our Camp [near Tanner Creek]     at 6 A M. we Set out and proceeded to the lower point of the Island [Bradford Island]    from whence we were Compelled to draw our Canoes up a rapid for about 1/4 mile which we Soon performed. Collins & gibson haveing not yet Come over we derected Serjt. Pryor to delay on the Island untill Gibson Came over & assist him with the large toe roap which we also left and to join us at a village of four houses of the Clah-lah-lar Tribe which is opposit to this Island on North Side at which place we intened to brackfast [vicinity of today's North Bonneville].    in crossing the River which at this place is not more than 400 yards wide we fell down a great distance owing to the rapidity of the Current. ...    at 10 oClock Sergt. Pryor and Gibson joined us with Collins who had killed 3 deer. these were all of the blacktailed fallow kind. We Set out and Continued up on the N. Side of the river with great dificuelty in Consequence of the Rapidity of the Current and the large rocks which forms this Shore; the South Side of the river is impassable. [On the Oregon side is the Eagle Creek and Ruckel Creek drainages, neither of which was mentioned in the Journals.]

As we had but one Sufficent toe roap and were obliged to employ the Cord in getting on our Canoes the greater part of the way we could only take them one at a time which retarded our progress very much. by evening we arived at the portage on the N. Side [Fort Rains] where we landed and Conveyed our baggage to the top of the hill about 200 paces distant where we found [formd?] a Camp. we had the Canoes drawn on Shore and Secured. the Small Canoe got loose from the hunters and went adrift with a tin cup & a tomahawk in her; the Indians Caught her at the last Village and brought her up to us this evening for which we gave them two knives; the Canoe overset and lost the articles which were in her..





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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:   see Cascade Rapids;    also: Federal Writers' Project, 1941, "The New Washington: A Guild to the Evergreen State";

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 2013