Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Forts (Blockhouses) of the Columbia River"
Includes ... The Forts or Blockhouses of the Columbia River ... Fort Astor ... Fort Astoria ... Fort Borst ... Fort Canby ... Fort Cape Disappointment ... Fort Cascades ... Fort Columbia ... Fort Dalles ... Fort George ... Fort Gilliam ... Fort Lugenbeel ... Fort Nez Perce ... Fort Numipu ... Fort Rains ... Fort Riggs ... Fort Sevastopool ... Fort Stevens ... Fort Vancouver ... Fort Walla Walla ... Fort Wascopam ... Fort White Salmon ... Fort William ... Fort Yamhill ... Camp Drum ... "Lower Blockhouse" ... "Middle Blockhouse" ... "Upper Blockhouse" ... "Old Fort Walla Walla" ... Lewis River Blockhouse ... St. Helens Blockhouse ... Salmon Creek Stockade ...
Image, 2005, Fort Rains and the North Bank Railroad information signs, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Information signs for Fort Lugenbeel, Fort Rains, and Fort Cascades, and for the North Bank Railroad. Image taken February 26, 2005.


The Forts (or Blockhouses) of the Columbia River ...

Lower Columbia:
  • RM 2 ... Fort Canby ... ("Fort Cape Disappointment", Washington)
  • RM 11 ... Fort Stevens ... (Point Adams, Oregon)
  • RM 11 ... Fort Columbia ... (Chinook Point, Washington)
Astoria:
  • Fort Clatsop ... (winter home of Lewis and Clark)
  • Fort Astoria ... ("Fort George")
  • Fort Astor ... (Fort Astoria replica, 1911)

Lower to Middle Columbia:

  • RM 87 Fort William ... (Sauvie Island)
  • RM 107 ... Fort Vancouver ... (Vancouver, Washington)
  • Fort Sevastopool ... (Blockhouse, Fourth Plain, Vancouver, Washington)
  • RM 128 ... Fort Riggs ... (Washougal, Washington)

Forts of the Cascade Rapids:

  • Fort Gilliam ...
  • RM 145 ... Fort Cascades ... ("Lower Blockhouse")
  • RM 147 ... Fort Rains ... ("Middle Blockhouse")
  • RM 149 ... Fort Lugenbeel ... ("Upper Blockhouse")

Forts above the Cascades:

  • RM 168 ... White Salmon Blockhouse ...
  • RM 190 ... Fort Dalles ... ("Fort Lee", "Fort Wascopam", "Camp Drum")
  • RM 315 ... Fort Nez Perce ... ("Old Fort Walla Walla")

Other Forts:

  • Fort Borst ... (Centralia, Washington)
  • Fort Walla Walla ... (Walla Walla, Washington)
  • Fort Yamhill ... (Polk County, Oregon)


Defending the Columbia River ...
In 1862, Cape Disappointment, on the Washington side of the Columbia, was armed with smoothbore cannons to protect the mouth of the Columbia River from enemies. Three years later, in 1865, Fort Stevens, complete with a moat and drawbridge, was established on the Oregon side. In 1875 Fort Canby came into existence to improve the defense of the Columbia. In 1896 Fort Columbia was built and in 1897 Fort Stevens was improved. The mouth of the Columbia River was now protected with three forts.


Forts of the Cascade Rapids
Throughout history four different forts or blockhouses existed along a rough stretch of the Columbia River Gorge between Hamilton Island and Cascade Locks, known as the "Cascade Rapids".

The Cascade Rapids were four and one-half miles long, with early history dividing the reach was into two sections, the "Upper Cascades" and the "Lower Cascades". Later years included a "Middle Cascades". The total fall of the river from the head of Upper Cascades to the bottom of Lower Cascades was 45 feet at high water and 36 feet at low water.

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, and built to defend the portage. Fort Rains 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 section. Today, Fort Rains and Fort Lugenbeel, and the earlier Fort Gilliam, exist only as archaeological sites on present U.S. Army Corp of Engineer land. The location of Fort Cascades is a National Historic Site.

Models of Fort Cascades, Fort Rains, and Fort Lugenbeel can be seen at the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center in Stevenson, Washington.



Withdrawal of the Military ...
"The Army evacuated Fort Cascades on June 11, 1861. The post was reoccupied on August 25 but again evacuated on November 6 (Anonymous 1878). These moves were the logical outcome of the exigencies facing the federal forces with the firing on Fort Sumpter on April 12, 1861, by the Confederates. The sobering debacle of Bull Run in July convinced the Union leaders that the war was to be of long duration. Critical to mounting the anticipated assault on the rebel capital of Richmond, Virginia, or of attempting to split the Confederacy by driving down the Mississippi was bringing experienced troops into action. In the fall of 1861, the Union generals began wholesale withdrawal of officers and enlisted men at garrisons scattered across the American West. Fort Umpqua, Fort Yamhill, and Fort Hoskins in Oregon were among those abandoned; so, too, were the three blockhouses at the Cascades evacuated."


Source:    Beckham, Dr., "This Place is Romantic and Wild", An Historic Overview of the Cascades Area, Fort Cascades, and the Cascades townsite, Washington Territory, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.


Forts (or Blockhouses) of the Columbia

  • 1805 ... Fort Clatsop ... (winter home of Lewis and Clark)
  • 1811 ... Fort Astoria ... (became Fort George in 1813)
  • 1813 ... Fort George ... (started as Fort Astoria in 1811)
  • 1818 ... Fort Nez Perce ... ("Old Fort Walla Walla")
  • 1825 ... Fort Vancouver ... (Vancouver, Washington)
  • 1834 ... Fort William ... (Sauvie Island, Oregon)
  • 1847 ... Fort Lee ... ("Fort Wascopam", The Dalles, Oregon)
  • 1848 ... Fort Gilliam ... (Cascade Rapids, Washington side)
  • 1850 ... Fort Dalles ... ("Camp Drum", The Dalles, Oregon)
  • 1855 ... Fort Cascades ... ("Lower Blockhouse", Cascade Rapids, Washington side)
  • 1855 ... Fort Rains ... ("Middle Blockhouse", Cascade Rapids, Washington side)
  • 1856 ... Fort Lugenbeel ... ("Upper Blockhouse", Cascade Rapids, Washington side)
  • 1856 ... Fort Riggs ... (Blockhouse, Washougal, Washington)
  • 1856 ... Fort Sevastopool ... (Blockhouse, Fourth Plain, Vancouver, Washington)
  • 1856 ... Lewis River Blockhouse ... (Washington)
  • 1856 ... St. Helens Blockhouse ... (Oregon)
  • 1856 ... Salmon Creek Stockade ... (Washington)
  • 1856 ... White Salmon Blockhouse ...
  • 1862 ... Fort Canby ... (mouth of the Columbia, Cape Disappointment, Washington)
  • 1865 ... Fort Stevens ... (mouth of the Columbia, Point Adams, Oregon)
  • 1896 ... Fort Columbia ... (mouth of the Columbia, Chinook, Washington)
  • 1911 ... Fort Astor ... (Fort Astoria replica)


1805 to 1806 ... Fort Clatsop, Astoria, Oregon ...
(winter home of Lewis and Clark)
Fort Clatsop lies on the banks of the Lewis and Clark River, which enters Youngs Bay downstream of Astoria, Oregon. The Lewis and Clark expedition occupied the Fort Clatsop site from December 7, 1805, until March 23, 1806, when they left Fort Clatsop to begin their journey back home.
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"Fort Clatsop:  This fort was the first military establishment to be built in Oregon. It served Lewis and Clark as winter quarters in 1805-06 as seven cabins surrounded by a stockade 50 ft square. Located three-fourths of a mile south of the Oregon Coast Highway, just west of the Lewis and Clark River, the party left the fort on 23 March 1806."


Source:    Map, "Camps - Roads", prepared by the Oregon National Guard, July 1976, Oregon State Archives, 2014.


Image, 2004, Fort Clatsop, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Fort Clatsop, Oregon. Image taken May 25, 2004.


1811 to 1813 ... Fort Astoria, Astoria, Oregon ...
(became "Fort George" in 1813)
Astoria is Oregon's oldest city, being founded in March 1811 by the New York financier, John Jacob Aster and the Pacific Fur Company. Aster sent fur traders aboard the ship Tonquin to establish a trading post which they named Fort Astoria. Astor’s Pacific Fur Company was in a race with the British North West Company to reach the Columbia River and stake a claim to the fur trade in the region.

"... John Jacob Astor sent an expedition to establish a line of trading posts along the Columbia and Missouri Rivers that could rival the fur trade dominated by the British. Astoria was to be his chief trading house. A small party landed and began construction of a fort in April 1811. They were initially successful, but the War of 1812 intervened and the fort was turned over to the British and soon renamed Fort George, after the King. ..."
[Astoria Visual Arts website, 2006]

"Fort Astoria:  Erection of Fort Astoria as headquarters for the Astor Fur Expedition began 12 April 1811. War of 1812 resulted in Astoria becoming Fort George under British rule, 12 December 1813."


Source:    Map, "Camps - Roads", prepared by the Oregon National Guard, July 1976, Oregon State Archives, 2014.

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Image, 2009, Fort Astoria, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Replica of Fort Astoria, Astoria, Oregon. Image taken August 8, 2009.
Penny Postcard, Fort Astoria, ca.1960s, click to enlarge
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Penny Postcard: Fort Astoria, ca.1960s. Penny Postcard, ca.1960s, "Fort Astoria, Astoria, Oregon". Caption on back reads: "This famous fort was restored in 1956. A "must" for the visitor to this area." Image by Henry Lonberg. Distributed and Published by Smith's Scenic Views, Tacoma, Washington. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.

"FORT ASTORIA Desiring to dominate the areas explored by Lewis and Clark, John Jacob Astor sent expeditions overland and by sea to seize the mouth of the Columbia. The schooner Tonquin arrived first and work was begun at this site April 12, 1811. 'The foliage was budding. We imagined ourselves in the garden of Eden. Buildings were of boards tightly covered and roofed with cedar bark.' Later palisades were raised against the Indians. Here gathered adventurers from all the vast wilderness. Here, in 1814, lived the Oregon country's first white woman, the English barmaid, Jane Barnes. Here were the true beginnings of our stock raising, farming, and shipbuilding. The property was sold to the North West Company to avoid capture during the War of 1812 and was operated as 'Fort George' until its abandonment in 1825 when the Hudson's Bay Company moved headquarters to Fort Vancouver. The buildings decayed and modern Astoria rose upon the site."



1813 to 1825 ... Fort George, Astoria, Oregon ...
(started as "Fort Astoria" in 1811)

"Fort George:  Originally known as Astor Post, the Northwest Company maintained control and named this post Fort George in October 1813. The British maintained control until 6 October 1818 when it was turned over to the United States but continued as a British post. During this period, there was no mention of military involvement."


Source:    Map, "Camps - Roads", prepared by the Oregon National Guard, July 1976, Oregon State Archives, 2014.



1818 to 1857 ... Fort Nez Perce, Wallula, Washington ...
("Fort Numipu", "Old Fort Walla Walla")
Fort Nez Perce (also called "Fort Numipu", the Nez Perce name for themselves meaning "The People") was constructed in 1818 by Donald McKenzie, a fur trader with the Montreal-based North West Company. Fort Nez Perce was located on the left bank of the Columbia River six miles below the mouth of the Snake River and one-half mile above the mouth of the Walla Walla River, the location of today's Wallula, Washington. This was the original "Fort Walla Walla", often today referred to as "Old Fort Walla Walla", and is not to be confused with three later military-based Fort Walla Wallas built around the community of Walla Walla. The fort stayed in operation until 1857, when Fort Walla Walla, located upstream on the Walla Walla River became the commercial center for the area. The original town of Wallula was eventually built on the site of the original fort. Today, a historical marker made from the actual stones from Old Fort Walla Walla has been erected at a highway turnout on Highway 730 near the site.
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Image, 2004, Fort Walla Walla sign, Wallula, Washington, click to enlarge
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Sign, Fort Walla Walla, Wallula, Washington. Image taken September 26, 2004.


1825 to 1860 ... Fort Vancouver, Vancouver, Washington ...
Fort Vancouver was established in 1825 on the Washington side of the Columbia River by the Hudson's Bay Company, at Jolie Prairie, part of the floodplain of the Columbia River. Fearing Indian attacks, the Fort was first built away from the Columbia, on the bluff overlooking the river. Today this is the location of the Washington School for the Deaf, located at the intersection of Evergreen Boulevard and Grand Avenue.

In 1829 the Hudson's Bay Company moved the Fort to a lower location, known as "Jolie Prairie". This second Fort became the headquarters and principal supply depot for the Hudson Bay Company's "Department of the Columbia" and the center for the Northwest fur trade. It also became the western terminus of the Oregon Trail. The freshwater ponds have long since disappeared and the location of the sawmill is now the location of the Vancouver Trout Hatchery.

In 1849 the Hudson's Bay Company transfered its headquarters from Fort Vancouver north to Fort Victoria in Canada, leaving behind a small contingent of men. A U.S. Army post was established in May 1849 next to the Hudson Bay Company "fort". This new Army Post was called "Columbia Barracks" until 1853 when it was renamed "Fort Vancouver". In 1879 the Army Post was again renamed, this time to "Vancouver Barracks".

In June 1860 the British totally abandoned the Fort Vancouver and moved, leaving the fort and village to the Americans. The Army occupied some of the buildings, but fire destroyed all visible traces of the establishment by 1866.

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Image, 2006, Palisades and Bastion, Fort Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
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Fort Vancouver, Washington. Image taken August 27, 2006.


1834 to 1836 ... Fort William, Sauvie Island, Oregon ...
Fort William was a trading post established by early Oregon pioneer Nathaniel J. Wyeth. Originally the site was constructed near Warrior Rock, on the downstream end of Sauvie Island. In spring of 1835 the site was moved to the west side of Sauvie Island. Fort William was never profitable against the powerful Hudson's Bay Company and was eventually abandoned. Historians say Wyeth named Fort William after one of his partners, although they're not sure which one.
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"Fort William:  Established on Sauvies Island in Multnomah country this fort occupied two sites. The first was near Warrier Point where the fort was established in the fall of 1834. In May 1835, the fort was moved south opposite the Logie Trial, which was a route of travel to the Tualatin Valley. Commercial rivalry with the Hudson Bay Co. forced abandonment. The site is shown as Fort William Bend on USGS Sauvie Island quadrangle."


Source:    Map, "Camps - Roads", prepared by the Oregon National Guard, July 1976, Oregon State Archives, 2014.


Fort William
"600 yards southwest on the east bank of the Multnomah Channel was the site of Fort William. Nathaniel J. Wyeth, Massachusetts trader and founder of Ft. Hll, established Ft. William near Warrior Point in 1834. In the spring of 1835 he moved the establishment to this sight. Neither salmon fishing nor trading was as successful as Wyeth hoped and he abandoned Ft. William in the spring of 1836."


Source:    Fort William information sign, Sauvie Island, Oregon, visited December 2014.

Image, 2014, Fort William sign, Sauvie Island, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Sign, Fort William, Sauvie Island, Oregon. Image taken December 13, 2014.
Image, 2014, Fort William sign, Sauvie Island, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Sign, Fort William, Sauvie Island, Oregon. Image taken December 13, 2014.


1847 to 1848 ... Fort Lee, The Dalles, Oregon ...
("Fort Wascopam")
During the Cayuse War of 1847 to 1848, Major H.A.G. Lee, of the Provisional Government's Oregon Rifles, arrived in The Dalles. Lee built a stockade around the old mission buildings that became known as "Fort Lee" or "Fort Wascopam" In 1850, two rifle companies came from Fort Vancouver to establish a supply depot at the eastern end of the Barlow Road. Crude log buildings were constructed a short distance west of the old Wascopam mission and was called "Camp Drum". In 1853 the fort was redesignated as "Fort Dalles". In 1861, Fort Dalles was downgraded to a quartermaster's depot before being abandoned in 1867. Only the Surgeon's Quarters remains today, and currently houses the Fort Dalles Museum.
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"Fort Lee:  Established from a stockade by volunteer troops at The Dalels in January 1848. The post was called Fort Lee for Major Henery A. G. Lee of the Oregon Rifles. Also called Fort Wascopan and Camp Drum when it was established by two companies of Mounted Riflemen. July 1853 it was designated Fort Dalles. Substantially rebuilt in 1856. Last garrisoned from 22 March to 22 May 1867. On 28 March 1877 the military reservation was transferred to the Interior Department."


Source:    Map, "Camps - Roads", prepared by the Oregon National Guard, July 1976, Oregon State Archives, 2014.



1848 ... Fort Gilliam, Cascade Rapids, Washington ...
Fort Gilliam was established as a supply depot for the Army in 1848 and was located at the upper end of the Cascade Rapids portage, near today's Ashes Lake.
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1850 to 1867 ... Fort Dalles, The Dalles, Oregon ...
("Camp Drum")
During the Cayuse War of 1847 to 1848, Major H.A.G. Lee, of the Provisional Government's Oregon Rifles, arrived in The Dalles. Lee built a stockade around the old mission buildings that became known as "Fort Lee" or "Fort Wascopam" In 1850, two rifle companies came from Fort Vancouver to establish a supply depot at the eastern end of the Barlow Road. Crude log buildings were constructed a short distance west of the old Wascopam mission and was called "Camp Drum". In 1853 the fort was redesignated as "Fort Dalles". In 1861, Fort Dalles was downgraded to a quartermaster's depot before being abandoned in 1867. Only the Surgeon's Quarters remains today, and currently houses the Fort Dalles Museum.
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"Fort Dalles:  This regular military fort was used during vaiousIndian disturbances from 1850-66. It was situated in Wasco County on Mill Creek in hte west part of the community of The Dalles. The post was originally called Fort Drum and used as a supply depot."


Source:    Map, "Camps - Roads", prepared by the Oregon National Guard, July 1976, Oregon State Archives, 2014.


Penny Postcard, Old Fort Dalles, ca.1920
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Old Fort Dalles, The Dalles, Oregon, ca.1920 Penny Postcard, ca.1920, "Old Fort Dalles, Oregon". Part of the "Ezra Meeker Historical Post Cards for School, Libraries, the Home, and Collections." Each series contains 16 post card views with Historical Sketches on reverse side. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.

Caption on back reads: "In this encampment (called a fort) in the early fifties Grant, Sherman and Sheridan all had their earlier experiences in military life and Indian warfare. Here also lay sick almost to death that delightful writer, Theodore Winthrop, whose untimely death came so early in the War of the Rebellion. The Dalles proper of the Columbia River is a few miles up river way, where the river is turned on edge through the narrow gap of less than one hundred feet in width, with a channel said to be half a mile in depth. The stretch of river shown in the background is more than a mile in width of placid water, which continues through the great gap of the Cascade Mountains to the Cascade Falls below."

The building on the far right was the "Guard House".

Image, 2012, Fort Dalles, The Dalles, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Surgeons Quarters, Fort Dalles, The Dalles, Oregon. Image taken May 29, 2012.


1855 ... Fort Cascades, Cascade Rapids, Washington ...
("Lower Blockhouse")
The first true "fort" established at the "Cascades" was Fort Cascades, built in 1855 by the U.S. Army. Fort Cascades took five weeks to build and was established on September 30, 1855. It was located on the north bank of the Columbia below the present site of today's Bonneville Dam.
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"Fort Cascades, near Cascade City, 1855-1861:   The U.S. Army post had two blockhouses on the Columbia River in September 1855. The fort was located near today’s town of Cascade Locks. Fort Cascades had a large stockade fence surrounding the blockhouses. One blockhouse was named Fort Rains in honor of Gabriel Rains (1803-1881), a U.S. Army officer assigned to the Washington Territorial Volunteers (later he served in the Confederate Army as a brigadier general)."


Source:    "Historylink.org" website, 2014, "Forts of Washington Territory, Indian War Era, 1855-1856.


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


Image, 2011, Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center, click to enlarge
Information sign,
Click image to enlarge


1855 ... Fort Rains, Cascade Rapids, Washington ...
("Middle Blockhouse")
The Army next 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 above the present site of the Bonneville Dam. Lewis and Clark's "Great Shoot" was at the head of a portage located on the Washington side of the Columbia, at Ashes Lake, which ended at the location of Fort Rains. Fort Rains was named for Major Gabriel Rains, under whose orders the fort was built.
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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.
Image, 2011, Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center, click to enlarge
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Model, Fort Rains, Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center, Stevenson, Washington. Note: sign leaning on model is not correct sign. Image taken July 15, 2011.


Image, 2011, Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center, click to enlarge
Information sign,
Click image to enlarge


1856 ... Fort Lugenbeel, Cascade Rapids, Washington ...
("Upper Blockhouse")
On March 26, 1856, Indians attacked the white settlements at the Cascades. Settlers took refuge at Fort Rains and Bradford's Store. The Fort Cascades was burned to the ground. The settlers were rescued by Lt. Sheridan who arrived March 27, 1856. Gunfire was exchanged the rest of the 27th and 28th, with the Indians surrendering late in the evening on March 28, 1856. After this battle, Fort Cascades was rebuilt and another blockhouse, Fort Lugenbeel, was added to protect the Upper Cascades. Fort Lugenbeel was located on the north bank of the Columbia, on a hill, across from Little Ashes Lake. Presumably Fort Lugenbeel was named after Major Pinckney Lugenbeel, who, in 1856 was a captain in the 9th Infantry and was engaged in the defense of Fort Cascades. In 1862 Major Lugenbeel became Commander at the Army Post, Vancouver Barracks.
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Penny Postcard, Famous Block House on the Columbia River, ca.1910
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Penny Postcard: Fort Lugenbeel, "Famous Block House on the Columbia River", ca.1910.
Penny Postcard, ca.1910. Caption on front reads: "Famous Block House on the Columbia River." No other indication of which Block House or where it might be located on card. An article in the Spokesman Review (November 29, 1814) showed this blockhouse image and called it "Fort Lugenbeel, facing north". In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Image, 2011, Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center, click to enlarge
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Model, Fort Lugenbeel, Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center, Stevenson, Washington. Image taken July 15, 2011.


Image, 2011, Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center, click to enlarge
Information sign,
Click image to enlarge


1856 ... Fort Riggs, Washougal, Washington ...
"Fort Riggs, 1856:   Washington Territorial Volunteers built a blockhouse on the Colonel Reuben Riggs property on the north bank of the Columbia River, Clark County. "


Source:    "Historylink.org" website, 2014, "Forts of Washington Territory, Indian War Era, 1855-1856.

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Image, 2009, Steigerwald Lake NWR, click to enlarge
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View of the Columbia River, looking upstream, as seen from Gibbons Creek, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington. Similar view as seen from Fort Riggs. Image taken October 3, 2009.
Image, 1856 cadastral map, click to enlarge
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HISTORICAL ... 1856 Cadastral Map detail of T1N, R4E, Section 15, showing property of Reuben Riggs. Today a part of the Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washougal, Washington. Cadastral Map courtesy U.S. Bureau of Land Management archives.


1856 ... Fort Sevastopool, Vancouver, Washington ...
"The Yakima Indian Wars were a complex series of events involving both volunteer and regular troops in numerous, sometimes bloody conflicts throughout eastern Washington and southern Oregon from 1853 to late 1858. During this period, a blockhouse was built on the Vancouver post and in 1856 while soldiers were away on Indian campaigns a group of Clarke County Rangers, commanded by Judge William Strong, guarded the post. On the Fourth Plain, the military appointed Richard Covington sergeant of the Clarke county Rangers who built "Fort Sevastopool," a blockhouse and stockade covering about three acres. ..."


Source:    Donald L. Sinclair, Center for Columbia River History, 2004, "Part I, Our Manifest Destiny Bids Fair for Fulfillment: An Historical Overview of Vancouver Barracks, 1846-1898, with suggestions for further research", funded by The National Park Service, Department of the Interior, in co-operation with Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, Washington.

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1856 ... Lewis River Blockhouse ...
(to come)
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1856 ... St. Helens (Oregon) Blockhouse ...
(to come)
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1856 ... Salmon Creek Stockade ...
(to come)
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1856 to 1860 ... White Salmon Blockhouse, Washington ...
Between 1856 and 1860 a Blockhouse was built east of the White Salmon River.
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"The White Salmon Blockhouse:   After the Indian uprising of 1856 the Government erected a Blockhouse on the While Salmon Flats, at a place later known as Icehouse Point, for the protection of the settlers.

The Blockhouse, a two-story structure, stood broadside to the Columbia River. The lower floor measured 18x30 feet, built with logs that were 10-inch square. The upper floor extended three feet beyond the lower level, making a large room 24x36 feet, using logs that were 6-inch square. The windows were protected by wooden shutters. The walls of the upper floor contained portholes which were arranged to allow for various angles and direction of the gun muzzles.

The Blockhouse was in service for four years. It was later used by the Roberts family for living quarters. It was still standing in 1866, but was later torn down and the logs were used to build a calf corral. The massive doors of this Blockhouse were on display at The Dalles Historical Museum for many years, however they no longer exist. The key to those doors is displayed here.

The photograph above is actually the Middle Blockhouse of the Cascades, which stood west of present-day near Stevenson, Wash. Many blockhouses were of a similar design to this."


Source:    Gorge Heritage Museum, Bingen, Washington, visited July 2014.


Image, 2014, Gorge Heritage Museum, Bingen, Washington, click to enlarge
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Information and key, White Salmon Blockhouse, Gorge Heritage Museum, Bingen, Washington. Image taken September 26, 2004.


1862 to 1947 ... Fort Canby, Cape Disappointment, Washington ...
("Fort Cape Disappointment")
In 1862 Cape Disappointment was armed with smoothbore cannons to protect the mouth of the Columbia River from enemies. It was generally known as "Fort Cape Disappointment". In 1865 Fort Stevens, complete with a moat and drawbridge, was established across the Columbia on the Oregon side of the Columbia. For the next ten years these two forts protected the mouth of the Columbia. In 1875 "Fort Cape Disappointment" was improved and became Fort Canby. In 1896 Fort Columbia was built and in 1897 Fort Stevens was improved. The mouth of the Columbia River was now protected with three forts.
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Penny Postcard, Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, ca.1908 Penny Postcard: Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, ca.1908. Penny Postcard, Postmarked 1908, "Fort Canby Light House, Ore." Note the cannons of Fort Canby. Card #12, O.W. Whitman, Astoria, Oregon, "hand-colored". In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


1865 to 1947 ... Fort Stevens, Clatsop County, Oregon ...
Fort Stevens, west of Astoria, Oregon, defended the mouth of the Columbia River for 84 years, "beginning with the Civil War and closing at the end of World War II".

"... The fort was built to protect the North against an English invasion from Canada, should the British join the Civil War on the Confederate side. In its long history, Fort Stevens never fired its guns in anger. The original Fort Stevens consisted of an earthwork, a fort made mainly of dirt, and had gun emplacements and several buildings, all completed in 1865. To protect it from land attack, the fort was surrounded by a moat with a drawbridge. ..." [Friends of Old Fort Stevens website, 2006]

In 1897 Fort Stevens added eight new concrete batteries which included mortars and long and short range rifles.

During World War II Fort Stevens was again improved, adding Battery 245, a gun emplacement armed with two 6-inch rifles which had a range of about 15 miles. Another battery was placed on the South Jetty. Fort Stevens was decommissioned after World War II. By 1947, all of the guns had been removed and much of the fort was turned over to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who used the fort as their headquarters "for maintenance activities at the mouth of the Columbia River".

"Fort Stevens:  Located nine miles from Astoria. The post and works were built under supervision of the United States Engineers, and were first occupied by a company of the Eigth California Volunteers, 25 April 1865. Garrison withdrawn in 1882 and the post placed in charge of an ordnance sergeant."


Source:    Map, "Camps - Roads", prepared by the Oregon National Guard, July 1976, Oregon State Archives, 2014.



1896 ... Fort Columbia, Chinook, Washington ...
Fort Columbia was built from 1896 to 1904, one of three forts designed for harbor defense of the Columbia River (the other two being Fort Canby and Fort Stevens). Fort Columbia remained fully manned and operational through three wars, until declared surplus in 1947 at the end of World War II, when it was transferred to the custody of the State of Washington in 1950 and became Fort Columbia State Park. Twelve historic wood-frame buildings remain.
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Image, 2005, Fort Columbia State Park, click to enlarge
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Barracks, Fort Columbia State Park, Washington. Image taken April 19, 2005.


1911 ... Fort Astor, Astoria, Oregon ...
(Fort Astoria replica, built for Astoria Centennial)
In 1911 Astoria was 100 years old. Included in its centennial celebration was a re-construction of the old Fort Astoria, which they called "Fort Astor". It was located on the slopes of Coxcomb Hill. See "The Golden Age of Postcards" below.
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Penny Postcard, Fort Astoria, Astoria Centennial, ca.1912, click to enlarge
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Penny Postcard: Fort Astor, Astoria Centennial, Astoria, Oregon, ca.1912. Penny Postcard, Postmarked 1912, "Fort Astor, Astoria Centennial, Astoria, Oregon.". Published by Edward H. Mitchell, San Francisco, Cal., for O.W. Whitman, Astoria, Oregon. Card #1641. Card is postmarked November 11, 1912. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


Other Forts

  • Fort Borst ...
  • Fort Walla Walla ... (Walla Walla River)
  • Fort Yamhill ... ("Fort Hill")


Fort Borst ... (Centralia, Washington)

"Fort Borst, Centralia, 1856:   Oregon Volunteers built a blockhouse on the Joseph Borst (1822-1885) property. It protected the Chehalis River crossing near the mouth of the Skookumchuck River. In 1922 it was moved to Fort Borst Park in Centralia and restored. "


Source:    "Historylink.org" website, 2014, "Forts of Washington Territory, Indian War Era, 1855-1856.

While this Blockhouse is not located on the Columbia River, it gives the viewer another idea of what the mid 1800s blockhouses looked like. As to the age of Fort Borst, according to the postcard, Fort Borst was built in 1845. According to a similar image found on the University of Washington's Photo Archives website (2006), Fort Borst was built to protect the whites during the Indian Wars of 1855 to 1856. Another website states the blockhouse was built in 1852, and yet another website says the "late 1850s". Whatever the date, Fort Borst was built at the confluence of the Skookumchuck and Chehalis Rivers (north of the Columbia) by Joseph Borst as a defense and later used as a storage depot. Today Fort Borst Park is located in Centralia, Washington, and features a restored Fort Borst and the Joseph Borst home.


Penny Postcard, Fort Borst Block House, Chehalis River, ca.1910
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Fort Borst Block House located at the mouth of the Skookumchuck River near Centralia, Washington, ca.1899.
Penny Postcard, Image ca.1899, Postcard ca.1910, "Fort Borst Block House built 1845, Washington". This exact image found in the University of Washington Photo Archives (#WAS0351) states the image was shot ca.1899, photographer unknown, and notes on back of image saying "Blockhouse near the mouth of Skookum Chuck" (Skookumchuck River near Centralia). Postcard published by Sprouse & Sons, Tacoma, Washington. Made in Germany. Divided back. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


Fort Walla Walla ... (Walla Walla, Washington)
[More]


Fort Yamhill ... ("Fort Hill", Polk County, Oregon)
Fort Yamhill, also known as "Fort Sheridan" and "Fort Hill", was built in 1856.

"... Built in 1856 to regulate the eastern border of the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation, Fort Yamhill represented a time of transition for the people of the Northwest. The fort served to ease tension between settlers and natives, protect both populations and control traffic between them. Fort Yamhill is one of the best archaeologically preserved forts in the Northwest from the mid 19th century. ..." [Oregon Parks and Recreation website, 2014]

Fort Yamhill State Park:

"... Slightly more than 57 acres were acquired by purchase in March 1988. This was added to 2.04 acres adjacent to the public right of way acquired prior to 1938 in commemoration of "Fort Sheridan," so-called for Lt. General Philip Sheridan, who served at Fort Yamhill with the United States Army before the outbreak of the Civil War. The park includes the old fort site and an original officer's quarters on a ridge above the Yamhill River. ..." [Oregon Parks and Recreation website, 2014]

"Fort Hill:  Willamette valley settlers built a blockhouse in Polk County northeast of Valley Junction in 1855-56. The fort was changed to Fort Yamhill on August 30, 1856."


Source:    Map, "Camps - Roads", prepared by the Oregon National Guard, July 1976, Oregon State Archives, 2014.


illustration from Lyman, Columbia River, 1917
Click image to enlarge
Illustration, "Fort Sheridan on the Grande Ronde", from Lyman, 1917, "Columbia River".


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, October 30, 1805 ...
A cool morning, a moderate rain all the last night, after eating a partial brackfast of venison we Set out [from their camp near Drano Lake and the Little White Salmon River]     passed Several places where the rocks projected into the river & have the appearance of haveing Seperated from the mountains and fallen promiscuisly into the river, Small nitches are formed in the banks below those projecting rocks which is comon in this part of the river, Saw 4 Cascades caused by Small Streams falling from the mountains on the Lard. Side,

[The possiblities in a two-mile area are - upstream to downstream - Starvation Creek and Falls, the seasonal Cabin Creek and Falls, Warren Creek and Falls, Wonder Creek and Lancaster Falls, Lindsey Creek and Falls, and Summit Creek and Falls.]

a remarkable circumstance in this part of the river is, the Stumps of pine trees [Submerged Forest]

[The Submerged Forest existed along the reach from above Dog Mountain/Viento Creek on the upstream edge and Wind Mountain/Shellrock Mountain on the downstream edge.]

are in maney places are at Some distance in the river, and gives every appearance of the rivers being damed up below from Some cause which I am not at this time acquainted with [Bonneville Landslide],     the Current of the river is also verry jentle not exceeding 1 1/2 mile pr. hour and about 3/4 of a mile in width. Some rain, we landed above the mouth of a Small river on the Stard. Side [Wind River] and Dined ...   :  here the river widens to about one mile large Sand bar in the middle, a Great [rock] both in and out of the water, large <round> Stones, or rocks are also permiscuisly Scattered about in the river, ...     The bottoms above the mouth of this little river [Wind River] <which we Call> is rich covered with grass & firn & is about 3/4 of a mile wide rich and rises gradually, below the river (which is 60 yards wide above its mouth) the Countery rises with Steep assent. we call this little river <fr Ash> New Timbered river from a Speces of Ash <that wood> which grows on its banks of a verry large and different from any we had before Seen, and a timber resembling the beech in bark <& groth> but different in its leaf which is Smaller and the tree smaller. passed maney large rocks in the river and a large creek on the Stard. Side in the mouth of which is an Island [Rock Creek near Stevenson, Washington], passed on the right of 3 Islands <on> near the Stard. Side, and landed on an Island close under the Stard. Side at the head of the great Shute [head of the Cascades Rapids], and a little below a village of 8 large houses on a Deep bend on the Stard. Side, and opposit 2 Small Islands imediately in the head of the Shute, which Islands are covered with Pine, maney large rocks also, in the head of the Shute. Ponds back of the houses, and Countrey low for a Short distance. The day proved Cloudy dark and disagreeable with Some rain all day which kept us wet. The Countary a high mountain on each Side thickly Covered with timber, Such as Spruc, Pine, Cedar, Oake Cotton &c. &c.     I took two men and walked down three miles to examine the Shute and river below proceeded along an old Indian path, passd. an old village at 1 mile [vicinity of Ice House Lake] ...     I found by examonation that we must make a portage of the greater perpotion of our Stores 2 1/2 miles, and the Canoes we Could haul over the rocks, I returned at Dark ...     a wet disagreeable evening, the only wood we could get to burn on this little Island on which we have encamped [near Ashes Lake, the island is now under the waters of the Bonneville Reservoir. Ashes Lake was near the head of the Cascade Rapids. Across from Ashes Lake is Cascade Locks, Oregon.] is the newly discovered Ash, which makes a tolerable fire. we made fifteen miles to daye






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 ½ 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 2½ 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 ½ 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 ½ 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 2½ 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 2½ 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]-





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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:    "historylink.org" website, 2014, "Forts of Washington Territory, Indian War Era, 1855-1856;    Oregon State Archives website, 2014;    Sinclair, D.L., Center for Columbia River History, 2004, "Part I, Our Manifest Destiny Bids Fair for Fulfillment: An Historical Overview of Vancouver Barracks, 1846-1898, with suggestions for further research", funded by The National Park Service, Department of the Interior, in co-operation with Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, Washington;    Also see Cascade Rapids page for other sources, plus individual topics (i.e., "Astoria") pages.   

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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August 2014