Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Gary, Flag, and Chatham Islands, Oregon"
Includes ... Gary Island ... Flag Island ... Chatham Island ...
Image, 2010, Gary, Flag, and Chatham Islands, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
The Columbia River looking towards Washington State, as viewed from airliner. Islands in the Columbia River on the Oregon side are (left to right): a marshy un-named "island" (barely visible), Gary Island, Flag Island, and Chatham Island (close to Oregon shore, appearing merged with Flag Island). On the Washington side is Reed Island and the Steigerwald Lake Refuge. Image taken October 10, 2010.

Gary, Flag, and Chatham Islands ...
Gary, Flag, and Chatham Islands are three small islands which hug the Oregon side of the Columbia River between Columbia River Miles (RM) 124.5 and 125. To the west (downstream) lie the Sandy River and the Sandy River Delta, and to the south (inland) lie Broughton Bluff and Chamberlain Hill. East of the islands is the Oregon community of Corbett. The long Reed Island lies further upstream and closer to the Washington shore.

According to Keith G. Hay (2004, Columbia River Water Trail):

"... These three island lie along the southern shore of the Columbia, just east of the Sandy River Delta. Metro Parks once maintained a public boat moorage at the eastern end of Flag Island, but it was washed away by the large flood of 1996. Bald eagles nest on Flag Island. Gary and Flag Islands, comprising 132 acres, are under the jurisdiction of Portland's Metro Parks Department, and boat access and no-facility camping are permitted. Accessing these island by motorized boat is not advised from August through September, when water levels are low. ..."

Gary Island ...
Oregon Geographic Names (2003, McArthur and McArthur, Oregon Historical Society Press), shows no entry for Gary Island.

The 1995 Sandy River Delta Environmental Impact Plan states Gary Island was named for early owner Theodore J. Gary.

"Gary Island, on the eastern edge of the study area [Sandy River Delta], was named after Theodore J. Gary, who was a prominent educator in the Portland School District. Gary owned the island as early as 1904 and was still listed as the major property owner in 1944."

Theodore Gary's brother, David H. Gary, was a prominent citizen of Washougal, Washington as early as 1883 when he appeared on the 1883 Clark County census. He is mentioned in The Vancouver Independent" newspaper, June 2, 1881.

"David H. Gary and wife, and J.R. McNabnay, recently arrived in Clarke county form Illinois, and are now stopping in the Washougal district."

Gary Island has also been known as "Gary's Island".

Gary Island Slough ...
According to John Shewey in Complete Angler's Guide to Oregon (2011):

"Gary Island Slough:   access by boat from Columbia River just east of mouth of Sandy River. Largemouth bass, yellow perch."

Gary Island in 1909 and 1912 ...

Estacada Goats are Sold.

"D.F. Werner, a well known citizen of Estacada, has sold 150 blooded Angora goats to D.H. Gary, of Washougal, for $3 a head. Mr. Gary, who is a brother to T.J. Gary, school superintendent of Clackamas County, made an examination of herds at Salem, McMinnville and other Willamette Valley points. The goats have been take to Gary's Island at Washougal. The Gary's own 1000 acres of fine pasture land there. The Estacada country is achieving fame for other products besides its fine fruit and vegetables."

Source:    "Oregon City Enterprise", August 20, 1909, courtesy Historic Oregon Newspapers website, 2015, University of Oregon Library Archives.


New Light on Gary Island.

"In a notice to mariners issued yesterday from the office of henry L. Beck, inspector of the Seventeenth Lighthouse District, it is announced that a new light will be established on the Columbia as follows: "Gary Island light to be established about April 15, 1912. It will be a fixed red post-lantern light, about 11 candle-power, about 20 feet above water, shown from an arm on a white post. The light will be located on the northeast side of Gary Island, about 1 1/2 miles, 309 degrees true (WNW. 3-8 W. mag.) from the present location of Corbett Light, which will be permanently discontinued the same date.""

Source:    "Morning Oregonian", April 6, 1912, courtesy Historic Oregon Newspapers website, 2015, University of Oregon Library Archives.

Metsker Maps for Multnomah County, 1927 and 1944 ...
The 1927 Metsker Map for Multnomah County (courtesy "HistoricMapWorks.com") for Township 1N, Range 4E, p.52, shows "T.J. Gary" owning the western 320 acres of "Gary's Island" with "R.S. LE & BC" owning the eastern 225 acres of the island.

The 1944 Metsker Map for Multnomah County (courtesy "HistoricMapWorks.com") for Township 1N, Range 4E, p.52, shows "T.J. Gary" owning 104.5 acres of an unnamed island (today's Gary Island), and 27.5 acres of "Gary's Island" (today's Flag Island). These two islands were once part of the 1927 island labeled "Gary's Island". The map also has today's Chatham Island labeled "State of Ore. Highway Com." at 27.75 acres. There is no corresponding island on the 1927 map.

Flag Island ...
According to Oregon Geographic Names (2003, McArthur and McArthur, Oregon Historical Society Press), both Flag and Chatham Islands were named to honor the 1792 Captain George Vancouver expedition which, lead by Lieutenant William Broughton, explored the first 125 miles of the Columbia River.

"... Flag Island:   This little island is on the south side of the Columbia River about midway between Troutdale and Corbett station, just upstream from Gary Island. It has been named Flag Island by USBGN because it was in this vicinity that Lt. W.R. Broughton of the Royal Navy rained the British flag on October 30, 1792. The name was suggested by J.Neilson Barry of Portland in 1929. ..."

The U.S. Board of Geographic Names made the names "Flag Island" official in 1929.

Chatham Island ...
According to Oregon Geographic Names (2003, McArthur and McArthur, Oregon Historical Society Press), both Flag and Chatham Islands were named to honor the 1792 Captain George Vancouver expedition which, lead by Lieutenant William Broughton, explored the first 125 miles of the Columbia River.

"... Chatham Island:   In the last week of June 1975, Admiral Sir Charles Madden, Bt. GCB, chair of the board of trustees of the National Martitime Museum and former commander-in-chief of the British Home Fleet and NATO, came to Portland to attend the opening of the memorable Cook Exhibition put on by the Oregon Historical Society. To commemorate the part played by the Royal Navy in the exploration of Oregon, the OGNB, at the suggestion of the compiler, voted to call the unnamed island south of Flag Island, Chatham Island for the ship commanded by Lt. William R. Broughton of Vancouver's expedition. Sir Charles participated in an appropriate ceremony. There have been a number of British ships of this name. Broughton's command was launched in 1758 and continued in service until 1814. It was a vessel of 135 tons and carried a crew of 55 officers and men. It is interesting to note that Broughton, who was on the Columbia River in October 1792, had discovered the Chatham Islands near New Zealand the previous year and named them for his ship. ..."

The U.S. Board of Geographic Names made the name "Chatham Island" official in 1975.

Image, 2012, Reed, Gary, and Flag Islands, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
The Columbia River looking towards Washington State. Islands in the Columbia River are (left to right): a marshy un-named "island", Gary Island, Flag Island, and Reed Island (the long island off the Washington shore). Chatham Island lies close to the Oregon shore and is not visible in this image. Also shows Steigerwald Lake NWR behind Reed Island. View from airliner heading towards PDX. Mid afternoon, clouds, gray, and drizzle. Image taken April 24, 2012.

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 3, 1805 ...
The Fog So thick [typical of the Pacific Northwest in the fall and spring] this morning that we could not See a man 50 Steps off, this fog detained us untill 10 oClock at which time we Set out [from their camp at Rooster Rock], ...    I walked on the Sand beech Lard. Side, opposit the canoes as they passed allong. The under groth rushes, vines &c. in the bottoms too thick to pass through, at 3 miles I arrived at the enterance of a river [Sandy River] which appeared to Scatter over a Sand bar, the bottom of which I could See quite across and did not appear to be 4 Inches deep in any part; I attempted to wade this Stream and to my astonishment found the bottom a quick Sand, and impassable- I called to the Canoes to put to Shore, I got into the Canoe and landed below the mouth, & Capt Lewis and my Self walked up this river about 1 miles to examine this river which we found to be a verry Considerable Stream Dischargeing its waters through 2 Chanels which forms an Island [Sandy River Delta, which has had various names throughout history] of about 3 miles in length on the river and 1 miles wide, composed of Corse Sand which is thrown out of this quick Sand river Compressing the waters of the Columbia and throwing the whole Current of its waters against its Northern banks, within a Chanel of a mile wide, Several Small Islands 1 mile up this river, This Stream has much the appearance of the River Platt: roleing its quick Sands into the bottoms with great velocity after which it is divided into 2 Chanels by a large Sand bar before mentioned, the narrowest part of this River is 120 yards-on the Opposit Side of the Columbia a <large Creek> falls in [Washougal River]     above this Creek on the Same Side is a Small prarie [location of Washougal, Washington, Cottonwood Beach, now the home of Captain William Clark Park, and the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge]. extensive low country on each Side thickly timbered [low area upstream of Cottonwood Beach and Captain William Clark Park is the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge].

The Quick Sand river [Sandy River] appears to pass through the low countrey at the foot of those high range of mountains in a Southerly direction,- The large Creeks which fall into the Columbia on the Stard. Side [Washougal River] rise in the Same range of mountains to the N. N. E. and pass through Some ridgey land- A Mountain which we Suppose to be Mt. Hood [Mount Hood, Oregon] is S. 85 E about 47 miles distant from the mouth of quick sand river [Sandy River]     This mtn. is Covered with Snow and in the range of mountains which we have passed through and is of a Conical form but rugid- after takeing dinner at the mouth of this river [Sandy River]  we proceeded on passed the head of a Island [Lady Island] near the lard Side [???] back of which on the Same Side and near the head a large Creek falls in [Washougal River, today the town of Camas, Washington, lies between Lady Island and the Washougal River], and nearly opposit & 3 miles below the upper mouth of quick Sand river is the lower mouth, [for?] This Island [Lady Island] is 3 1/2 miles long, has rocks at the upper point, Some timber on the borders of this Island in the middle open and ponney. Some rugid rocks in the middle of the Stream opposit this Island.   <proceeded in> to Center of a large Island in the middle of the river which we call Dimond Isld. [Government Island] from its appearance, here we met 15 Indn men in 2 canoes from below, they informed us they Saw 3 vestles below &c. &c. we landed on the North Side of this Dimond Island and Encamped [on the north side of Government Island, perhaps opposite Fishers Landing],     Capt. L walked out with his gun on the Island, Sent out hunters & fowlers- below quick Sand River [Sandy River] the Countrey is low rich and thickly timbered on each Side of the river  [on the Oregon side this area is the eastern end of the Columbia Slough, located on the floodplain of the Willamette River with the Columbia River],   the Islands open & Some ponds river wide and emence numbers of fowls flying in every direction Such as Swan, geese, Brants, Cranes, Stalks, white guls, comerants & plevers &c. also great numbers of Sea Otter in the river [Harbor Seals] -     a Canoe arrived from the village below the last rapid ...     Capt Lewis borrowed a Small Canoe of those Indians & 4 men took her across to a Small lake in the Isld. [Government Island] ...    ...  :  note the mountain we Saw from near the forks proves to be Mount Hood [Mount Hood, Oregon]

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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

  • Clark County Historical Museum Newspapers, online archives, 2015;
  • Hay, K.G., 2004, Columbia River Water Trail, Timber Press, Portland;
  • "HistoricMapWorks.com" website, 2015;
  • Historic Oregon Newspapers website, 2015, University of Oregon Library archives;
  • McArthur, L.A., and McArthur, L.L., 2003, Oregon Geographic Names, Oregon Historical Society Press, Portland;
  • Shewey, J., 2011, "Complete Angler's Guide to Oregon", Wilderness Adventures Press;

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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June 2015