Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Grays Bay, Washington"
Includes ... Grays Bay ... Captain Robert Gray ... "Shallow Bay" ... "Kutuzle Bay" ... Grays Point ... Portuguese Point ... Frankfort ... Rocky Point ... Brix Bay ... Deep River ... Miller Point ... Grays River ... Pigeon Bluff ... Yellow Bluffs ... Harrington Point ... "Ocian in view" ... Campsite of November 8 and 9, 1805 ...
Image, 2013, Grays Bay, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Grays Bay from near Harrington Point. From the road to Pillar Rock, between Pigeon Bluff and Harrington Point, looking into Grays Bay. Image taken October 15, 2013.

"... We went about 5 miles and came to a bay 12 or 14 miles wide. We had to coast round it, as the wind raised the waves so high we could go no other way ..." [Gass, November 8, 1805]


Grays Bay ...
Grays Bay is a large shallow bay on the Washington side of the Columbia River which spans Pacific County (western half) and Wahkiakum County (eastern half), and extends from Grays Point (Columbia River Mile (RM) 20) to Harrington Point (RM 23.5).

Two major streams, Deep River and Grays River, enter Grays Bay at RM 21. Miller Point, the most northern point of the Bay, lies between the two.

Upstream from Grays Bay are the small Washington communities of Altoona (RM 24) and Pillar Rock (RM 27). Downstream lies the community of Megler (RM _____) and Point Ellice (RM 12.7). Across the Columbia on the Oregon side lies Cathlamet Bay.

Grays Bay was named by Lieutenant William Broughton of the George Vancouver expedition, who, in 1792, named the bay after the American Captain Robert Gray, the first European to explore the mouth of the Columbia River.

On November 7, 1805, the Lewis and Clark Expedition arrived at Grays Bay and mistook it for the Pacific Ocean.


Captain Robert Gray ...
American Captain Robert Gray, born in Rhode Island in 1755, was a fur trader from Boston, who on his second voyage to the Oregon coast in 1792 (his first trip was in 1787 on his way to the Orient, resulting in his becoming the first American merchant to circumnavigate the globe) he became the first explorer to crossed the treacherous sand bar at the mouth of the Columbia River. Gray named the river after his ship, the "Columbia Rediviva". This "discovery" and exploration of the Columbia gave the United States a strong claim to the Oregon Country.
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"Ocian in view" ...
On November 7, 1805, at camp near Pillar Rock, Captain Clark wrote in his journal:

"... we are in view of the opening of the Ocian, which Creates great joy. ..." [Clark, November 7, 1805, first draft]

"... Ocian in view! O! the joy ..." [Clark, November 15, 1805, in distances for November 7]

In reality the men were looking at the lower Columbia River estuary and Grays Bay, with another 20 miles to go before reaching the Pacific Ocean. Today there is a turnout at Pigeon Bluff (along the road to Altoona and Pillar Rock) with a viewpoint overlooking Grays Bay. An information kiosk is located there honoring Clark's "Ocian in view! O! the joy".
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Image, 2004, Ocian in view, sign, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
"Ocian in view". From the road to Pillar Rock, near Pigeon Bluff (Mile Post 5). Image taken June 16, 2004.
Image, 2004, Grays Bay, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Grays Bay, Washington. From the road to Pillar Rock, near Pigeon Bluff (Mile Post 5). Image taken April 9, 2004.


Early Grays Bay ...
In May 1792, American Captain Robert Gray became the first European explorer to cross the mouth of the Columbia River and journey 20 miles up the river. He set anchor in a bay along the north shore.

In October 1792 Lieutenant William Broughton of the George Vancouver expedition, crossed the mouth of the Columbia and journeyed 100 miles up the river. He named the small bay on the north of the river after the American Captain Robert Gray.

"... Mr. Broughton proceeded in the cutter at a moderate distance from the shore, with soundings of 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 fathoms to Tongue point. On the eastern side of this point the shores first fall to the southward, and then stretch nearly E. N. E. From this point was seen the centre of a deep bay, lying at the distance of seven miles, N. 26 E. This bay terminated the researches of Mr. Gray; and to commemorate his discovery it was named after him Gray's Bay. ... Mr. Manby was sent to sound the channel up to Grays bay, where in Mr. Gray's sketch, an anchor is placed; but on Mr. Manby's return he reported the channel to be very intricate, and the depth of water in general very shallow. ..."

In 1805, Lewis and Clark called the bay "Shallow Bay".

"... passed 2 old villages on the Stard. Side and at 3 miles entered a nitch of about 6 miles wide and 5 miles deep with Several Creeks makeing into the Stard Hills, this nitch we found verry Shallow water and Call it the Shallow <nitch> ..." [Clark, November 8, 1805]

"... We went about 5 miles and came to a bay 12 or 14 miles wide. We had to coast round it, as the wind raised the waves so high we could go no other way. We halted and dined at a point on the north side of the bay, where a small river comes in. We again proceeded on coasting, till we came to a point of land where the bay becomes much narrower; and the water quite salt. The waves here ran so high we were obliged to lie to, and let the tide leave our canoes on dry ground. This point we called Cape Swell; and the bay above, Shallow Bay, as there is no great depth of water. ..." [Gass, November 8, 1805]

In 1841, Charles Wilkes of the U.S. Exploring Expedition, charted the bay as two bays, "Grays Bay" and "Kutzule Bay". "Kutzule Bay" is today's Grays Bay, and Wilke's "Grays Bay" is the bay (today unnamed) to the west of Grays Point. Swan Bay is Cathlamet Bay and the Termination Islands are the islands in today's Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge.

"... There are two small streams of fresh water emptying into Kutzule Bay at its head. Gray's and Kutzule Bay are unfit for anchorage; the water is shallow, with mud and sand bottom. Swan Bay, on the south shore, lies between Tongue Point and the Termination Islands. It is 3 miles wide by 2 deep, is shallow, has a muddy bottom, which in places becomes visible at extreme low water. ..."

From the "Coast Pilots" ...
From the 1889 U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey's "Coast Pilot":

"Gray's Bay. -- This is the shoal bay, two miles deep, lying between Gray's Point and Yellow Bluffs. Large patches are bare at low water, especially in the eastern part, but a moderately deep channel runs close under the northwest shore from the mouth of the Alamient or Deep River, past Portuguese Point and Gray's Point.

Alamient River opens about a mile west of Gray's River and at its mouth the banks are low but densely wooded.

The bay was named by Broughton in 1792 in honor of Captain Gray.

Abreast of Flat Hill the river is five miles broad, but the southern part is wholly occupied by low islands which are in part marshy and in part covered with cottonwood. There are numerous channels through them, with one principal one called Prairie Channel which is buoyed.

Thence to the eastweard between Jim Crow and Three Tree Points, on the north shore, and Cathlamet Point on the south shore, the river narrows down to two miles in width, with half that space occupied by shoals and islands.

From two to two and a half miles eastward from Yellow Bluffs there are two fishery stations and a landing. Abreast the lower of these stations, on the opposite flats, bare at low water, there is another fishing station. "

"Gray's Point" is still today's Grays Point but "Yellow Bluffs" is now called Pigeon Bluff. "Alamient River" is called Deep River. "Flat Hill" is the ridge above Pigeon Bluff and Harrington Point. Jim Crow Point is now called Brookfield Point and Three Tree Point still exists. "Cathlamet Point" is now "Aldrich Point. The fisheries, such as those at Altoona and Pillar Rock, are long since gone.


High Tide and Low Tide ...

Image, 2004, Grays Bay, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Grays Bay, Washington, high tide. From the road to Pillar Rock, near Pigeon Bluff (Mile Post 5). Image taken June 16, 2004.
Image, 2004, Grays Bay, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Grays Bay, Washington, low tide. From the road to Pillar Rock, near Pigeon Bluff (Mile Post 5). Image taken April 9, 2004.


Views ...

Image, 2003, Cathlamet Bay, looking towards Grays Bay, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Cathlamet Bay, Oregon, looking towards Grays Bay, Washington. Looking across from the Twilight Eagle Sanctuary viewing platform, towards Grays Bay, Washington (light tan at shoreline). Image taken August 2, 2003.
Image, 2004, Grays Point as seen from across Grays Bay, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Grays Point, Washington, as seen from across Grays Bay. From the road to Pillar Rock, between Pigeon Bluff and Harrington Point, looking west towards Grays Point. Portuguese Point is a small spit near the tip of Grays Point. Image taken June 16, 2004.
Image, 2004, Saddle Mountain, Oregon, from Grays Bay, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Saddle Mountain, Oregon, as seen from Grays Bay, Washington. From road to Pillar Rock between Pigeon Bluff and Harrington Point. Image taken June 16, 2004.


Inside Grays Bay

  • Grays Point ... RM 20
  • Portuguese Point ...
  • Frankfort ...
  • Rocky Point ...
  • Sisson Creek ...
  • Brix Bay ...
  • Deep River ... RM 21
  • Miller Point ... RM 21
  • Grays River ... RM 21
  • Pigeon Bluff (Yellow Bluffs) ...
  • Harrington Point ... RM 23.5


Grays Point ...
Grays Point is the western (downstream) point of Grays Bay, at Columbia River Mile 20, and is located in Pacific County. Grays Point is rather broad-tipped, with the actual "Point" being the western tip sticking into the Columbia River. Just around the tip to the east is a smaller point sticking into Grays Bay called Portuguese Point, where Lewis and Clark set up camp on November 8 and 9, 1805.
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Portuguese Point ...
Portuguese Point is on the eastern edge of Grays Point. Lewis and Clark's campsite of November 8 and 9, 1805, was at Portuguese Point. The men called Grays Bay "Shallow Bay" and their camp was at "Cape Swell".
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Frankfort ...
"FRANKFORT: Early Columbia River community near Portuguese Point (also called Barney's Point for Barney Gallagher who had a homestead there in 1876) in south central Pacific County. Named by (James) Frank Bourn and Frank Scott in their own honor. Bourn and Scott purchased land around Portuguese Point, formed the Frankfort Land Improvement and Investment Company on April 30, 1890, and on May 5th filed a town plat "where fashionable people would walk the streets - where commerce and industry would prosper". Frankfort had three golden years (1890-1893). Land sales and boomtown development were brought to an end by the Panic of 1893. Frankfort survived until World War I but the plat was not vacated until 1952. During its existence Frankfort was only accessible by water. The town had dozens of residential dwellings owned by fisherman, a land office, the Gannon Hotel, a newspaper (Frankfort Chronicle), a school, a store, a saloon, and a post office established June 6, 1890 (closed February 28, 1918). The last person living in Frankfort died in 1964."


Source:    Larry J. Weathers, 1989, "Place Names of Pacific County, IN: The Sou'wester, Centennial Edition, Pacific County Historical Society and Museum.


Rocky Point ...
Point on the western side of Grays Bay, located between Portuguese Point and Deep River, and is located in Pacific County. An un-named bay lies to the west and Brix Bay lies to the east.


Sisson Creek ...
Sisson Creek is located in Pacific County and enters Brix Bay in Washkiakum County.


Brix Bay ...
"CAMP BRIX: A logging camp on Sisson Creek in southeast Pacific County at the turn of the century. Operated by the Brix Brouthers (Asmus, Peter Johannes, Albert, and Anton) under the name Grays Bay Logging Company. The company earned sufficient capital to permit the brothers to buy the Knappton Mill form A.M. Simpson in 1909. Albert Brix was in charge of the sawmill and P.J. Brix operated the logging camp."


Source:    Larry J. Weathers, 1989, "Place Names of Pacific County", Originally published in "The Sou'wester, Centennial Edition", 1989, Vol.XXIV, No.1-4, Reprinted in "A name for every place: Around Pacific County from A to Z", Chinook Observer, May 13 and May 20, 2013.


Deep River ...
Deep River, Wahkiakum County, is located on the Washington shore of the Columbia River, two miles downstream of Grays River, and empties into Grays Bay.
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Miller Point ...
Miller Point lies in the middle of Grays Bay on the far northern side, and has the mouth of Grays River on its eastern (upstream) side and the mouth of Deep River on its western (downstream) side.


Grays River ...
Grays River flows southwest through Wahkiakum County and empties into Grays Bay two miles east of Deep River. Miller Point divides the two.
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Pigeon Bluff ...
Pigeon Bluff is located on the western side of Harrington Point, and was once known as "Yellow Bluffs".
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Harrington Point ...
Harrington Point is the eastern (upstream) point of Grays Bay, at Columbia River Mile 23.5.
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From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 8, 1805, first draft ...
a cloudy morning Some rain and wind we Changed our Clothes and Set out at 9 oClock proceeded on Close under the Stard. Side

S. 63 W. 2 miles to a point on the Stard. Side [Harrington Point and Pigeon Bluff, just west of Altoona, Washington] passing under high Mountainious Country Som low Islands opposit [the islands of todays Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge] at about 3 miles 3 Inds. in a Canoe over took us



S. 60 W. 6 miles to Cape < disappointment> [in error, thinking they had arrived at the Pacific, they assumed Grays Point/Portuguese Point was Cape Disappointment]     Swells on the Stard Side, a Deep bend to the Stard Side    high country on both Sides,    passed an old village 2 Hs. at 1 <> mile on an <Std.> 4 houses at 3 miles and halted to dine [at Miller point] at an old village of Several in a deep bay on the Stard. Side [Grays Bay] of 5 miles Deep Several arms still further into the land [Grays River and Deep River]     Saw great [numbers] of Swan Geese and Ducks in this Shallow bay [Grays Bay], Cloudy and disagreeable all the Day. Great maney flees at this old village,



R. Fields Killed a goose & 2 Canvis back Ducks in this bay [Grays Bay] after Dinner [at Miller Point] we took the advantage of the returning tide & proceeded on to the 2d point, [Grays Point and Portuguese Point, the first point being Rocky Point] at which place we found the Swells too high to proceed we landed and drew our canoes up So as to let the tide leave them. The three Indians after Selling us 4 fish for which we gave Seven Small fishing hooks, and a piece of red Cloth. Some fine rain at intervales all this day. the Swells Continued high all the evening & we are Compelled to form an Encampment on a Point [Grays Point] Scercely room Sufficent for us all to lie Clear of the tide water. hills high & with a Steep assent, river wide & at this place too Salt to be used for Drink. we are all wet and disagreeable, as we have been Continually for Severl. days past, we are at a loss <to> & cannot find out if any Settlement is near the mouth of this river. ...



Clark, November 8, 1805 ...




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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:
  • NOAA Office of Coast Survey website, 2005;
  • NOAA's "United States Coast Pilot", 31st edition;
  • Oregon Blue Book website, 2004, "Notable Oregonians";
  • Washington State Historical Society website, 2004, "Lasting Legacy";
  • Weathers, L.J., 1989, "Place Names of Pacific County", Originally published in "The Sou'wester, Centennial Edition", 1989, Vol.XXIV, No.1-4, Reprinted in "A name for every place: Around Pacific County from A to Z", Chinook Observer, May 13 and May 20, 2013;


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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September 2008