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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Hat Rock, Oregon"
Includes ... Hat Rock ... Hat Rock State Park ... Windmill Rock ...
Image, 2004, Hat Rock, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Hat Rock, Oregon. Hat Rock is a remnant of a Columbia River Basalt flow, eroded during the Missoula Floods. Image taken September 24, 2004.

"... a rock in a Lard. resembling a hat just below a rapid at the lower Point of an Island in the Midl: of the river ..."

Hat Rock ...
Hat Rock is located off U.S. Highway 730, nine miles upstream of Umatilla, Oregon, at Columbia River Mile (RM) 298. This unique basaltic feature is the result of the Missoula Floods stripping away the outer surface of material, leaving behind the 70-foot-high feature.

Hat Rock is located within Oregon's Hat Rock State Park. Nearby is Boat Rock, another basalt feature located within the Park. Upstream is Warehouse Beach, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Area and downstream is McNary Beach, another Corps of Engineers Recreation Area.

The U.S. National Elevation Dataset (2018) lists Hat Rock's elevation at 469 feet.

Hat Rock is located in T5N R29E, Section 15.

Hat Rock and the Missoula Floods ...
Hat Rock and Boat Rock are both Missoula Floods remnants of Columbia River Basalt flows.

Lewis and Clark and Hat Rock ...
Hat Rock was seen in 1805 by the Lewis and Clark Expedition on their journey down the Columbia. Today it is one of the few distinctive sites seen by Lewis and Clark not under the waters of Lake Wallula, the reservoir behind the McNary Dam. On October 19, 1805, after leaving their camp near Spring Gulch Creek, Captain Clark wrote in his journal:

"... SW. 14 miles to a rock in a Lard. resembling a hat just below a rapid at the lower Point of an Island in the Midl: of the river ..." [Clark, October 19, 1805, first draft]

On a map, Captain Clark labeled "Hat Rock".

Early Hat Rock ...
While Lewis and Clark named the distinctive basaltic feature "Hat Rock", other explorers and early publications make no mention of "Hat Rock" but instead refer to a feature they called "Windmill Rock". Wilkes 1841 map shows "Windmill Rocks" while an 1858 Military Reconnaissance map calls two features in the same area "Monumental Rocks". Presumably these all are the same feature(s).

Hat Rock is located at Columbia River Mile (RM) 298.

In 1841 Charles Wilkes of the U.S. Exploring Expedition mentions "Windmill Rock" as being 18 miles below Walla Walla (RM 315).

"... Eighteen miles below Wallwalla they passed the Windmill Rock, about which are a number of curious basaltic peaks. ..." [Wilkes, July 6, 1841]

In 1843 James W. Nesmith wrote ("Diary of the Emigration of 1843"):

"Wednesday, October 11. -- Mr. Haggard went to the fort this morning to do some trading. After he returned, we packed all our effects on two mules and started about eight o'clock. Travel leisurely until evening down the river a distance of twelve miles. The river varies from one-half to one mile in width, has bars in the middle frequently; the water is quite clear and beautiful. High bluffs on both sides, not a tree in sight all day. Found a little green grass where we encamped at night, near Windmill Rock. Our trail leads immediately under the bluffs. Our Indian still remains with us." [Nesmith, October 11, 1843]

During the same era William Henry Gray in his "History of Oregon, 1792 to 1849" (published in 1870), mentions "Windmill Rock" as being 9 miles upstream of Umatilla (RM 289) and 15 miles downstream of the Walla Walla River Valley (RM 315).

"Twenty-five miles above Castle Rock stands the thriving little town of Umatilla, at the mouth of the river of the same name, and nine miles above is Windmill Rock. In ascending the river fifteen miles from this place, the land on either side rises to some fifteen hundred feet above the level of the river which occupies the entire bottom from rocks to rocks on either side; when the land suddenly drops from this high plain which extends from the Blue Mountains on the east to the Cascade range on the west, forming, as it were, a great inland dam across the Columbia River, fifteen hundred feet high at the place where the river has broken through the dam. high, rolling plain, in the southeastern part of which lies the beautiful valley of the Wallawalla." [William Henry Gray, History of Oregon, 1792 to 1849, published in 1870]

The 1858 "Map of Military Reconnaissance from Fort Dalles, Oregon, via Fort Walla-Wallah, to Fort Taylor, Washington Territory", shows "Monumental Rocks" in the same location as today's Hat Rock.

The 1867 U.S. Government publication "Reports Upon the Mineral Resources of the United States (Browne and Taylor, 1867, "Table of Distances") lists "Windmill rock" as being 37 miles upstream from Castle Rock, 7 miles upstream from the "Umatilla rapids", 15 miles downstream from Wallula, and 201 miles distance from Portland, Oregon.

Views ...

Image, 2004, Hat Rock, Oregon, and the Columbia River, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Hat Rock, Oregon, and the Columbia River. Image taken September 24, 2004.
Image, 2004, Hat Rock State Park, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Hat Rock State Park, Oregon. Image taken September 24, 2004.

Hat Rock, etc.

Hat Rock State Park ...
In 1951, Oregon acquired the area around Hat Rock, and created Hat Rock State Park. The 735-acre park is a desert oasis surrounded by rolling sagebrush hills and outcroppings of basalt. The park has its own pond stocked with rainbow trout and provides year-round habitat for waterfowl.

From the Oregon State Parks ("Hat Rock State Park", 2018):

"The original park land was purchased from private owners and leased from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the time of McNary Dam construction from 1951 to 1953. Later, lands were acquired and leased up to 1968. Acreage: 719.38."

Hat Rock State Park in 1965 ...

Hat Rock State Park is located off U. S. Highway 730, on the south shore of the lake formed by McNary Dam on the Columbia River near Cold Springs in Umatilla County.

The first acquisition was 175 acres purchased from Charles and Eileen Kik in 1951 at a cost of $5,000. Later, in 1953, another tract of 191 acres was obtained from the Corps of Engineers under a lease agreement. Two other parcels of 0.16 of an acre and 3.07 acres were acquired for the park and the road, making a total of 369.23 acres in the park.

Acquisition and development of this area for recreational purposes was desirable because it is the area most suitable for development along the shore of McNary Lake.

The land obtained from the Corps of Engineers includes an arm of the lake about 1,600 feet in length and a large, prominent rock, a landmark of historical significance. This landmark, known at Hat Rock, was often referred to in diaries of the early-day western explorers and travelers. The rock itself is round with a flat top and vertical sides.

Hat Rock State Park was named after this large monolith, which, no doubt, acquired its name because of its likeness to a man's silk top hat.

The terrain is generally rolling, cut by an arm of the lake. The cover is sagebrush and of little or no value to the park. A road passes through the park to a home development on the shore of the lake north of the park.

A large, natural spring is located on the park land at normal water level near the southern tip of the arm of the lake. It flows at approximately 25 c.f.s., which furnishes plenty of water to supply the park and meet the present needs of the home development on the lake shore.

Improvements at Hat Rock include an entrance road, car parking area, trails, planting trees, swimming beach, bathhouse, guard fences, two sanitary facilities, water system, park cottage and headquarters building. All roads and car parking areas are oil surfaced. The Corps of Engineers constructed a road to the west side of the arm of the lake, a car parking area, boat ramp and a floating foot bridge, and prepared and seeded a nearby area to lawn, all as a part of the park facilities.

Park use in 1963 totaled 191,011 day visitors."

Source:    Chester H. Armstrong (compiler), 1965, "History of the Oregon State Parks: 1917-1963, published by Oregon State Parks.

Image which started this website

In 2002 I read that Lewis and Clark named a basalt feature which looked like a "hat". I went to see it, taking with me a 3 megapixel camera set on "low resolution", resulting in this image. The original is a meer 180K in size, a long ways from what I shoot now. Still, as small as it is, this image began this website "Lewis and Clark's Columbia River - 200 Years Later", now known as the "ColumbiaRiverImages.com" website.

Image, 2002, Hat Rock, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Hat Rock, Oregon. Hat Rock is a remnant of a Columbia River Basalt flow, eroded during the Missoula Floods. Image taken September 27, 2002.

"... a rock in a Lard. resembling a hat just below a rapid at the lower Point of an Island in the Midl: of the river ..."

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, October 19, 1805, first draft ...
S W. 14 miles to a rock in a Lard. resembling that a hat     just below a rapid at the lower Point of an Island in the Midl: of the river 7 Lodges and opposit the head of one on the Stard. Side 5 Lodges     passed an Island at 8 miles 6 miles long close to Lard Side     no water on Lard.     a Small one opsd. and at the lower point     no water Lard.     passed an Isld. in middle at 8 miles on which 5 Indian Lodges, deserted     at the end of this course a bad rockey  rapid  place plenty of water     rocks in the river.     passed a Stard. point at 4 miles    country a little lower

Clark, October 19, 1805 ...
we Set out which was not untill 9 oClock A M. [from their camp at Spring Gulch]    we proceeded on passed a Island, close under the Lard Side about Six miles in length [islands near Juniper Canyon, now under the waters of Lake Wallula] opposit to the lower point of which two Isds. are situated on one of which five Lodges <of Indians> vacent & Saffolds drying fish    at the upper point of this Island Swift water.     a Short distance below passed two Islands; one near the middle of the river on which is Seven lodges of Indians drying fish [across from Boat Rock and Hat Rock],     at our approach they hid themselves in their Lodges and not one was to be seen untill we passed, they then Came out in greater numbers than is common in Lodges of their Size, it is probable that, the inhabitants of the 5 Lodges above had in a fright left their lodges and decended to this place to defend them Selves if attackted there being a bad rapid opposit the Island thro which we had to pass prevented our landing on this Island and passifying those people, about four miles below this fritened Island we arrived at the head of a verry bad rapid [Umatilla Rapids, today the location of the McNary Dam]

[The islands and rapids in this area between Spring Gulch and the Umatilla Rapids are now under the waters of Lake Wallula, the reservoir behind the McNary Dam. Today's locations passed by Lewis and Clark include Sand Station, Warehouse Beach, and McNary Beach, all U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Areas, and Hat Rock State Park and nearby Boat Rock. Hat Rock was mentioned by Captain Clark in his first draft but not in his final draft.]

we came too on the Lard Side to view the rapid [Umatilla Rapids] before we would venter to run it, as the Chanel appeared to be close under the oppd. Shore, and it would be necessary to liten our canoe, I deturmined to walk down on the Lard Side, with the 2 Chiefs the interpreter & his woman, and derected the Small canoe to prcede down on the Lard Side to the foot of the rapid which was about 2 miles in length     I Sent on the Indian Chiefs &c. down and I assended a high clift about 200 feet above the water [upstream of Umatilla. Today there is an overlook above the McNary Dam] from the top of which is a leavel plain extending up the river and off for a great extent, at this place the Countrey becoms low on each Side of the river, and affords a pros of the river and countrey below for great extent both to the right and left; from this place I descovered a high mountain of emence hight covered with Snow, this must be one of the mountains laid down by Vancouver, as Seen from the mouth of the Columbia River, from the Course which it bears which is West I take it to be Mt. St. Helens, destant <about 120> 156 miles [actually Mount Adams, Washington, visible on a clear day]     a range of mountains in the Derection crossing [Cascade Mountains], a conacal mountain S. W. toped with Snow [Mount Hood, Oregon]     This rapid I observed [Umatilla Rapids] as I passed opposit to it to be verry bad interseped with high rock and Small rockey Islands [today these islands are under the waters of Lake Wallula, the reservoir behind the McNary Dam], here I observed banks of Muscle Shells banked up in the river in Several places, I Delayed at the foot of the rapid about 2 hours for the Canoes which I could See met with much dificuelty in passing down the rapid on the oposit Side maney places the men were obliged to get into the water and haul the canoes over Sholes- while Setting on a rock wateing for Capt Lewis I Shot a Crain which was flying over of the common kind. I observed a great number of Lodges on the opposit Side at Some distance below [Lewis and Clark's map show 44 lodges lining the Washington shore from Plymouth, Washington, downstream to across from Irrigon, Oregon.] and Several Indians on the opposit bank passing up to where Capt. Lewis was with the Canoes, others I Saw on a knob [Sillusi Butte] nearly opposit to me at which place they delayed but a Short time before they returned to their Lodges as fast as they could run, ...

[This area today is the location of Umatilla, Oregon, and Plymouth, Washington, and is spanned not only by McNary Dam but also my the Interstate 82/395 Bridge. The Umatilla Rapids are below the waters of Lake Wallula, the waters behind McNary Dam.]

proceeded on passed a Small rapid and 15 Lodges below the five,

[Lewis and Clark have missed spotting or commenting on the Umatilla River, located 3 miles downstream of the town of Umatilla.]

and Encamped below an Island Close under the Lard Side [near Irrigon, Oregon] nearly opposit to 24 Lodges on an Island near the middle of the river [the majority of the islands in this area are now under the waters of Lake Umatilla, the reservoir behind the John Day Dam.], and the Main Stard Shor     Soon after we landed which was at a fiew willow trees [today much of the shoreline on both sides of the Columbia is within the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge] about 100 Indians Came from the different Lodges, and a number of them brought wood which they gave us, we Smoked with all of them, and two of our Party Peter Crusat & Gibson played on the violin which delighted them greatly ...     This day we made 36 miles

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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

  • Armstrong, C.H., (compiler), 1965, "History of the Oregon State Parks: 1917-1963, published by Oregon State Parks;
  • Browne, J.R., United States Department of the Treasury, and Taylor, J.W., 1867, "Reports Upon the Mineral Resources of the United States", U.S. Government Printing Office;
  • Gray, W.H., 1870, "A History of Oregon, 1792-1849: Drawn from Personal Observation and Authentic Information;
  • McArthur, L.A., and McArthur, L.L., 2003, Oregon Geographic Names, Oregon Historical Society Press, Portland;
  • Nesmith, J.W., 1843, "Diary of the Emigration of 1843", IN: The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, vol.VII, no.4, December 1906;
  • Oregon State Parks and Recreation website, 2003, 2018;
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website, 2003;
  • U.S. Geological Survey's Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) database, 2018;

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.
© 2019, Lyn Topinka, "ColumbiaRiverImages.com", All rights reserved.
Images are NOT to be downloaded from this website.
May 2014