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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Heppner Junction, Oregon"
Includes ... Heppner Junction ... Heppner ... Willow Creek ...
Image, 2006, Heppner Junction, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Heppner Junction, Oregon, from Interstate 84. Image taken September 29, 2006.

Heppner Junction ...
The Union Pacific station of Heppner Junction is located on the left bank at the mouth of Willow Creek at Columbia River Mile (RM) 252. Upstream is Threemile Canyon, Sixmile Canyon, and the once booming town of Castle Rock. Sixteen miles upstream is the Oregon town of Boardman and ten miles downstream is the town of Arlington.

Blue Mountain Scenic Byway ...
Today Heppner Junction is the starting place for the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway, with the turnoff at Oregon Highway 74, just west of Heppner Junction and Willow Creek. The highway joins and then follows Willow Creek within a few miles.

"... Set out from the Byway's western portal at Heppner Junction - and Hermiston - and prepare for a history lesson. Willow Creek, near the town of Cecil, was a popular stopping place along the Oregon Trail. Oregon Route 74 continues southeast along the creek, through wheat and canola fields and ranches, to the agricultural communities of Ione and Lexington. These towns, which began as sheep stations, still maintain classic examples of frontier architecture. ..." [Umatilla Chamber of Commerce website, 2006]

Early Heppner Junction ...
Heppner Junction was once the turnoff for the Union Pacific tracks heading into the city of Heppner. The line was in operation between 1889 and 1994, when it was closed as being non-profitable, and section of track were demolished.

Heppner and Heppner Junction were named for Henry Heppner, who, along with Jackson L. Morrow, opened the first merchandise store in Heppner in 1873. In that same year the town of Heppner was founded and the post office was established. Heppner Junction began in 1889 when the Union Pacific laid tracks to Heppner.

Willow Creek and Heppner Junction in 1940 ...
From the Oregon State Archives "A 1940 Journey Across Oregon":

"... HEPPNER JUNCTION, ... (241 alt.), distinguished by an airplane beacon on the cliff (L), is the junction of the Union Pacific Railroad main line with its Heppner branch, as well as the junction of US 30 with State 74. Left from Heppner junction on State 74 through a narrow rimrock walled cleft up Willow Creek. Rust colored, basaltic cliffs are in vivid contrast with emerald green alfalfa fields, sub irrigated by gravity flow of water from Willow and its tributary creeks, and from underground springs. As the route continues into the gradually rising country, wheat fields roll away to the benchlands on either side of the highway.

During gold rush days, miners traveling from lower Columbia River points to the Idaho and John Day mining districts, passed through Willow Creek Valley, hastening south by way of Dixie Creek and the forks of the John Day River. Processions of Columbia River Indians followed this road, to bunt deer, pick berries, and camp in the Blue Mountains, returning down the creek for the salmon fishing at Celilo.

At 15.1 m. is a junction with a gravel road; L here 0.5 m. to CECIL (618 alt., 15 pop.), by the Oregon Trail crossing of Willow Creek. The settlement was an important stage station. The WELL, where travelers obtained drinking water for themselves and their teams, remains at the center of the village street. ..."

Image, 2006, Heppner Junction, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Heppner Junction, Oregon, from Interstate 84. Image taken October 2, 2006.

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, October 20, 1805 ...
A cool morning wind S. W. we concluded to delay untill after brackfast which we were obliged to make on the flesh of dog. after brackfast we gave all the Indian men Smoke, and we Set out leaveing about 200 of the nativs at our Encampment [near Irrigon, Oregon]; passd. three Indian Lodges on the Lard Side a little below our Camp [Irrigon, Oregon] which lodges <we> I did not discover last evening, passed a rapid at Seven miles one at a Short distance below we passed a verry bad rapid, a chane or rocks makeing from the Stard. Side and nearly Chokeing the river up entirely with hugh black rocks [Lewis and Clark called these rapids "Pelican Rapids"] an Island below close under the Stard. Side on which was four Lodges of Indians drying fish,- here I Saw a great number of pelicons on the wing, and black Comerants [American White Pelicans and Double-crested Cormorants]. at one oClock we landed on the lower point of <Some> an Island at Some Indian Lodges, a large Island on the Stard Side nearly opposit and a Small one a little below on the Lard Side on those three Island I counted Seventeen Indian Lodges, ...

[Lewis and Clark are passing through the Blalock Islands area. Today most of the islands are beneath the waters of Lake Umatilla, the reservoir behind the John Day Dam. In this vicinity are today's Boardman, Whitcomb Island, Canoe Ridge, slightly downstream is Crow Butte and historic Castle Rock, along with the many lands of the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge.]

after diner we proceeded on to a bad rapid at the lower point of a Small Island on which four Lodges of Indians were Situated drying fish; here the high countrey Commences again on the Stard. Side [Alder Ridge] leaveing a vallie of 40 miles in width, from the mustle Shel rapid [Umatilla Rapids at the McNary Dam]. examined and passed this rapid close to the Island at 8 miles lower passed a large Island near the middle of the river a brook on the Stard. Side [Alder Creek] and 11 Islds. all in view of each other below, a riverlit [Willow Creek] falls in on the Lard. Side behind a Small Island a Small rapid below. The Star Side is high rugid hills [Alder Ridge], the Lard. Side a low plain and not a tree to be Seen in any Direction except a fiew Small willow bushes which are Scattered partially on the Sides of the bank

The river to day is about 1/4 of a mile in width; this evening the Countrey on the Lard. Side [area around Arlington, Oregon] rises to the hight of that on the Starboard Side [ridge above Roosevelt], and is wavering- we made 42 <days> miles to day [to Roosevelt, Washington]; the current much more uniform than yesterday or the day before. Killed 2 Speckle guls Severl. ducks of a delicious flavour.

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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

  • McArthur, L.A., and McArthur, L.L., 2004, Oregon Geographic Names, Oregon Historical Society Press, Portland;
  • Oregon State Archives website, 2006;
  • "Trainweb.org" website, 2006, "Union Pacific Railroad";
  • Umatilla Chamber of Commerce website, 2006;

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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May 2014