Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon ... Information"
Includes ... Historic Columbia River Highway ... Crown Point Highway ... National Recreation Trail ... Roadhouses ... Benson Bridge ... Bishops Cap ... Bridal Veil Falls and Overlook ... Chanticleer Point ... Crown Point ... Eagle Creek ... Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail ... Horsetail Falls ... Latourelle Falls ... Maryhill Loops ... Mosier Twin Tunnels ... Multnomah Falls ... Oneonta Gorge ... Portland Woman's Forum Scenic View ... Rowena Crest ... Rowena Dell ... Rowena Loops ... Sandy River ... Shepperds Dell ... Vista House ... Wahkeena Falls ... National Register of Historic Places ...
Image, 2004, Historic Columbia River Highway, click to enlarge
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Historic Columbia River Highway at Crown Point. Image taken October 11, 2004.

Historic Columbia River Highway ...
The "Historic Columbia River Highway" (HCRH) was once part of the "Columbia River Highway" system (Oregon Highway 30 and Interstate 84), which extended from Astoria to the Idaho border. The HCRH was the original road which traversed the Columbia River Gorge on the Oregon side, from Troutdale - 14 miles east of Portland, to The Dalles - 88 miles east of Portland. The Highway was the first scenic highway constructed in the United States. The design and development were the products of Samuel Hill, lawyer and entrepreneur, and Samuel C. Lancaster, an engineer and landscape architect. Built between 1913 and 1922, the Highway was patterned after the Auxenstrasse in Swizerland. Throughout the 74-mile route, the road grades are no greater than 5 percent, and no curves have less than a 100-foot turning radius. Today the Highway is owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. In 1984, the American Society of Civil Engineers declared the road a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, and in 1998 the the road was designated an All-American Road.

[Follow the Route]

Building the Highway ...

"... Lancaster and the Multnomah County engineers laid out the highway route between the Sandy River and the county line, east of Bonneville, in September 1913. Dangling from the cliffs with ropes and standing waist-deep in ferns, Lancaster aimed "to find the beauty spots, or those points where the most beautiful things along the line might be seen to the best advan- tage, and if possible to locate the road in such a way as to reach them."

Construction began the following month and continued for two years. Millionaire lumberman and realtor John B. Yeon volunteered to supervise construction as County Roadmaster, assisted by Amos Benson. C. Lester Horn recalls that Yeon wore out "two automobiles and dozens of tires" on the job. Other volunteers from Portland formed weekend road crews to speed the effort. Local pride and responsibility for the project were so great that the county declined state funds when they became available in 1917, telling the highway department to spend the money on construction in less-developed counties.

While Multnomah County proceeded on its section of the Columbia River Highway in the west, the Oregon State Highway Department assumed much of the construction responsibility in Hood River and Wasco counties to the east. In October 1913 the county court at Hood River urged the highway department to make an initial survey to coordinate its building effort with Multnomah County's.

The state survey crew worked through the winter of 1913-14, losing only one day to bad weather when the snow was too heavy to clear from the telescope for a sighting. Construction of the highway between Cascade Locks and Hood River, mostly following the route of the old wagon road, began in 1914 after Simon Benson purchased the entire $75,000 bond issue voted to fund the project.

On July 6, 1915 the Columbia River Highway officially opened from Portland to Hood River. A month later the continuation of the route west from Portland to Astoria and the sea was open as well. In 1915 and 1916, after a quick campaign by highway supporters passed a $1,250,000 county bond, the highway was surfaced with asphaltic Warrenite, making it the first major paved road in the Northwest. From 1916 to 1920 highway construction proceeded in sections east from Hood River to The Dalles, delayed by a right-of-way problem Wtth the railroad between Hood River and Mosier. The highway eventually ran inland away from the riverbank alignment of the railroad, becoming the most expensive road work yet undertaken because of the need to build the Mosier Twin Tunnels. When the last pavement was finally laid in The Dalles in 1922, the Columbia River Highway opened an era of gracious and convenient auto travel through the gorge. ..."

Source:    "Columbia River Highway, Options for Conservation and Reuse", 1981, Columbia River Highway Project

Before the Columbia River Highway ...
"... The first wagon road in the Gorge ran from the town of Bonneville to the site of the future Cascade Locks -- a distance of six miles -- and was completed in 1856. It climbed to an elevation of over 400 feet on steep grades around a portage at the Cascades of the Columbia River. This road only ran a short distance, however, and met the needs of a select few. Journeys on it, carrying supplies from Fort Vancouver to men stationed east of the Cascade Mountains, proved onerous. By 1872, the Oregon legislature designated $50,000 for building a wagon road from the mouth of the Sandy River, 18 miles east of Portland, through the Gorge to The Dalles. The road money was soon expended and four years later another $50,000 was appropriated. Even though the road was completed, travel on it proved difficult. The alignment was crooked and narrow with heavy grades, often exeeeding 20 percent. "The Dalles-to-Sandy Wagon Road" was never really practicable for travel.

Only in 1882 was the Gorge accessible with a continuous overland route when the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company (ORN) constructed a water-level track from Portland to The Dalles. ... For the next thirty years, the line provided the only real alternative to steamboats for travel along the river. ..."

Source:    USDI/NPS National Register for Historic Places Registration Form, Columbia River Highway, 2000

Maryhill Loops ...
Sam Hill's "Maryhill Loops" east of The Dalles, was first built as a forerunner to the Historic Columbia River Highway.

Image, 2004, Maryhill Loops, Washington, click to enlarge
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Maryhill Loops, Washington. Image taken April 24, 2004.

The Highway in 1916 ...
The official opening of the Columbia River Highway from Portland to Hood River marked the completion of a tremendous feat in highway construction. On June 6, 1916, as part of the Portland Rose Festival, dedication of the highway took place at Multnomah Falls and then moved to Crown Point.

Ceremonies to Be Conducted on Crown Point Wednesday at 4 P.M.
FIrst Work on Vista House to Be Started; Guillotine Used at Battleship Oregon Launching to Unfurl Flag at Opening.

"The same guillotine used to launch the battleship Oregon at San Francisco in 1893 will cut the rope that unfurls the flag when the Columia River Highway is dedicated next Wednesday. ...

President Wilson will touch a button at his office in Washington, D.C. This will set the instrument in motion out at Crown Point. The touch of the button will drop a heavy weight with a knife on the under side. The weighted knife will fall on a rope stretched under the knife. The cutting of this rope will drop other weights and the flag will be unfurled. It will be operated by President Wilson, more than 3000 miles away. ...

Provision for Autos Made.

Provision will be made for parking automobiles on the highway itself at Crown Point, so that those who do not go to Multnomah Falls and those who return before the exercises there are completed will be enabled to enjoy the impressive ceremonies marking the beginning of construction of Vista House.

Among the other dedicatory features which will keep the highway in a stir Wednesday afternoon, will be the dedication of Fort Rock, Angel's Rest, which will be taken up by the pageanten route for Portland after the ceremony at Multnomah Falls.

Samuel C. Lancaster will give the dedicatory address and H.L. Pittock will touch the button which will unfurl the flag on the pinnacle following the dedication."

Source:    The Sunday Oregonian, June 4, 1916, courtesy University of Oregon Historic Newspaper Archives, 2015.

Grandeur of Columbia Offered to World.
Queen Muriel Relives Chief Multnomah of Rule.
Thousands of Persons From All Parts of Northwest Present and Motion Pictures Will Carry Event to Civilization.

"The whole world knows that the Columbia River Highway is open. If it doesn't, it ought to, for the formal opening was proclaimed to the universe yesterday. anyway, everybody soon will know it, for they took enought pictures -- motion and otherwise -- to supply information to every civilized section of the globe. It was a great day for photographers. They were out in force -- amateur and professional alike. Photographically and in every other way the dedication was a great success.

Falls Picturesque Background.

The weather was just right for pciture taking and the camera men had a background to their liking. What could be mroe picturesque than the majestic altitude of Multnomah Falls?

The dedicatory ceremonies took place on a platform erected in the natural amphitheater just below and a little to one side of the falls.

The photographic batteries were arranged in a series of "trenches" beyond the platform so that the cameras could hit the figures on the stage and the falls all in the same shot. ...

The event had been widely heralded and it attracted people from all over the Northwest. In fact, it took on a National significance inasmuch as the final act in the more or less elaborate ceremony was performed by President Wilson himself, when, at his desk in Washington, D.C., he touched an electric button that released a large American flag at the pinnacle of Crown Point, which marks the highest elevation on the route.

Thousands Visit Falls.

But the main event was the ceremony at Multnomah Falls. There it was that the great crowd had gathered to do honor to the highway builders. A special train brought thousands of people from Portland, and long lines of automobiles carried toerh thousands from the city, as well as from neighboring towns in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. More than 100 machines came from The Dalles alone. ..."

Source:    The Morning Oregonian, June 8, 1916, courtesy University of Oregon Historic Newspaper Archives, 2015.

Image, 2005, Crown Point from Portland Woman's Forum Scenic View, click to enlarge
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Crown Point and Vista House. View from Portland's Woman Forum Scenic View (formerly Chanticleer Point). Image taken October 22, 2005.

Plaque, "The Columbia River Highway" ...
A bronze plaque commemorating the beginning of the Columbia River Highway once stood near Lindsey Creek, upstream of Shellrock Mountain and downstream of Starvation Creek. The plaque was then moved to Starvation Creek State Park.

From the Oregon State Archives "A 1940 Journey Across Oregon":

"... Near LINDSAY CREEK, 134.7 m., is a bronze plaque commemorating the commencement in 1912 the building of the first section of the Columbia River Highway. ..."

Construction of the
Begun Here In 1912
Funds Were Contributed By
Labor Was Performed By Honor Men
Detailed By

Image, 2006, Bronze plaque, Starvation Creek State Park, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Bronze Plaque for the beginning of the Historic Columbia River Highway. Today located at the Starvation Creek Rest Area, Oregon. Image taken September 29, 2006.

The Highway in 1919 ...
"... Traveling eastward from Portland, the motorist passes thru Troutdale, across the Sandy river, catches a glimpse of Rooster rock near the Chanticleer inn, and the Crown Point chalet, overlooking Vista house, at Crown Point, where a splendid view may be had up and down the Columbia, flowing 750 feet below. One may see for thirty miles in any direction. The scenic effect is wonderful, and here indeed is keenly felt the magnificence and splendor of this mighty stream. From this point the road spirals downward in a triple figure 8, descending 600 feet and never getting off a 40-acre tract of land. Next in order are Latourell bridge, to the right which are Latourell falls (193 ft.); Shepherd's dell; Coopey falls, which are far up on the cliff, and Bridal Veil falls. You now pass between Lone rock and Fort rock, where legendary giants battled in the days of long ago, and come upon Mist falls and then Wahkenna falls, located in Benson park. Next is Multnomah falls, the queen of American cataracts. This in reality consists of two falls, the upper (541 ft.) and lower (69 ft.). A splendid trail leads to the bridge here and around and under the falls. From here, on the Washington side, one may catch glimpses of St. Peters dome, Cathedral rock and other lofty eminences. At Warrendale, about four miles distant, a ferry may be taken to Beacon rock. For many years this rock, which covers at its base 17 acres and has a hieght of 900 feet. At Tanner the petrified forests may be seen. In crossing the McCord creek bridge, watch for the beautiful falls on the right, and for the Wahe falls when crossing the Moffet creek bridge. This latter bridge has a span stretching across 170 feet, with a 17-foot rise, and is 75 feet above the water. The noted bridge in Yellowstone park (by General Chittenden) has a span of only 150 feet. Along here on the mountain slopes may be noticed the old government trail, made fifty years ago. At Bonneville may be seen the largest fish hatcheries in the U.S. You now cross Eagle creek, which is in the heart of the Oregon national forest reserve (open free to picnickers and campers), catching frequent splendid views of the river and mountains along the highway to Hood river. ..."

Source:    The Automobile Blue Book, 1919, "Points of Interest, Columbia River Highway"

The Highway in 1922 ...
On June 27, 1922, with the final pavement being spread at Rowena Point, the Columbia River Highway was finished. It took nine years.

America's Great Outdoors

"... The greatest scenic roadway in America is the Columbia River Highway which is the key to the treasure box of beauties and of the impelling grandeur of the gorge of the Columbia River. Portland, Oregon, is world-famed for its climate, its roses, as a residential city, and for being the threshold of enjoyment in outdoor life at its best --- fishing, hunting, boating, mountain climbing, skiing, snowshoeing and general camping. Oregon's star attraction, however, is an auto tour of a few hours over fifty miles of hardsurfaced road east to Hood River --- the home of the famous Spitzbergen Apple. The cost is very low. The highway follows the shoreline of the mighty Columbia River and along the base of tremendous cliffs over which fall the milky waters of many streams from the glaciers of Mt. Hood. Scenically this trip is without a peer in America and bears a marked resemblance to the Alps, the Rhine, and Italy with the added charm of the wild grandeur of the American Rockies. Another feature alone would make this highway famous for it is the most remarkable road-engineering feat extant. Into this land of Thanatopsis is a fifty-mile perfectly paved road, with quaint retaining walls of dry masonry, winding up over cliffs and down into meadowy valleys and crossing a dozen tubulant, milky streams from the hinterland.

Fifteen bridges, each of a different design, are crossed in ten miles of travel. Among the eleven spell-binding waterfalls are Latourell, whose waters drop 124 feet to its pool and Latourell Bridge with three 80-foot arches; Sheppard's Dell covered with white concrete arches over a chasm 140 feet high and 150 feet deep; Waukeena which is a spectacular fall of 400 feet over a tortuous course; and the climax is Multnomah with its 700-foot fall silently dropping into a picturesque moss-encircled basin, and then follows another cascade 70 feet farther on its way to the Columbia. Multnomah is the second highest cascade in the United States.

At Crown Point, 700 feet above the river is Vista House dedicated to the early pioneers and from which the auto road doubles itself five times in a space of 40 acres, describing a triple figure of eight to maintain its 5 per cent grade. At Booneville is the largest fish hatchery in the world where eggs are developed up to five or six months, when they are planted in the river to return years later to add their quota to the hundred million dollars worth of Royal Chinook which have been the yield of this food to man. We pass the fabled Bridge of the Gods and the 380-foot tunnel at Mitchell's Point where five great windows open to a vista of the river. This is destined to be even more famous than the Axenstrasse of Switzerland. A return from Hood River by steamboat gives one a more general idea of this remarkable mountain and river topography and emphasizes that this scenery is unsurpassed in grandeur and charm and that man's handiwork has here excelled in his accommodations that Americans may see it all quickly and without discomfort. ..."

Source:    Claude P. Fordyce, 1922, "America's Great Outdoors", published in "The Rotarian", May 1922

Roadhouses along the Highway ...
In the early days of the Historic Columbia River Highway roadhouses along the route were the establishments to visit, attracting the rich and famous. Chanticleer Inn, now the location of the Portland Women's Forum Scenic Viewpoint, was only 22 miles from Portland. Crown Point Chalet overlooked Vista House, an of-its-day rest stop. Nearby was the View Point Inn, established in 1925. Latourell Chalet was established in 1914 and had a brief 3-month history, and Forrest Hall and Bridal Veil Lodge were located near Bridal Veil. The still-in-existance Multnomah Falls Lodge, once known as "Simmons-By-The-Falls", was located at the beautiful Multnomah Falls, with Mist Lodge being just west of there at the base of Mist Falls. Furthest along the route was the Columbia Gorge Hotel still quite popular today.

Image, 2006, Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Columbia Gorge Hotel, Hood River, Oregon. Image taken May 10, 2006.
Images, 2005, Multnomah Falls Lodge, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Multnomah Falls Lodge, Oregon. Image taken December 10, 2005.
Image, 2009, View Point Inn, Oregon, click to enlarge
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View Point Inn, Oregon. View from Chanticleer Point (Portland Women's Forum). Image taken June 28, 2009.

Historic Mileposts ...
Historic Mile Posts (HMPs) on the Columbia River Highway:

"Mileposts were established along the CRH at the time of construction. According to a "Mile Posting Data" log of the entire highway that the Oregon State Highway Department (OSHD) prepared in 1924, HMP 0.00 was established as the intersection of SW Washington Street and SW Broadway in downtown Portland. The route leading to the beginning of the CRH and nominated district, followed Portland's arterial system for about six miles before picking up the Base Line Road (also known as Stark Street) or the Sandy Road (later known as Sandy Bouelevard). Stark Street intersected the CRH on the Sandy River (Stark Street) Bridge, at HMP 16.7. The Sandy Road crossed the Sandy River two miles downstream over the Sandy River Bridge at Troutdale before heading into the county's road system. The roadway between the Sandy River Bridge at Troutdale and the Sandy River (Stark Street) Bridge was added as a second access route to the CRH, a few years after work originally began on the highway. The Sandy River Bridge at Troutdale is 2.5 miles northwest of the Stark Street structure, so its HMP has been calculated as 14.2. For puposes of this nomination for the CRH, and the 1983 NR nomination for the CRH Historic District, HMP 14.2 was determined as the westernmost point of the nominated property."

Source:    National Historic Landmark Nomination form, 1996, Columbia River Highway.

Image, 2015, Historic Columbia River Highway, click to enlarge
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Milepost Marker 26, Latourell, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken March 30, 2015.
Image, 2014, Ainsworth State Park, Historic Columbia River Highway, click to enlarge
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Milepost Marker 35, Ainsworth State Park, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken June 5, 2014.

Water Level Highway ...
"The highway quickly brought substantial economic growth into the gorge. Soon many restaurants, retail stores, automobile service stations and motor camps were built to serve travelers. For many years the highway was a marvel to residents and tourists alike!

However, within just a few years advancing technology in transportation began to make the highway obsolete. Trucks and cars became bigger and faster making travel on the narrow, winding roadbed increasingly difficult and dangerous. By 1931 plans were already underway to make another road, but this one would be wider, have fewer curves and be closer to river bed.

Public enthusiasm for this replacement highway was tempered by a lack of funds. Aside from a new tunnel being constructed through Tooth Rock near Bonneville Dam in 1935, little more was done. Nevertheless, interest in the new highway remained strong and a portion of it was built from Troutdale to Dodson in the summer of 1949.

By 1954 the new "water-level" freeway finally reached The Dalles, but not without significant damage to the original highway."

Source:    Ken Manske, 2003, "A Travelers Guild to The Historic Columbia River Highway, M&A Tour Books, Gresham.

Since 1993 ... "Historic Columbia River Highway No.100" ...
"Beginning in the early 1950s as the state constructed more and more of the water-level route, the CRH was cut up into several secondary highways and county roads. Other parts were destroyed. Those portions still owned by the state were assigned new name and route numbers. The waterfalls section from Troutdale to Dodson just beyond Multnomah Falls, for instance, was renamed the "Crown Point Highway, No.125". The section from Mosier to The Dalles was known as the "Mosier-The Dalles Highway, No.292". Much of the route between Dodson and Hood River had been abandoned, with significant structures still in place. Some parts were destroyed. Those portions through the cities of Cascade Locks and Hood River continued to function as city streets and as business loops for Interstate 84, which also carries the designation as U.S. 30 through most of its length. Since 1993, the segmented route from Troutdale to The Dalles was renamed the "Historic Columbia River Highway (HCRH) No.100" -- a single route in the Oregon State Highway System."

Source:    National Historic Landmark Nomination Form, 1996, Columbia River Highway.

The Highway today ...
All of the western 21.6 miles of the Historic Columbia River Highway, from Troutdale to Dodson, is original except at Oneonta Gorge Creek, where in 1948 it was slightly realigned to bypass Oneonta Tunnel and cross Oneonta Gorge Creek on a 1948 reinforced-concrete girder span. All of the engineering features associated with this portion of the highway, including the original Oneonta Gorge Creek Bridge, the Oneonta Tunnel, and Interstate 84's Toothrock Tunnel, are intact. Portions of the Highway between Dodson and Hood River were sacrificed in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s for construction of the water-level route that became Interstate 84. Those discontinuous segments that remain between Dodson and Hood River, however, possess much of their original construction, including masonry walls, bridges, viaducts, and pavement. The Oregon Department of Transportation is restoring several of these segments for non-motorized use, creating the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail.

Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail ...
"The Historic Columbia River Highway was designed by Samuel Lancaster and constructed between 1913 to 1922. Its purpose was not merely to provide an east-west transportation route through the Columbia River Gorge, but to take full advantage of every natural aspect, scenic feature, waterfall, viewpoint and panorama. When bridges or tunnels were designed, they stood by themselves as artistic compliments to the landscape. The Columbia River Highway served millions of travelers and became one of the grandest highways in the nation. When transportation needs required faster and larger roads, sections of the old highway were bypassed. By 1960, a new interstate highway had replaced nearly all of the older road. The four-mile stretch of old highway between Hood River and Mosier, including the Mosier Twin Tunnels, was closed, filled with rock and abandoned. In the 1980s, new interest in the old scenic highway began to resurface. Lost sections of highway were identified, unearthed and studied for potential renovation. Some portions of the original route were covered by I-84 when it was built. An ambitious restoration began with the removal of rock from the Mosier Twin Tunnels. Restoration took several months. When workers were done, several surprises were unearthed, such as graffiti dating back to 1921 (when drivers were snowbound for several days). By The highway is owned and maintained by ODOT; the state trail is managed by the Parks and Recreation Department. In 2000, the highway was designated a National Historic Landmark, and in 2002, the state trail was designated a National Recreation Trail."

Acreage: 259.9

Source:    Oregon State Parks and Recreation website, 2015.


Image, 2014, Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, click to enlarge
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Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail near Tooth Rock. View looking east. Image taken June 5, 2014.

Follow the Route ...
Today folks can follow the general route of the Historic Columbia River Highway from Troutdale to The Dalles, visiting many of the scenes and places travelers have enjoyed these past 100 years.

[Follow the Route]

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, ...

Columbia River GorgeReturn to




*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:    Friends of Vista House website, 2004;    Manske, K., 2003, "A Travelers Guild to The Historic Columbia River Highway, M&A Tour Books, Gresham;    McArthur, L.A., and McArthur, L.L., 2003, Oregon Geographic Names, Oregon Historical Society Press;    Mershon, C.E., 2006, "The Columbia River Highway, From the Sea to the Wheat Fields of Eastern Oregon, 1913-1928", Guardian Peaks Enterprises, Portland;    Oregon Department of Transportation website, 2004;    Oregon State Parks and Recreation website, 2015;    "PDXHistory.com" website, 2006;    "Rotarian", May 1922;    U.S. Forest Service website, 2004, "Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area";    U.S. National Park Service website, 2004;

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.
© 2014, Lyn Topinka, "ColumbiaRiverImages.com", All rights reserved.
Images are NOT to be downloaded from this website.
April 2015