Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Interstate 82/395 Bridge"
Includes ... Interstate 82/395 Bridge ... "Columbia River Bridge at Umatilla" ... "Umatilla Bridge" ...
Image, 2003, Columbia River, Sillusi Butte, Washington, and Interstate 82/395, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Columbia River, Sillusi Butte, Washington, and Interstate 82/395 Bridge. Sillusi Butte and the Interstate 82/395 Bridge crossing the Columbia River, as seen from Umatilla, Oregon. Image taken September 26, 2003.


Interstate 82/395 Bridge ...
The Interstate 82/395 Bridge crosses the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 291, just upstream of the Umatilla River and downstream of the McNary Dam and Sillusi Butte, a "knob" mentioned by Lewis and Clark. The bridge spans the Columbia River between Umatilla, Oregon, and Plymouth, Washington.

Crossing the Bridge ...

Image, 2006, Interstate 82/395 Bridge looking towards Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Interstate 82/395 Bridge heading north. Image taken September 29, 2006.
Image, 2006, Interstate 82/395 Bridge looking towards Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Interstate 82/395 Bridge heading south. Image taken October 2, 2006.
Image, 2006, Interstate 82/395 Bridge looking towards Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Interstate 82/395 Bridge heading south. Image taken October 2, 2006.
Image, 2006, Interstate 82/395 Bridge looking towards Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Interstate 82/395 Bridge heading south. Image taken October 2, 2006.


Bridge History ...
The construction of McNary Dam influenced the choice of Umatilla for a Columbia River crossing. Transportation systems changed when railroad lines and the old Wallula Highway were inundated by Lake Wallula, the reservoir behind the dam. In 1952, five bridges and eight ferries crossed the Columbia from the river's mouth at Astoria, Oregon, to Pasco, Washington. The bridge at Umatilla was proposed to connect the states of Washington and Oregon, passing through the rapidly developing, newly irrigated Columbia River areas, and connecting Umatilla, Oregon, with Plymouth, Washington.

The 1954, construction on the "Columbia River Bridge at Umatilla" began. It was completed the following year. The "Interstate 82/395 Bridge" is located a short distance west of McNary Dam. The 3,308-feet-long bridge today carries southbound traffic on Washington's Interstate 82 across the river into Oregon. In 1984 a second bridge was completed adjacent and east of the 1955 bridge. Today the newer bridge carries all northbound traffic while the 1955 bridge carries southbound lanes.

The Plymouth, Washington end of the 1955 bridge consists of two 90-foot and five 100-foot steel riveted plate girder approach spans, and a five-span continuous truss segment crossing the river. The configuration of the truss spans is unusual to take advantage of a submerged island near the middle of the Columbia. This resulted in the use of two 600-foot spans connected by a shorter 120-foot span supported on the island's rock outcrop. This is the only bridge in Washington having two spans constructed using that method. Total cost of construction, land acquisition, engineering and bond interest was $10 million. In November 1974, tolls were removed, and Washington and Oregon assumed joint ownership of the bridge.


Umatilla and Paterson Ferries ...
The new bridge between Umatilla, Oregon, and Plymouth, Washington, replaced two privately-owned ferries -- one between Umatilla, Oregon, and Plymouth, Washington, and the other between Paterson, Washington, and just south of Irrigon, Oregon.

"The privately owned ferry at Umatilla carried 178,576 vehicles in 1951. The high number of vehicles was due to the closure of U.S. Highway No. 730 above McNary Dam. The equipment for the ferry consisted of two unpowered steel barges that were propelled by light tug boats, the first with a capcity for 14 passenger autos, the second with a capacity for 11 passenger autos. The Paterson ferry on the Washington shore was also privately owned, and carried 146,498 vehicles in 1951. The equipment for this ferry consisted of three unpowered barges, propelled by light tug boats, with capacities for 8 and 12 passenger autos. Both ferries operated without a schedule according to traffic needs. The crossing time was about five minutes with a ten minute average wait. Both ferries went out of business when the Umatilla Bridge was built." [Center for Columbia River History website, 2005]

Views of the Bridge ...

Image, 2004, Interstate 82/395 Bridge, from McNary Dam Overlook, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Interstate 82/395 Bridge, from McNary Dam Overlook, Umatilla, Oregon. Plymouth, Washington, is in the background and Umatilla, Oregon, in the foreground. Image taken September 24, 2004.
Image, 2005, Interstate 82-395 Bridge from Plymouth Park, Washington, with McNary Dam, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Interstate 82/395 Bridge with McNary Dam, from Plymouth Park, Plymouth, Washington. Image taken May 24, 2005.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

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

Sources: Center for Columbia River History website, 2004, 2005; Tri-City Herald website, 2004; Umatilla Chamber of Commerce 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.
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September 2008