Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"John Day River, Clatsop County, Oregon"
Includes ... John Day River ... "Ke-ke-mar-que Creek" ... "Swan Creek" ... Campsite of March 23, 1806 ...
Image, 2004, John Day River, Clatsop County, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
John Day River, Clatsop County, Oregon. Image taken May 25, 2004.


John Day River (Clatsop County) ...
The John Day River, located in Clatsop County, Oregon, is one of two rivers in Oregon named for John Day, a member of William Price Hunt's Astoria overland expedition of 1811 to 1812. The other John Day River is located over 200 miles upstream, east of The Dalles, Oregon. The John Day River in Clatsop County enters Cathlamet Bay east of Tongue Point at approximately Columbia River Mile (RM) _____. Lewis and Clark called this lower John Day River "Ke-ke-mar-que Creek", their interpretation of the Indian name for the river.

Lewis and Clark and the John Day River ...
Lewis and Clark's campsite of March 23, 1806, was along the banks of Cathlamet Bay, on the east side of Tongue Point just before reaching the mouth of the John Day River (Clatsop County). Their camp was located on the right bank of a small creek, today called "Mill Creek".
[More]

Early John Day River ...
Lewis and Clark's Route Map [Moulton, vol.1, map#82] has the John Day River labeled "Ke-ke-mar-que Creek".

In 1841, Charles Wilkes, of the U.S. Exploring Expedition, called the John Day River "Swan Creek". Wilkes' map ["Sheet No.2 of Columbia River from Astoria to Katalamet Head"] shows "Swan Creek" emptying into "Swan Bay", today's Cathlamet Bay.

According to "Oregon Geographic Names" (2003, McArthur and McArthur):

"This stream, like the other of the same name, in eastern Oregon, was named for John Day of the Astor-Hunt overland party of 1811-1812. ... John Day Point, just east of the river, takes its name from the stream. Lewis and Clark mention the river in their journals for November 27, 1805, and give an Indian name, Kekemarke. Wilkes, in "U.S. Exploring Expedition" (v.23, Hydrography, atlas), shows this as Swan Creek. There was formerly a railroad station near this river originally called John Day, but some years later it was changed to Van Dusen in honor of the pioneer family of Astoria."

John Day River in 1940 ...
From the Oregon State Archives "A 1940 Journey Across Oregon":

"... US 30 crosses the little JOHN DAY RIVER, 97.9 m., another stream named for the unfortunate Astorian of whom Robert Stuart says as he camped a few miles up the Columbia: "evident symptoms of mental derangement made their appearance in John Day one of my Hunters who for a day or two previous seemed as if restless and unwell but now uttered the most incoherent absurd and unconnected sentences. . . . it was the opinion of all the Gentlemen that it would be highly imprudent to suffer him to proceed any farther for in a moment when not sufficiently watched he might embroil us with the natives, who on all occasions he reviled by the appellations Rascal, Robber &c &c &c " ..."


John Day County Park and Boat Ramp ...
The 54-acre John Day County Park and Boat Ramp is located approximately five miles east of Astoria and is on the west bank of the John Day River. The Park is accessed from Oregon Highway 30.

Views from Oregon Highway 30 ...

Image, 2013, John Day River, Clatsop County, Oregon, looking downstream, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
John Day River, Clatsop County, Oregon, as seen from Oregon Highway 30. Looking downstream. Image taken August 13, 2013.
Image, 2013, John Day River, Clatsop County, Oregon, looking downstream, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
John Day River, Clatsop County, Oregon, as seen from Oregon Highway 30. Looking downstream. Image taken August 13, 2013.


Views ...

Image, 2004, John Day River, Clatsop County, Oregon, looking downstream, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
John Day River, Clatsop County, Oregon. Looking downstream from near mouth. Image taken May 25, 2004.
Image, 2004, John Day River, Clatsop County, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
John Day River, Clatsop County, Oregon. Image taken May 25, 2004.
Image, 2004, John Day River, Clatsop County, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
John Day River, Clatsop County, Oregon. Image taken May 25, 2004.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 27, 1805 ...
Rained all the last night and this morning it Continues moderately [the men are camped in Cathlamet Bay near the Twilight Eagle Sanctuary, today part of the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge] ...    we proceded on between maney Small Islands [west end of Cathlamet Bay] passing a Small river [John Day River, Clatsop County] of [blank] yds wide which the Indians Call ____ [Biddle added the notation Kekemar<qu>ke] and around a verry remarkable point [Tongue Point] which projects about 1 1/2 Miles directly towards the Shallow bay [Grays Bay] the isthmus which joins it to the main land is not exceding 50 yards and about 4 Miles around. we call this Point William [Tongue Point]

below this point [Tongue Point] the waves became So high we were Compelled to land unload and traw up the Canoes, here we formed a Camp on the neck of Land which joins Point William [Tongue Point] to the main at an old indian hut. The rain Continued hard all day we are all Wet and disagreeable. one Canoe Split before we Got her out of the Water 2 feet- The water at our Camp Salt that above the isthmus fresh and fine-






Clark, December 2, 1805 ...
Cloudy with Some rain this morning I Send out three men to hunt & 2 & my man york in a Canoe up the Ke-ke-mar-que Creek in [John Day River, Clatsop County] Serch of fish and fowl ...     The party up the Creek returned without any thing and informs me they could not See any fish in the Creek to kill and the fowls were too wild to be killed, this must be owing to their being much hunted and pursued by the Indians in their Canoes.





Clark, March 24, 1806 ...
Sent out 15 men verry early this morning for the flesh of the two Elk killed by Drewyer and Fields yesterday. they returned at 8 oClock ...     Set out at half past 9 a. m. [from their camp at Mill Creek, on the east side of Tongue Point] and proceeded [South Channel, along the shore of Cathlamet Bay. They pass the John Day River, the location of today's Twilight Eagle Sanctuary, and today's Svensen Island] to the Cath lah mah Village [near Knappa, Oregon] at 1 P. M. and remained untill after 3 p. m. at this village ...     we proceeded on through Some difficult and narrow Channels [possibly Knappa Channel] between the Seal Islands [islands in Cathlamet Bay, today part of the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge], and the south side to an old village on the south side opposit to the lower War ki a com village [Skamokawa, Washington], and Encamped [Aldrich Point]. to this old villg. ...     Soon after we made our Camp 2 Indians visited us from the opposite Side, one of them Spoke Several words of English and repeeted the names of the traders, and many of the Salors.     made 16 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:    Clatsop County, Oregon, website, 2016, Parks;    McArthur, L.A., and McArthur, L.L., 2003, Oregon Geographic Names, Oregon Historical Society Press, Portland;    Oregon State Archives website, 2009, "A 1940 Journey Across Oregon";   

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