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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Martin Bluff, Washington"
Includes ... Martin Bluff ...
Image, 2006, Martin Bluff, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Martin Bluff and Interstate 5. View heading north as northbound lanes rise onto the bluff. Southbound lanes (left) are seen descending the bluff. Image taken December 2, 2006.


Martin Bluff ...
Martin Bluff is located on the Washington side of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 79. Upstream are Martin and Burke Islands and Woodland, Washington. Downstream is Kalama and the Kalama River. Across the Columbia on the Oregon side lies Deer Island. Today Interstate 5 passes across Martin Bluff, while the tracks of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad skirt the base.

Early Martin Bluff ...
Martin Bluff is mentioned, but not named, in the 1792 journals of Lieutenant Broughton of the George Vancouver expedition.

"... this point, which is high and rocky ..." [Broughton, October 28, 1792]

In 1805 Lewis and Clark made note of Martin Bluff as they journeyed down the Columbia. The "2 Small Island, below" refer to Burke and Martin Islands.

"... 2 Small Islands, below, here we met 2 canoes from below,- below those Islands a range of high hills form the Stard. Bank of the river, the Shore bold and rockey, Covered with a thick groth of Pine ..." [Clark, November 5, 1805]

Martins and Burk(e)s ...
Robert Hitchman gives information about the naming of Martin Bluff in Place Names of Washington (1985, Washington State Historical Society):

"... Martins Bluff (Section 34, T.6N, R.1W): This settlement is 4 miles southeast of Kalama on the Columbia River, extreme southwest Cowlitz County. It was named by Northern Pacific Railway officials for William S. Martin who settled here in 1872. ..."

The Cowlitz County Washington GenWeb Project website however references Guy Ramsey's Postmarked Washington: Lewis and Cowlitz County (1978, Lewis County Historical Society, p.166) which lists William H. Martin as being the "Martin" the bluff is named after.

"... Martins Bluff was located about four miles southeast of Kalama on the Columbia River. It was named for William H. Martin, who established a post office which operated here from 1868 to 1916. ..."

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management's General Land Records website (GLO) lists many Martins.

  • GLO shows a William H. Martin gaining title to nearly 1,500 acres of Townships 5N and 6N and Range 1W, between 1865 and 1872, in particular parts of T6N R1W Section 34 (the area of today's Martin Bluff) between 1871 and 1872.
  • GLO lists a William S. Martin as being granted title to 40 acres of T6N R1W, Section 28, on November 15, 1870, and William S. Martin and Richard Wilcox being granted title to 160 acres of T6N R1W, Sections 22 and 27, on December 9, 1871 (nearby the bluff).

In the area of Martin and Burke Islands (T5N R1W, Sections 3 and 10), GLO lists William H. Martin begin granted title to 177.09 acres of T5N R1W, Section 10, on July 2, 1866, and a William H. Martin and Rhoda Martin being granted title to 443.19 acres of T5N R1W, Sections 3, 4, and 10, on September 20, 1867. William H. Martin was also granted title to 125.25 acres of T5N R1W Sections 2 and 3, and T6N R1W Section 34, on August 1, 1872.

GLO also shows a couple of years earlier James A. Burk was granted titles to 59.86 acres of T5N R1W Sections 3 and 10, on April 1, 1865, 159.52 acres of T5N R1W, Section 10, on December 22, 1865, and 144.33 acres of T5N R1W Sections 2 and 3, on September 1, 1869. Burk also had numerous other listings for acreage in the area between 1865 and 1869.

Other 1860s GLO listings for the "Martin" name in the area show title being granted to "Francis D Heirs of Martin" for 302.1 acres of T6N R1W, Sections 33 and 34, on September 20, 1867, "William L. Martin" being granted title to 40 acres of T6N R1W, Section 28, on December 20, 1867, and a couple of miles south "John G. Martin" being granted title to 194.17 acres of T5N R1W, Sections 25, 26, and 35, on July 2, 1866.

The 1870 Cowlitz County Census shows no listing for any Martins or Burks (odd considering all of the GLO entries). The 1880 Cowlitz County Census shows a Rhoda Martin, widow, age 66, born in Ohio, and her son Willam S. Martin, farmer, age 33, born in Ohio, his wife Elizabeth, age 25, born in Oregon, and their two children Rosella, age 5, and Herbert L., age 2, both born in Washington State. The 1880 Census also shows James A. Burke, farmer, age 47, born in New York, and his wife Abbe Burke, age 37, born in Ohio, and their 12 children, ranging in age from 20 to one month, all born in Washington State.

The 1854 cadastral survey (tax survey) for T5N R1W shows a "Martin" farming the southermost tip of what is today's Martin Island.


Views ...

Image, 2006, Martin Bluff, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Martin Bluff and Interstate 5, heading south. View heading south down off the bluff looking towards the Columbia River. Martin Island is on the right. Image taken December 2, 2006.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 5, 1805 ...
Rained all the after part of last night, rain continues this morning, I [s]lept but verry little last night [Post Office Lake, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge] for the noise Kept dureing the whole of the night by the Swans, Geese, white & Grey Brant Ducks &c. on a Small Sand Island [one of the islands of the Ridgefield Refuge] close under the Lard. Side; they were emensely noumerous, and their noise horid- we Set out <at about Sun rise> early here the river is not more than 3/4 of a mile in width, passed a Small Prarie on the Stard. Side [quite possibly the location of today's Campbell Lake] passed 2 houses about 1/2 a mile from each other on the Lard. Side a Canoe came from the upper house, with 3 men in its mearly to view us, passed an Isld. Covered with tall trees & green briers [Bachelor Island] Seperated from the Stard. Shore by a narrow Chanel [Lake River or Bachelor Island Slough] at 9 [8?] miles I observed on the Chanel [Lake River or Bachelor Island Slough] which passes on the Stard Side of this Island [Bachelor Island] a Short distance above its lower point is Situated a large village [Cathlapotle Village, near where Lewis and Clark camped on March 29, 1806, a place now known as Wapato Portage], the front of which occupies nearly 1/4 of a mile fronting the Chanel, and closely Connected, I counted 14 houses in front here the river widens to about 1 1/2 miles. ...    about 1 1/2 miles below this village on the Lard Side behind a rockey Sharp point [Warrior Point, Sauvie Island], we passed a Chanel 1/4 of a mile wide [Multnomah Channel] which I take to be the one the Indian Canoe entered yesterday from the lower point of Immage Canoe Island [Hayden Island, at this point Lewis and Clark had not discovered Hayden Island and Sauvie Island were two separate islands]     a Some low clifts of rocks below this Chanel [St. Helens, Oregon], a large Island Close under the Stard Side opposit [Lewis River floodplain, home of Woodland, Washington, possibly more of an "island" in 1805 ???], and 2 Small Islands, below [today's Burke and Martin Islands], here we met 2 canoes from below,- below those Islands a range of high hills form the Stard. Bank of the river [Martin Bluff], the Shore bold and rockey, Covered with a thick groth of Pine     an extensive low Island [Deer Island], Seperated from the Lard side by a narrow Chanel, on this Island we Stoped to Dine I walked out found it open & covered with <Small> grass interspersed with Small ponds, in which was great numbr. of foul, the remains of an old village on the lower part of this Island, I saw Several deer ...     below the lower point of this Island [Deer Island] a range of high hills which runs S. E. forms the Lard. bank of the river the Shores bold and rockey & hills Covered with pine, [Lewis and Clark are passing Goble, Oregon, and the area around the Trojan Nuclear Power Facility     The high hills leave the river on the Stard. Side a high bottom between the hill & river [Kalama, Washington]. We met 4 Canoes of Indians from below, in which there is 26 Indians, one of those Canoes is large, and ornimented with Images on the bow & Stern. That in the Bow the likeness of a Bear, and in Stern the picture of a man- we landed on the Lard. Side & camped [near Prescott Beach, Oregon] a little below the mouth of a creek [Kalama River] on the Stard. Side a little below the mouth of which is an Old Village which is now abandaned-;     here the river is about one and a half miles wide. and deep, The high Hills which run in a N W. & S E. derection form both banks of the river the Shore boald and rockey, the hills rise gradually & are Covered with a thick groth of pine &c. The valley [Columbian Valley] which is from above the mouth of Quick Sand River [Sandy River] to this place may be computed at 60 miles wide on a Derect line, & extends a great Distanc to the right & left rich thickly Covered with tall timber, with a fiew Small Praries bordering on the river and on the Islands; Some fiew Standing Ponds & Several Small Streams of running water on either Side of the river; This is certainly a fertill and a handsom valley, at this time Crouded with Indians. The day proved Cloudy with rain the greater part of it, we are all wet cold and disagreeable- I saw but little appearance of frost in this valley which we call <Wap-pa-too Columbia> from the root or plants growing Spontaniously in this valley only ...     We made 32 miles to day by estimation-





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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: Cowlitz County WA GenWeb Project website, 2006; "Rootsweb.com" website, 2006; U.S. Bureau of Land Management website, 2006, General Land Office (GLO) Records;

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