Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Home Regions Campsites Penny Postcards My Corps of Discovery Image Index Links About This Site Birds etc.
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"McNary Dam and the Umatilla Rapids"
Includes ... McNary Dam ... Umatilla Rapids ... "Muscle Shell Rapid" ... Lake Wallula ... Mount Adams ...
Image, 2004, McNary Dam from overlook, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
McNary Dam. McNary Dam spanning the Columbia River from just upstream Umatilla, Oregon, to upstream Plymouth, Washington. Image taken from Dam overlook, Oregon, off of Highway-730. Sillusi Butte is the high point visible on the Washington State side of the dam. Image taken September 24, 2004.


McNary Dam ...
The McNary Dam is located at Columbia River Mile (RM) 292.5, at the head of Lake Umatilla, the reservoir created by the John Day Dam. McNary Dam spans the Columbia River from Umatilla, Oregon, to Plymouth, Washington, at a location once known as the "Umatilla Rapids". Lewis and Clark refered to these rapids as the "Muscle Shell Rapids". Immediately downstream of McNary Dam is McNary Wildlife Nature Area and the Interstate 82/395 Bridge. Sillusi Butte is on the Washington side below the dam and was noticed by Captain Clark. Upstream from McNary Dam can be found McNary Beach, Warehouse Beach, and Sand Station, all managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Hat Rock and Boat Rock are also located upstream of McNary Dam on the Oregon side. Lake Wallula, the reservoir behind McNary Dam, extends 64 miles upstream and reaches as far as the mouth of the Yakima River. Lewis and Clark first passed through this area on October 19, 1805, and again on their return in April, 1806, where they camped downstream of McNary Dam near Plymouth, Washington.

McNary Dam History ...
In 1945, Congress authorized construction of a dam at the Umatilla Rapids, naming it after the late U.S. Senator, Charles McNary. It awarded the first contract for construction in April, 1947. By 1950, part of the lock, fishway and spillway rose above ground on the Washington shore. A year later barges headed upriver. Construction was completed in 1954, with all power units in operation by February 1957. McNary Dam is 7,365 feet long, and rises approximately 183 feet above the streambed. It consists of a concrete structure with an earthfill embankment at the Oregon (south) abutment. The spillway is a concrete, gravity-type spillway dam, 1,310 feet long, and contains twenty-two 50x51 feet vertical lift gates. The dam's crest is at elevation 291 mean sea level, which is designed to pass a design flood of 2,200,000 cubic feet per second. The dam is located at Columbia River Mile 292, and raises the normal water surface about 85 feet. The project was originally called the Umatilla Dam, but the River and Harbor Act of 1945 renamed the dam in honor of the late Senator Charles L. McNary (U.S. Senator from Oregon, 1917-1944).

Views ...

Image, 2004, McNary Dam from overlook, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
McNary Dam. McNary Dam spanning the Columbia River from just upstream Umatilla, Oregon, to upstream Plymouth, Washington. Image taken from Dam overlook, Oregon, off of Highway-730. Sillusi Butte is the high point visible on the Washington State side of the dam. Image taken September 24, 2004.
Image, 2005, McNary Dam from McNary Beach, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
McNary Dam from McNary Beach, Oregon. Sillusi Butte is in the background. Lake Wallula extends 64 miles behind the McNary Dam. Image taken September 25, 2005.
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.


McNary Dam, etc.

  • Lake Wallula ...
  • Lewis and Clark spot Mount Adams ...
  • Sillusi Butte ...
  • Umatilla Rapids ...


Lake Wallula ...
Lake Wallula lies directly behind McNary Lock and Dam. It extends 64 miles upstream to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hanford Site (about 27 miles above Pasco, Washington), on the Columbia River.
[More]

Image, 2005, Looking downstream from McNary Beach, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
McNary Dam, McNary Beach, and Lake Wallula, Oregon. McNary Dam and Sillusi Butte are in the background. Image taken September 25, 2005.
Image, 2005, McNary Beach, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Lake Wallula from McNary Beach, Oregon. Image taken September 25, 2005.


Lewis and Clark spot Mount Adams ...
Lewis and Clark first see Mount Adams on October 19, 1805, while in the Umatilla region, although they mistakenly think it is Mount St. Helens. They also spot Mount Hood to the southwest.

"... Saw a high mountain covered with snow West this we Suppose to be Mt. <Hood> St Helens in dist. ... a Single Mountn. bears S. W. from the Muscle Shell rapid. ..." [Clark, October 19, 1805, first draft]

"... I assended a high clift about 200 feet above the water 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 a range of mountains in the Derection crossing, a conacal mountain S. W. toped with Snow ..." [Clark, October 19, 1805]

"... we discovred a verry high round mountain a long distance down the River which appears to have Snow on the top of it. ..."[Ordway, October 19, 1805]

"... Country around level plains except Some hills & clifts along the Shores. we discovred a high hill or mountn a long distance down the River which appears to have Snow on it ..." [Whitehouse, October 19, 1805]

"... The Country as we passed along is level plains, and along some part of the Shores are some hills & Clifts. We discovered a high hill or mountain laying a long distance down the River which appears to have Snow on it. ..." [Whitehouse, October 19, 1805]

On a clear day Mount Adams can best be seen at Umatilla, Oregon, from two overlooks to the McNary Dam.


Image, 2005, Mount Adams from McNary Dam Overlook, Umatilla, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Mount Adams from McNary Dam Overlook, Umatilla, Oregon. Mount Adams is very faint, just left of the middle of the horizon. Top of the peak sticks up above the haze layer. Image taken September 25, 2005.


Sillusi Butte ...
Sillusi Butte is located on the Washington State side of the Columbia River and overlooks McNary Dam. Lewis and Clark first passed through the Sillusi Butte area on October 19, 1805. Captain Clark commented on the "knob" across the river.
[More]

Image, 2005, McNary Dam and Sillusi Butte from McNary Beach, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
McNary Dam and Sillusi Butte, from McNary Beach, Oregon. Image taken September 25, 2005.


Umatilla Rapids ...
Throughout history, the name "Umatilla Rapids" has had a couple of locations. An 1858 military recon map and 1863 exploration and survey map have "Umatilla Rapids" located the downstream side of the Umatilla River. However, the 1908 USGS 1:125,000 topographic map has the location of "Umatilla Rapids" the upstream side of the Umatilla River, and "Devil's Bend Rapids" on the downstream side of the Umatilla River. The "Umatilla Rapids" mentioned by Lewis and Clark in 1805 is the upstream rapids, and labeled "Muscle Shell Rapid" on the route map [Moulton, vol.1, map#75].

"... 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 ..." [Clark, October 19, 1805]

"... This rapid I observed as I passed opposit to it to be verry bad interseped with high rock and Small rockey Islands, here I observed banks of Muscle Shells banked up in the river in Several places. ..." [Clark, October 19, 1805]

Image, 2004, McNary Dam and Umatilla Rapids, from overlook, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
McNary Dam and the location of the Umatilla Rapids. View from Dam overlook, Oregon, Highway 730, approximate location of the downstream end of the Umatilla Rapids, Lewis and Clark's "Muscle Shell Rapid". Image taken September 24, 2004.
Image, 2004, Washington banks from upstream McNary Dam, from overlook, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Washington banks, upstream of McNary Dam. View from Dam overlook, Oregon, Highway 730, approximate location of the downstream end of the Umatilla Rapids, Lewis and Clark's "Muscle Shell Rapid". Image taken September 24, 2004.


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





Columbia PlateauReturn to
Menu
 



SNAKE RIVER CONFLUENCE | COLUMBIA PLATEAU
COLUMBIA RIVER GORGE | VANCOUVER PLAINS | JOURNEY TO THE PACIFIC
CASCADE RANGE VOLCANOES | CAMPSITES


HOME | REGIONS | PENNY POSTCARDS | MY CORPS OF DISCOVERY
IMAGE INDEX | LINKS | ABOUT THIS SITE


COLUMBIA RIVER IMAGES - HOME
NORTHWEST JOURNEY - HOME
NORTHWEST BIRDING
RIDGEFIELD NWR - BIRDS
COMPLETE BIRD LIST - PHOTOS
THE BARLOW ROAD
WILDFLOWERS and WEED BLOSSOMS



*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, 2004.

Sources: Center for Columbia River History website, 2004; University of Washington Library Archives website, 2004; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Walla Walla District 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.
ColumbiaRiverImages.com/Regions/Places/mcnary_dam.html
© 2014, Lyn Topinka, "ColumbiaRiverImages.com", All rights reserved.
Images are NOT to be downloaded from this website.
September 2008