Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Mill Creek, The Dalles, Oregon"
Including ... Mill Creek ... The Dalles ... Rock Fort ...
Image, 2013, Mill Creek, The Dalles, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Mill Creek, The Dalles, Oregon, as seen from moving car, 10th Street bridge. Image taken April 22, 2013.


Mill Creek ...
Rock Fort, a Lewis and Clark campsite in both 1805 and 1806, was located just west of Mill Creek at The Dalles, Oregon. Lewis and Clark called the creek "Que-nett Creek".

"... we Came too, under a high point of rocks on the Lard. Side below a creek of 20 yards wide and much water, as it was necessary to make Some Selestial observations we formed our Camp on the top of a high point of rocks, which forms a kind of <artif> fortification in the Point between the river & Creek, with a boat guard, ... This litle Creek heads in the range of mountains which run S S W & N W for a long distance on which is Scattering pine white Oake &c. The Pinical of the round toped mountain which we Saw a Short distance below the forks of this river is S. 43 W. of us and abt 37 miles, it is at this time toped with Snow we called this the falls mountain or Timm mountain. ..." [Clark, October 25, 1805]

"... The wind increased in the evening and blew verry hard from the Same point W. day fair and Cold - The Creek at which we are Encamped is Called by the natives- Que-nett ... <Falls M> The pinical of Falls mountain bears S 43 W. about 35 miles ..." [Clark, October 27, 1805, first draft]

"... The nativs Call this Creek near which we are encamped Que-nett. ..." [Clark, October 27, 1805]

"... 3 in the evening we arivied at the enterance of Quinnett Creek which we assended a Short distance and Encamped at the place we had Called rock fort Camp. ..." [Clark, April 15, 1806]

Downstream of Mill Creek is Chenoweth Creek and upstream is Fifteenmile Creek. Chenoweth Creek is where Oregon Trail travelers would group before building rafts and floating down the Columbia River.


Early Mill Creek ...
McArthur and McArthur in Oregon Geographic Names (2003) gives a brief history of Mill Creek.

"... The neighborhood of Mill Creek, which flows into the Columbia River at The Dalles, was called Quenett by the local Indians, which was a name for salmon trout. When the government decided to establish Fort Dalles, an officer was sent to build a sawmill to be operated by mule power. Upon his arrival he found a small waterpower site and built a mill on this stream, now known as Mill Creek, just north of the present site of the bridge on 9th Street. The writer is informed that the officier was court-martialed and discharged from the service for disobeying orders and not using mule power. Dr. William C. McKay [in 1869 ] is authority for the statement that the mouth of Mill Creek was called Will-look-it by the Indians. This meant looking through an opening or gap. ..."

Image, 2013, Mill Creek, The Dalles, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Mill Creek, The Dalles, Oregon, looking downstream from the 6th Street bridge. Image taken May 8, 2013.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark October 25, 1805, first draft ...
passed great numbers of rocks, good water and Came to at a high <bluff> point of rocks below the mouth of a Creek [Mill Creek, The Dalles, Oregon] which falls in on the Lard Side and head up towards the high Snow mountain [Mount Hood] to the S W.     this Creek [Mill Creek] is 20 yards wide and has Some beaver Signs at its mouth     river about 1/2 a mile wide and Crouded with Sea otters, & drum was Seen this evening     we took possession of a high Point of rocks to defend our Selves [Rock Fort] in Case the threts of those Indians below Should be put in execution against us. Sent out Some hunters to look if any Signs of game, one man killed a Small deer & Several others Seen     I killed a goose, and Suped hartily on venison & goose. Camped on the rock [Rock Fort]     guard under the hill.


Clark, October 25, 1805 ...
a cool morning [their camp was near Horsethief Butte] Capt Lewis and my Self walked down to See the place the Indians pointed out as the worst place in passing through the gut, which we found difficuelt of passing without great danger, but as the portage was impractiable with our large Canoes, we Concluded to Make a portage of our most valuable articles and run the canoes thro accordingly on our return divided the party Some to take over the Canoes, and others to take our Stores across a portage of a mile to a place on the Chanel below this bad whorl & Suck, with Some others I had fixed on the Chanel with roapes to throw out to any who Should unfortunately meet with difficuelty in passing through; great number of Indians viewing us from the high rocks under which we had to pass, the 3 first Canoes passed thro very well, the 4th nearly filled with water, the last passed through by takeing in a little water, <we> thus Safely below what I conceved to be the worst part of this Chanel, felt my Self extreamly gratified and pleased. we loaded the Canoes & Set out, and had not proceeded, more than two mile before the unfortunate Canoe which filled crossing the bad place above, run against a rock and was in great danger of being lost, This Chanel is through a hard rough black rock, from 50100 yards wide. Swelling and boiling in a most tremendious maner Several places on which the Indians inform me they take the Salmon as fast as they wish; we passed through a deep bason to the stard Side ["Big Eddy", today Spearfish Lake] of 1 mile below which the River narrows and divided by a rock The Curent we found quit jentle, ...    we landed ...     we proceeded on down the water fine, rocks in every derection for a fiew miles when the river widens and becoms a butifull jentle Stream of about half a mile wide, Great numbers of the Sea Orter [Harbor Seals] about those narrows and both below and above. we Came too, under a high point of rocks on the Lard. Side below a creek [Mill Creek] of 20 yards wide and much water, as it was necessary to make Some Selestial observations we formed our Camp on the top of a high point of rocks [Rock Fort], which forms a kind of <artif> fortification in the Point between the river & Creek [Mill Creek], with a boat guard, this Situation we Concieve well Calculated for defence, and Conveniant to hunt under the foots of the mountain to the West & S. W. where timber of different kinds grows, and appears to be handsom Coverts for the Deer, in oke woods, ...   

This litle Creek [Mill Creek] heads in the range of mountains which run S S W & N W for a long distance on which is Scattering pine white Oake &c. The Pinical of the round toped mountain which we Saw a Short distance below the forks of this river is S. 43 W. of us and abt 37 miles, it is at this time toped with Snow we called this the falls mountain or Timm mountain [Mount Hood].     The face of the Countrey, on both Side of the river above and about the falls, is Steep ruged and rockey open and contain but a Small preportion of erbage, no timber a fiew bushes excepted, The nativs at the upper falls raft their timber down Towarnehooks River [Deschutes River] & those at the narrows take theirs up the river to the lower part of the narrows from this Creek, and Carry it over land 3 miles to their houses &c. at the mouth of this creek ...






Clark, April 15, 1806 ...
We delayed this morning [their camp was near Dog Mountain] untill after brackfast in order to purchase Some horses of the Indians; accordingly we exposed Some articles in exchange for horses the nativs were unwilling to exchange their horses, we put up our merchindize and at 8 A M. Set out. we halted a fiew minutes at the Sepulchar rock [Memaloose Island] and examined the deposit of the dead at that place. those were Constructed in the Same manner of those already described below the rapids. Some of them were more than half filled with dead bodies. there were 13 Sepulchers on this rock which Stands near the Center of the river, and has a Cerface of about two acres above the water.. from hence we returned to the Northern Shore and Continued up it about 4 miles to a Village at the enterance of Cateract River [Klickitat River, today Lyle, Washington, is located at the mouth of the Klickitat.], here we halted and informed the nativs of our wish to purchase horses; the produced Several for Sale but would not take the articles we had in exchange for them. they wanted an instriment which the Northw Traders call an eye dag which we had not. we precured two dogs and departed we also halted at the two villages of the Chil luck kitequaws a fiew Ms. above with no better Sucksess. at 3 in the evening we arivied at the enterance of Quinnett Creek [Mill Creek, The Dalles, Oregon] which we assended a Short distance and Encamped at the place we had Called rock fort Camp [Rock Fort]. here we were visited by Some of the people from the Villages at the long Narrows [Fivemile Rapids] & Falls [Celilo Falls]. we informed them of our wish to purchase horses, and agreed to meet them on the opposit or north Side on tomorrow for the purpose of bartering with them. ...     after we landld and formed our Camp this evening Drewyer and some oths took a hunt and killed a Deer of the log tailed kind. it was a Buck and the young deer horns had Shot foth about two inches made [blank] miles to day.




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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: Columbia Gorge Discover Center website, 2006; National Register of Historic Places 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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March 2013