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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Mount Coffin, Washington"
Includes ... Mount Coffin ... Coffin Rock ... The Golden Age of Postcards ...
Penny Postcard, Weyerhaeuser Mill, with Mount Coffin, ca.1930
Click image to enlarge
Detail, Penny Postcard: Weyerhaeuser Mill with Mount Coffin, ca.1930.
Penny Postcard, ca.1930, "Weyerhaeuser Lumber Mills, Lower Columbia River, Longview, Wash.". Mount Coffin is in the background. Published by Wesley Andrews, Inc., Portland, Oregon. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Image, 2003, Mount Coffin location, Washington, from Rainier, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Location of Mount Coffin, Longview, Washington. Flat area (behind barge on left) is all that is left of what use to be a 240-foot-high hill. The Weyerhaueser Mill is on the right. View from Rainier, Oregon. Image taken August 2, 2003.


Mount Coffin ...
Mount Coffin, once a 240-foot-high hill, was located at Columbia River Mile (RM) 65, three miles downstream of the mouth of the Cowlitz River. Lewis and Clark called this feature a "remakable knob".

"... I had like to have forgotten a verry remarkable Knob rising from the edge of the water to about 80 feet high, and about 200 paces around at its Base and Situated (on the long narrow Island) above and nearly opposit to the 2 Lodges we passed to day, it is Some distance from the high land & in a low part of the Island ..." [Clark, November 6, 1805]

"... The Cow e lis kee river is 150 yards wide, is deep and from Indian information navigable a very conslderable distance for canoes.     it discharges itself into the Columbia about 3 miles above a remarkable knob which is high and rocky and Situated on the North Side of the Columbia, and Seperated from the Northern hills of the river by a Wide bottom of Several Miles, to which it united ..." [Clark, March 27, 1806]

Mount Coffin no longer exists as it was quarried and leveled, and its former location is now part of the flatland of the Port of Longview and the Weyerhauser Mill. Mount Solo is nearby. The Lewis and Clark Bridge, linking Longview, Washington, with Rainier, Oregon, is approximately one mile upstream from where "the knob" use to be. Upstream on the Oregon side lies Coffin Rock, another Indian burial location and often confused with Mount Coffin.


Mount Coffin Location ...

Image, 2007, Mount Coffin location, Washington, from Rainier, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Location of Mount Coffin, Longview, Washington. Flat area (behind barges on left) is all that is left of what use to be a 240-foot-high hill. The Weyerhaueser Mill is on the right. View from Rainier, Oregon. Image taken January 30, 2007.
Image, 2007, Mount Coffin location, Washington, from Rainier, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Location of Mount Coffin, Longview, Washington. Flat area (behind barges) is all that is left of what use to be a 240-foot-high hill. The Weyerhaueser Mill is on the right. View from Rainier, Oregon. Image taken January 30, 2007.


Mount Coffin in 1792 ...
Mount Coffin was named by Lieutenant Broughton in 1792.

"... on the northern shore was a remarkable mount, about which were placed several canoes, containing dead bodies; to this was given the name of Mount Coffin ..." [Broughton, October 17, 1792]

Mount Coffin in 1811 ...
From: Gabriel Franchere, 1854, Narrative of a Voyage to the Northwest Coast of America, in the years 1811, 1812, 1813, and 1814, or the First American Settlement on the Pacific: Redfield, New York.

"... [May 3, 1811] ... We passed a large village on the south bank, called Kreluit, above which is a fine forest of oaks; and encamped for the night, on a low point, at the foot of an isolated rock, about one hundred and fifty feet high. This rock appeared to me remarkable on account of its situation, reposing in the midst of a low and swampy ground, as if it had been dropped from the clouds, and seeming to have no connection with the neighboring mountains. On a cornice or shelving projection about thirty feet from its base, the natives of the adjacent villages deposite their dead, in canoes; and it is the same rock to which, for this reason, Lieutenant Broughton gave the name of Mount Coffin. ..."

From: Alexander Ross, 1849, Adventures of the First Settlers on the Oregon or Columbia River: being a Narrative of the Expedition Fitted out by John Jacob Astor, to establish the "Pacific Fur Company;" with an account of some Indian Tribes on the Coast of the Pacific: Smith, Elder, and Co., London.

"... [July 23, 1811] ... On the 23rd, after a restlss night, we started, stemming a strong and almost irresistible current by daylight. Crossing to the north side, not far from our encampment, we passed a small rocky height, called Coffin Rock, or Mount Coffin, a receptacle for the dead: all over this rock --- top, sides, and bottom --- were placed canoes of all sorts and sizes, containing relics of the dead, the congregated dust of many ages.

Not far from Mount Coffin, on the same side, was the mouth of a small river, called by the natives Cowlitz, near which was an isolated rock, covered also with canoes and dead bodies. This sepulchral rock has a ghastly appearance, in the middle of the stream, and we rowed by it in silence; then passing Deer's Island, we encamped at the mouth of the Wallamitte. ..."

Ross calls Mount Coffin both Mount Coffin and Coffin Rock. The unnamed "isolated rock" is today's Coffin Rock, located on the Oregon side of the Columbia River.


Early Mount Coffin ...
The 1825 map of the Hudson's Bay Company called "Columbia River, Surveyed 1825" (printed 1826), showed the location of "Mount Coffin", while Coffin Rock, on the Oregon side of the Columbia, was labeled "Corpse Rock".

Mount Coffin Bench Marks, 1913 through 1961 ...
In 1913 U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey placed a Bench Mark on Mount Coffin.

"STATION IS ON THE SUMMIT OF A ROCK CALLED MOUNT COFFIN, ABOUT 4.5 METERS FROM THE NORTHERN EDGE OF THE ROCK, WHICH IS NEARLY VERTICAL ON THAT SIDE, AND 227 FEET ABOVE TIDEWATER. THE STATION IS MARKED BY A DRILL HOLE FILLED WITH LEAD IN A ROCK LEVEL WITH THE SURFACE OF THE GROUND. THE REFERENCE MARK IS A STANDARD DISK REFERENCE MARK SET IN AN IRREGULAR PIER OF CONCRETE, THE TOP OF WHICH IS SPHERICAL IN SHAPE AND PROJECTS 6 TO 8 INCHES ABOVE THE GROUND. THERE IS A TRIANGULAR BLAZE ON AN OAK TREE DISTANT 23.3 METERS N 89 DEG 25 MIN W, AND A SIMILAR BLAZE ON A LARGE SPRUCE TREE DISTANT 9.83 METERS N 89 DEG 14 MIN W."

Station Recovery (1924): "RECOVERY NOTE BY COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY 1924 COULD NOT RECOVER STATION. IT HAS APPARENTLY BEEN LOST THROUGH THE FALLING AWAY OF A CLIFF ON THE N SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN."

Station Recovery (1934): "RECOVERY NOTE BY COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY 1934, STATION IS LOST AS A ROCK CRUSHER IN OPERATION AT THE SCENE HAS BLASTED AWAY MOST OF THE HILL, LEAVING AT THE PRESENT A VERY NARROW PORTION OF THE NORTHERN CREST."



A second Bench Mark was established.

"DESCRIBED BY COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY 1936, STATION IS NEAR THE HIGHEST PORTION OF A ROCK CALLED MOUNT COFFIN. QUARRY OPERATIONS HAVE REDUCED THIS ROCK TO A FRACTION OF ITS FORMER SIZE, AND IF CONTINUED AT THE PRESENT RATE, THE ROCK WILL ENTIRELY DISAPPEAR WITHIN A FEW YEARS. STATION MARK IS A STANDARD BRONZE DISK WEDGED IN A DRILL HOLE IN OUTCROPPING BEDROCK ... NO REFERENCE MARKS WERE PLACED."

Station Recovery (1937), "RECOVERY NOTE BY COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY 1937, STATION RECOVERED AS DESCRIBED. STATION WILL BE LOST WITHIN SEVERAL YEARS, AS ROCK IS BEING BLASTED AWAY FOR USE IN CONSTRUCTION."

Station Recovery (1961), "RECOVERY NOTE BY COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY 1961, THIS STATION HAS BEEN DESTROYED BY THE OPERATION OF THE ROCK QUARRY. THIS STATION IS LOST."

Station Recovery (1961): "RECOVERY NOTE BY COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY 1961, THIS STATION WAS DESTROYED SEVERAL YEARS AGO WHEN THERE WAS A ROCK QUARRY IN OPERATION AT THIS LOCATION. STATION IS LOST."


Mount Coffin in 1942 ...
From the 1942 NOAA "Coast Pilot":

"Mount Coffin, formerly 248 feet high, is being quarried away. In 1941, it was about one-half its original size."



"The Golden Age of Postcards" ...

The early 1900s was the "Golden Age of Postcards". The "Penny Postcard" became a popular way to send greetings to friends and family. Today the Penny Postcard has become an snapshot of history.

Penny Postcard, Weyerhaeuser Mill, with Mount Coffin, ca.1930
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Weyerhaeuser Mill with Mount Coffin, ca.1930.
Penny Postcard, ca.1930, "Weyerhaeuser Lumber Mills, Lower Columbia River, Longview, Wash.". Mount Coffin is in the background. Published by Wesley Andrews, Inc., Portland, Oregon. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Weyerhaeuser Mill, with Mount Coffin, ca.1930
Click image to enlarge
Detail, Penny Postcard: Weyerhaeuser Mill with Mount Coffin, ca.1930.
Penny Postcard, ca.1930, "Weyerhaeuser Lumber Mills, Lower Columbia River, Longview, Wash.". Mount Coffin is in the background. Published by Wesley Andrews, Inc., Portland, Oregon. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 6, 1805, first draft ...
a cold wet morning. rain Contd. untill [blank] oClock     we Set out early [from Prescott Beach, Oregon, area] & proceeded on the Corse of last night &c.

N. 50° W. 1 mile
on the Lard. Side under Some high land.    bold rockey Shore

N. 60° W. 1 mile
under a bold rockey Shore on the Lard Side, opsd. the upper point of a Island [Cottonwood Island] close under the Stard Side the high lands closeing the river on that Side [Carrolls Bluff]    above river wide


N. 75° W. 12 miles
to a point of high land on the Lard Side, passed two Lodges on the Lard Side at 2 miles in a bottom, The high land [Carrolls Bluff] leave The river on the Stard. Side.    passd. a remarkable Knob of high land on the Stard. Side at 3 miles Close on the Waters edge [Mount Coffin, Lewis and Clark missed the Cowlitz River mouth]...    passed a Island nearest the Lard. Side at 10 mile [Walker Island] the head of a Isd. on Std. [Fisher Island] opposit High Cliffs [Green Point, location of today's Mayger, Oregon], with Several Speces of Pine Cedars &c. arber vita & different Species of under groth.

N. 80° W. 2 miles
under a high clift on the Lard Side [Green Point, location of today's Mayger Island]     the lower point of the Island on Stard. [Fisher Island] opposit those hills are Covered thickly ...

N. 88° W. 5 miles
to a high Clift a little below an old village in the Stard. bend [possibly Bunker Hill, the location of today's Stella, Washington] and opposit an old village on a Lard. point of a handsom & extensive bottom [Beaver Slough/Clatskanie River bottom].     passed a Island in the middle of the river 3 miles long and one wide [Crims Island], passed a Small Island Close on the Stard. Side [Gull Island] & a lower point of a former Isld. below which the lands high & with Clifts to the river Stard. Side

S. 45° W. 5 miles
under a Clift of verry high land on the Stard. side [possibly the Oak Point and Eagle Cliff area] wind high a head. ...

S. 50° W. 1 mile
under a high rockey Hill of pine. The Indians leave us, Steep assent, Som Clifts

S. 75° W. 1 mile
under a high hill with a bold rocky Shore, high assent     river about 1 mile wide

West 1 mile
under a high Steep hill bold rockey Shore, Encampd under the hill on Stones [near Cape Horn of Wahkiakum County] Scercely land Sufficent between the hills and river Clear of the tide for us to lie. Cloudy & rain all wet and disagreeable. this evening made large fires on the Stones and dried our bedding. ...



Clark, November 6, 1805 ...
A cool wet raney morning we Set out [from their camp at Prescott Beach] early at 4 miles pass 2 Lodges of Indians in a Small bottom on the Lard Side I believe those Indians to be travelers. opposit is <the head of a long narrow Island close under the Starboard Side [Cottonwood Island], back of this Island two Creeks fall in about 6 miles apart,> [Cowlitz River delta, Longview, Washington. Today the "two Creeks" are the Cowlitz River and Coal Creek Slough.] and appear to head in the high hilley countrey to the N. E. opposit <this long Island is 2 others one Small and about the middle of the river> the other larger and nearly opposit its lower point [today the location of Walker Island and Lord Island complex], and opposit a high clift of Black rocks [Green Point, location of Mayger, Oregon] on the Lard. Side at 14 miles; ...     here the hills leave the river on the Lard. Side, a butifull open and extensive bottom [Clatskanie River delta] in which there is an old Village, one also on the Stard. Side a little above both of which are abandened by all their inhabitents except Two Small dogs nearly Starved, and an unreasonable portion of flees— The Hills and mountains are covered with Sever kinds of Pine— ...     Some willow on the waters edge,   passed an Island 3 miles long and one mile wide [Crims Island ... Crims Island is separated from the Oregon shore by the Bradbury Slough.], <one> close under the Stard. Side below the <long narrow Island> below which the Stard Hills are verry from the river bank and Continues high and rugid on that Side all day, ... [Lewis and Clark pass, but do not mention today's Germany Creek, Abernethy Creek, and Mill Creek]     we came too to Dine on the long narrow Island [Crims Island] found the woods So thick with under groth that the hunters could not get any distance into the Isld. ...     river about one mile wide hills high and Steep on the Std. [cliffs of Oak Point] no place for several Miles suffcently large and leavil for our camp we at length Landed at a place [Eagle Cliff and Cape Horn, Wahkiakum County] which by moveing the Stones we made a place Sufficently large for the party to lie leavil on the Smaller Stones Clear of the Tide     Cloudy with rain all day we are all wet and disagreeable, had large fires made on the Stone and dried our bedding and Kill the flees, which collected in our blankets at every old village we encamped near     I had like to have forgotten a verry remarkable Knob [Mount Coffin, Longview, Washington, now destroyed] riseing from the edge of the water to about 80 feet high, and about 200 paces around at its Base and Situated <on the long narrow Island> [Longview, Washington area, the Cowlitz River delta] above and nearly opposit to the 2 Lodges we passed to day, it is Some distance from the high land & in a low part of the Island [Cowlitz River delta]






Clark, March 27, 1806 ...
a rainey disagreeable night     rained the greater part of the night     we Set out this morning verry early [from their camp on Walker Island] and proceeded on to two houses of the Skil-lute Indians on the South Side [downstream of Rainier, Oregon] here we found our hunters who had Seperated from us last evening.     the wind rose and the rain became very hard Soon after we landed here we were very friendly receved by the natives who gave all our party as much fish as they Could eate, ...     resumed our voyage at 12 oClock. The principal village of the Skil-lutes is Situated on the lower Side of the Cow-e-lis kee river [Cowlitz River] a fiew miles from it's enterance into the Columbia. ...     The Cow e lis kee river [Cowlitz River] is 150 yards wide, is deep and from Indian information navigable a very conslderable distance for canoes. it discharges itself into the Columbia about 3 miles above a remarkable knob [Mount Coffin] which is high and rocky and Situated on the North Side of the Columbia, and Seperated from the Northern hills of the river by a Wide bottom of Several Miles, to which it united [today the cities of Longview and Kelso, Washington]. I Suspect that this river Waters the Country lying west of a range of Mountains which passes the Columbia between the Great falls and rapids, and North of the Same nearly to the low country which Commences on the N W. Coast about Latitude 4o [blank] North. ...     at the distance of 2 miles above the village at which we brackfast we passed the enterance of this river [Cowlitz River]; we Saw Several fishing camps of the Skillutes on both Sides of the Columbia, and also on both Sides of this river. ...     late in the evening we passed the place we Camped the 5th of Novr. [Prescott Beach] and Encamped about 4 miles above at the Commencement of the Columbian Vally on the Stard. Side [near Goble, Oregon] below Deer Island [Deer Island, Oregon]. ...

[between Prescott Beach and Goble lies Coffin Rock, a basalt feature on the south side of the Columbia, now located on property owned by the Trojan Nuclear Facility]

Saw Cotton wood, Sweet Willow, w[hite] oake, ash and the broad leafed ash the Growth which resembles the bark &c. these form the groth of the bottom lands, whilst the Hills are almost exclusively Covered with the various Species of fir heretofore discribed. the black alder appears on Maney parts of the hills Sides as on the bottoms. before we Set out from the 2 houses where we brackfast we Sent on two Canoes with the best hunters, with orders to pro ceed as fast as they Could to Deer island [Deer Island, Oregon] and there to hunt and wait our arrival. we wish to halt at that place and repare 2 of our Canoes if possible. the Indians that visited us this evining remained but a Short time, they passed over to an Island [Sandy Island ???] and encamped. the night as well as the day proved Cold wet and excessively disagreeable. we Came 20 miles in the Course of this 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:    NOAA National Geodetic Survey website, 2007; NOAA Office of Coast Surveys website, 2004; Washington State Historical Society website, 2013;

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