Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Multnomah Falls, Oregon"
Includes ... Multnomah Falls ... Multnomah Creek ... Multnomah Falls Lodge ... Benson Bridge ... National Register of Historic Places ... Shady Creek Falls ... Columbia River Basalt Group (CRBG) ... Missoula Floods ... Multnomah Hazelwood ...
Image, 2005, Multnomah Falls, Oregon, Benson Bridge, click to enlarge
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Multnomah Falls, Oregon, Benson Bridge. Image taken March 6, 2005.

"... we passed several beautifull cascades which fell from a great hight over the stupendious rocks which cloles the river on both sides nearly ... the most remarkable of these casscades falls about 300 feet perpendicularly over a solid rock into a narrow bottom of the river on the south side. it is a large creek, situated about 5 miles above our encampment of the last evening. several small streams fall from a much greater hight, and in their decent become a perfect mist which collecting on the rocks below again become visible and decend a second time in the same manner before they reach the base of the rocks. ..." [Lewis, April 9, 1806]


Multnomah Falls ...
Multnomah Falls, at 620 feet, is the second highest year-round waterfall in the United States, the first being Yosemite Falls in California. Nearly two million visitors a year come to see Multnomah Falls, making it Oregon's number one tourist place. The falls is fed by underground springs from Larch Mountain. Benson Bridge, built in 1914, crosses Multnomah Creek between the Upper and Lower Multnomah Falls. Multnomah Falls is one of many falls in the Columbia River Gorge which can be seen from the Historic Columbia River Highway. Multnomah Falls can also be reached via Interstate 84 which provides parking and access to the falls area. Downstream from Multnomah Falls are Wahkeena Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. Crown Point and Rooster Rock, other popular Oregon Gorge locations, are further downstream. Upstream are Oneonta Gorge and Horsetail Falls. Multnomah Falls is located at Columbia River Mile (RM) 136.

Imag5, 2004, Multnomah Falls, Oregon, Benson Bridge, click to enlarge
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Multnomah Falls, Oregon, Benson Bridge. Image taken March 6, 2005.


Multnomah Falls Geology ...
Multnomah Falls drops 620 feet over Grande Ronde Basalt of the Columbia River Basalt Group (CRBG). The two drops of Multnomah Falls were produced because of a more easily eroded zone at the base of the upper falls.
"... Observations of waterfalls over Columbia River basalt have shown that falls often occur where flows are flat lying or dipping upstream. This condition allows blocks produced by vertical joints to remain stable until support is widhdrawn by erosion of softer interflow material at the base of individual flows. The rate of erosion of interflow areas probably largely controls the rate of retreat of the falls. ... The amphitheater-shaped valleys common to many of the falls within the Gorge are due to the freeze-thaw action of water from the splash mist that has penetrated the joints. ..." [Norman and Roloff, 2004]

At Multnomah Falls the visitor can view six lava flows in the cliff face, with pillow flows being visible in the upper sequence near the lip of the Upper Falls. Five more flows of Grande Ronde basalt can be seen along Multnomah Creek along the trail above the falls. The cliff of Multnomah Falls was enhanced by the flood waters of the Missoula Floods thousands of years ago when the flood waters eroded away softer material, highlighting the spectacular cliff face.


Imag5, 2004, Multnomah Falls Lava Flows, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Multnomah Falls, Benson Bridge, and lava flows. Image taken March 6, 2005.


Lewis and Clark and Multnomah Falls ...
Lewis and Clark passed by Multnomah Falls on November 2, 1805, and again on their return on April 9, 1806.

"... Saw a number of Spring runs flowing from the high clifts and Mountains. Some of which falls off about 100 feet perpinticular ..." [Ordway, November 2, 1805]

"... We passed a creek which lay on the So. side of the River, & a great number of springs & Spring runs flowing from the Clifts & mountains which lay high & fell from off these Clifts & Mountains upwards of 100 feet into the River.    The high Clifts & rocks lies on both sides of the River. ..." [Whitehouse, November 2, 1805]

"... on our way to this village we passed several beautifull cascades which fell from a great hight over the stupendious rocks which cloles the river on both sides nearly, except a small bottom on the South side in which our hunters were encamped. the most remarkable of these casscades falls about 300 feet perpendicularly over a solid rock into a narrow bottom of the river on the south side. it is a large creek, situated about 5 miles above our encampment of the last evening. several small streams fall from a much greater hight, and in their decent become a perfect mist which collecting on the rocks below again become visible and decend a second time in the same manner before they reach the base of the rocks. ..." [Lewis, April 9, 1806]

Image, 2005, Multnomah Falls in October, click to enlarge
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Autumn Colors, Multnomah Falls, Oregon. Image taken October 22, 2005.


"Multnomah" ...
According to the State of Oregon's "Blue Book", the name "Multnomah" is derived from "nematlnomaq", probably meaning "downriver".

In 1805, Lewis and Clark made note of the Indian village called "Multnomah" on Sauvie Island.

"... and 12 Leagues below quick Sand river passed a village of four large houses on The Lard. Side, ..." [Clark, November 4, 1805]

Moulton writes the "Multnomah" are:

"... An Upper Chinookan-language group living on Sauvie Island ("Multnomahs" on "Wappâto Island" on Atlas map 80), Multnomah County. The term is Chinookan má?numa(x?), "(those) at/toward the body of water." They are identified by tribe on Atlas maps 80, 88 ..."


According to H.H. Riddell, in his article "The Lesser Waterfalls Along the Columbia" (Mazama, December 1916, vol.V, no.1, p.84):

"... Multnomah falls, narrowly escaped being named after the earlier name of the creek and dubbed "Coon Creek falls" . ..."

Early Bridge ...
In the late 1800s a wooden bridge spanned Multnomah Falls in the location of today's Benson Bridge.
"... For years prior to construction of the Multnomah Falls Footbridge, at least as early 1883, a timber bowstring truss bridge spanned the falls at the present bridge's location. No doubt it was a favorite stop for passengers traveling on the nearby Oregon-Washington Railroad and navigation Co. (OWRN) main line running east from Portland, or on steamboat excursions up the Columbia. By at least 1891, the bridge was reinforced with additional timber bracing and cables but it vanished by 1899. ["ColumbiaRiverHighway.com" website, 2006]

Benson Bridge ...
In 1914 the "Benson Bridge" came into existence. The Bridge, crossing between the upper falls and the lower falls, was built by Simon Benson, a prominent businessman and owner of Multnomah Falls at that time. The bridge was crafted by Italian stone masons. Before then, a log bridge was in its place. Simon Benson eventually gave the 300-acre Multnomah Falls site to the City of Portland, and in 1943, final ownership of the Falls and the Lodge was transferred to the United States Forest Service. Benson State Recreation Area (often called Benson State Park) was also named after Simon Benson and is located downstream of Multnomah Falls.

Image, 2005, Multnomah Falls, Oregon, Benson Bridge, click to enlarge
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Multnomah Falls, Oregon, Benson Bridge. Image taken March 6, 2005.
Image, 2004, Multnomah Falls, Oregon, Benson Bridge, click to enlarge
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Multnomah Falls, Oregon, Benson Bridge. Image taken June 27, 2004.


Views ...

Image, 2005, Multnomah Falls, Oregon, Benson Bridge, click to enlarge
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Multnomah Falls, Oregon, with Benson Bridge. Image taken October 22, 2005.
Image, 2005, Benson Bridge, click to enlarge
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Benson Bridge across the Multnomah Falls. Image taken October 22, 2005.
Image, 2005, Benson Bridge and Lower Multnomah Falls, click to enlarge
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Benson Bridge and Lower Multnomah Falls from the Historic Columbia River Highway Bridge. Image taken October 22, 2005.
Image, 2005, Multnomah Falls, top of Lower Falls, click to enlarge
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Bottom of Upper Falls, Multnomah Falls, Oregon, with Benson Bridge. Image taken October 22, 2005.
Image, 2005, Multnomah Falls, top of Lower Falls, click to enlarge
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Top of Lower Falls, Multnomah Falls, Oregon. Image taken October 22, 2005.
Image, 2005, Multnomah Falls in October, click to enlarge
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Autumn Colors, Multnomah Falls, Oregon. Image taken October 22, 2005.


Multnomah Falls, etc.

  • Historic Columbia River Highway ...
  • Multnomah Creek ...
  • Multnomah Falls Lodge ...
  • Multnomah Hazelwood ...
  • "Shady Creek Falls" ...
  • Tourism ...
  • Upper Pool and Lower Pool ...
  • View from Washington State ...
  • Winter ...


Historic Columbia River Highway ...
Multnomah Falls is located along the Historic Columbia River Highway.
[More]

Penny Postcard, Multnomah Falls, Oregon
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Penny Postcard: Columbia River Highway at Multnomah Falls.
Penny Postcard, White Border, Divided Back (1915-1930), "Viaduct near Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Highway, Oregon.". Published by The Oregon News Co., Portland, Oregon. Card #8320. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Caption on back: "Highway Showing Castle Rock in the Distance. Here the highway parallels the Columbia River and motorists pass in safety and comfort where heretofore pioneers struggled with hardships and privations. Castle Rock, formerly known as Beacon Rock, so named because it was to those old pioneers a beacon pointing the way to the end of their toilsome journey, can easily be distinguished in the background to the left."
Penny Postcard, Multnomah Falls, Oregon
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Penny Postcard: Columbia River Highway at Multnomah Falls.
Penny Postcard, White Border, Divided Back (1915-1930), "Along the Columbia Highway, Oregon.". Published by The Oregon News Co., Portland, Oregon. Card #O-12. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Caption on back: "The Columbia River Highway extends 45 miles east of Portland paralleling the Columbia River. It is carved in most parts from the sides of the mountains through Columbia River Gorge where cliffs and mountains, water falls and cataracts, valleys and forests afford to the tourist a spectacle of scenic grandeur."
Image, 2015, Historic Columbia River Highway, click to enlarge
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West Multnomah Falls Viaduct, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken October 22, 2015.
Images, 2005, Multnomah Creek, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Multnomah Creek, Oregon, flowing beneath the Historic Columbia River Highway Bridge. Image taken October 22, 2005.
Image, 2005, Historic Columbia River Highway, click to enlarge
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East Multnomah Falls Viaduct, Historic Columbia River Highway at Multnomah Falls. Image taken June 29, 2005.
Image, 2005, Historic Columbia River Highway, click to enlarge
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East Multnomah Falls Viaduct, Historic Columbia River Highway at Multnomah Falls. Image taken June 29, 2005.
Image, 2012, Historic Columbia River Highway, click to enlarge
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East Multnomah Falls Viaduct, Historic Columbia River Highway at Multnomah Falls. East Viaduct. View shot from moving car. Image taken June 15, 2012.
Image, 2012, Historic Columbia River Highway, click to enlarge
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East Multnomah Falls Viaduct, Historic Columbia River Highway at Multnomah Falls. East Viaduct. View shot from moving car. Image taken March 13, 2012.


Multnomah Creek ...
Multnomah Creek enters the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 136.
[More]

Images, 2005, Multnomah Creek, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Multnomah Creek, Oregon. Image taken October 22, 2005.
Images, 2005, Multnomah Creek, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Multnomah Creek, Oregon. Image taken October 22, 2005.


Multnomah Falls Lodge ...
The Multnomah Falls Lodge is located at Multnomah Falls, Oregon. It was built in 1925 as an overnight rest area on the Historic Columbia River Highway. Originally the lodge had dormitories and four rooms for the overnight stays. As early as 1927 the building was enlarged, and again in 1929 the striped awning patio gained permanent walls and became part of the building. In 1981 the Multnomah Falls Lodge and Footpath were listed on the National Register of Historic Places (Building #81000512). Every type of rock found in the Columbia River Gorge is represented in the Lodge.
[More]

Images, 2005, Multnomah Falls Lodge, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Multnomah Falls Lodge, Oregon. Image taken March 6, 2005.
Images, 2006, Multnomah Falls Lodge, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Christmas, Multnomah Falls Lodge, Oregon. Image taken December 23, 2006.


"Multnomah Hazelwood" ...
The "Multnomah Hazelwood" was an ice-cream shop located along the Historic Columbia River Highway at Multnomah Falls. Open 365 days a year, the Hazelwood was built in 1916 and torn down in 1919. For a time, a Union Depot Station was connected to the Ice Cream shop.
[More]

Penny Postcard, Multnomah Falls, Oregon
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Penny Postcard: Columbia River Highway at Multnomah Falls.
Penny Postcard, White Border, Divided Back (1915-1930), "View in front of Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Highway, Oregon.". Published by The Oregon News Co., Portland, Oregon. Card #27. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


Shady Creek Falls west of Multnomah Falls ...
Visible just west of Multnomah Falls behind Multnomah Lodge is an unnamed falls, which according to "Waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest" website (2005), is locally called "Shady Creek Falls". Shady Creek Falls flows into Multnomah Creek. Good views of this falls can be had from the Multnomah Falls parking lot between the east bound and west bound lanes of Interstate 84. Shady Creek Falls is a tiered falls, 200 feet high and 10 feet wide, with 2 drops.
[More]

Images, 2005, Shady Creek Falls west of Multnomah Falls, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Shady Creek Falls, located west of Multnomah Falls, Oregon. View from Multnomah Falls parking lot. Image taken October 22, 2005.


Tourism ...
Multnomah Falls is Oregon's most visited tourist attraction, having over 2 million visitors each year (2005).

Image, 2009, Multnomah Falls, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Multnomah Falls, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon. Image taken July 5, 2009.
Image, 2004, Multnomah Falls, Oregon, upper falls, from parking, click to enlarge
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Multnomah Falls, Oregon, upper falls, from parking lot off of I-84. Image taken June 27, 2004.
Image, 2009, Multnomah Falls, Oregon, Benson Bridge, click to enlarge
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Multnomah Falls, Tourists, and the Benson Bridge. Image taken July 5, 2009.
Image, 2009, Multnomah Falls, Oregon, Benson Bridge, click to enlarge
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Multnomah Falls, Tourists, and the Benson Bridge. Image taken July 5, 2009.
Image, 2009, Multnomah Falls, Oregon, Benson Bridge, click to enlarge
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Multnomah Falls, Tourists, view from the Benson Bridge. The Columbia River and the hills of Washington State are in the background. Image taken July 5, 2009.


Upper Pool and Lower Pool ...

Image, 2009, Multnomah Falls, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Upper pool, Multnomah Falls, Oregon. View from the Benson Bridge. Image taken July 5, 2009.
Images, 2005, Pool, Multnomah Falls, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Lower Pool, Multnomah Falls, Oregon. Image taken October 22, 2005.


View from Washington State ...
Views of Multnomah Falls can be seen from St. Cloud Wayside, and along the road in the Prindle area of Washington State.

Image, 2005, Multnomah Falls from St. Cloud Wayside, click to enlarge
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Multnomah Falls, Oregon, as seen from St. Cloud Wayside, Washington. Image taken June 29, 2005.
Image, 2005, Multnomah Falls, Oregon, upper falls, from Prindle, Washington, click to enlarge
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Multnomah Falls, Oregon, upper falls, from Prindle, Washington. Image taken April 2, 2005.


Winter ...
A cold snap and freezing weather makes for great views of frozen waterfalls on both sides of the Columbia River Gorge, including Multnomah Falls.
[More]

Images, 2005, Multnomah Falls, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Winter, Multnomah Falls, Oregon. Image taken December 10, 2005.
Images, 2005, Multnomah Falls, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Winter, Multnomah Falls and Benson Bridge, Oregon. Image taken December 10, 2005.
Images, 2005, Multnomah Falls, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Winter, Multnomah Falls Pool, Oregon. Image taken December 10, 2005.
Images, 2005, Multnomah Falls, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Winter, Benson Bridge, Multnomah Falls, Oregon. Image taken December 10, 2005.


"The Golden Age of Postcards" ...

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


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 2, 1805 ...





Lewis, April 9, 1806 ...




Columbia River GorgeReturn to
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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, 2004

Sources:
  • Beeson and Tolan, 1987;
  • National Register of Historic Places website, 2005;
  • Norman, D.K., and Roloff, J.M., 2004, A Self-Guided Tour of the Geology of the Columbia River Gorge -- Portland Airport to Skamania Lodge, Stevenson, Washington: Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources, Open-File Report 2004-7, March 2004;
  • Oregon Blue Book website, 2005;
  • "PDXHistory.com" website, 2006;
  • Riddell, H.H., 1916, "The Lesser Waterfalls Along the Columbia": IN: Mazama, December 1916, vol.V, no.1.;
  • U.S. Forest Service website, 2004;
  • Waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest website, 2005;


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.
/Regions/Places/multnomah_falls.html
September 2010