Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Oak Point, Washington and Oak Point, Oregon"
Includes ... Oak Point, Washington ... Oak Point, Oregon ...
Image, 2007, Oak Point, Washington, from Mill Creek, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Oak Point, Washington, from Mill Creek. View from car driving west on Washington State Highway 4. The Columbia River is on the left. Image taken January 28, 2007.


Oak Point(s) ...

The first "Oak Point" was named in 1792 by Lieutenant Broughton, and was located on the Washington side of the Columbia River west of the location of today's Woodland, at Columbia River Mile (RM) 83.

The next "Oak Point" was located on the Oregon side of the Columbia River, today the location of Port Westward, at RM 53.

Today's "Oak Point" is located on the Washington side of the Columbia River at RM 53, in Cowlitz County. This Oak Point is located fourteen miles west (downstream) of Longview, just past Abernethy Creek (RM 54) and Mill Creek (RM 53.5). Downstream of Abernethy Creek is County Line Park and Wahkiakum County's Eagle Cliff. Across the river is today's Port Westward.


The First "Oak Point" ... (Washington)
The earliest "Oak Point" was named so by Lieutenant Broughton of the George Vancouver Expedition. On October 28, 1792, he gave the name"Oak Point" to a spot on the Washington side of the Columbia River, which, in the 1930s, J. Neilson Barry identified as the location of today's Caples Landing, Woodland, Washington, Columbia River Mile (RM) 83.

"Here were three openings stretching in an easterly direction; formed by two small woody islands, on one which was a grove of tall and strait poplars. These were distinguished by the name of Urry's Islands. Abreast of these is a shoal that joins the south side of the river, and renders the passage close to their shores very narrow; beyond them the river, now about a quarter of a mile wide, is free from obstruction, ... to another point, about four miles to the south of the above mentioned high one, where, for the first time in this river, some oak-trees were seen, one of which measured thirteen feet in girth; this therefore, obtained the name of Oak Point. ... About three miles and a half from Oak point Mr. Broughton arrived at another, which he called Point Warrior." [Lieut. Broughton, October 28, 1792]

"The name Urry's Islands was given to Martin and Burke's islands, and Caples Landing was named Oak Point. In later years this name was transferred to a point on the Oregon side some distance down the river. More recently it was again transferred across the river and is now the name of a village in Cowlitz County, Washington." [Barry, J.N., 1932, "Columbia River Exploration, 1792", IN: Oregon Historical Quarterly, 1932]

"In 1792 William Broughton applied the name Oak Point to a place on the Washington side of the Columbia River a little below the present community of Saint Helens. This Oak Point seems to have been in the same locality as Caples Landing." [McArthur and McArthur, 2003]

The Second "Oak Point" ... (Oregon)
On March 26, 1806, the Lewis and Clark expedition passed through this area and Captain Lewis entered a comment in his journal about the oak trees on the tip of "Fannys Bottom", today the location of Port Westward on the Clatskanie River/Beaver Slough delta.

"... after dinner we proceeded on and passed an Elegant and extensive bottom on the South side and an island near it's upper point which we call Fanny's Island and bottom. the greater part of the bottom is a high dry prarie.   near the river towards the upper point we saw a fine grove of whiteoak trees ..." [Lewis, March 26, 1806]

On June 1, 1810, Nathan Winship, William Smith, and others of the Winship expedition on the ship Albatross came upon this a grove of oak trees on the south bank of the Columbia River, and named the locality "Oak Point". This point was west of and across Bradbury Slough from the west end of Crims Island, the location of today's Port Westward.

"Oak Point: On June 1, 1810, Nathan Winship, William Smith, and others of the Winship expedition on the ship Albatross came upon a grove of oak trees on the south bank of the Columbia River. These were the first oaks the party had found since entering the river on May 26, and the locality was named Oak Point. This point is west of and across Bradbury Slough from the west end of Crims Island, where the Beaver ammunition shipping depot was located during World War II and the Portland General Electric Company auxiliary generating plant was built in the 1970s. See Port Westward." [McArthur and McArthur, 2003]

"Point Westward: During World War II, this was the location of the Beaver Ammunition Depot, a major army shipping point for the Pacific Theater of operations. ..." [McArthur and McArthur, 2003]

In "The Manuscript Journals of Alexander Henry and of David Thompson, 1799-1814", edited by Elliott Coues (published 1897):

"Jan 11th, 1814. At 6 a.m. we embarked ... At 9.30 a.m. we put ashore to breakfast below Oak point ... At eleven we embarked and passed the village at Oak point, which stands on the S. side of the river, on an extensive stretch of low land [Fanny's bottom], several miles long and about six miles broad, which in summer is overflowed. The banks are lined with oak, liard, alder, and other wood common to these parts. The dwellings here consist of one long range of houses, parallel with the river. ... About two miles above there is a delightful spot of low meadow, thinly shaded by large spreading oaks, in the rear of which lies an extensive marshy meadow. This spot would be an eligible situation for an establishment; far enough from the sea to be safe from ships of war, central for trade and the fisheries, and the natives good, quiet people. Unfortunately, all the low lands are overflowed in summer, and the adjoining high lands are steep and rugged. Captain Whinship of the Albatross came here to build in 1810; but having cut wood and prepared timber, the water rose, obliging him to abandon the place, drift down river, and put to sea." [Elliott Coues (editor), 1897, "The Manuscript Journals of Alexander Henry and of David Thompson, 1799-1814"]

In 1841, Charles Wilkes of the U.S. Exploring Expedition put Oak Point on his map.

"The tide is felt as far up as Oak Point, but is rise and fall here is only 3 feet. At Oak Point, the Columbia again turns to the southeast, and continues the same course up to Smoke Island [Martin Island], a distance of 25 miles. Five miles above the turn the prairie terminates, where a high basaltic bluff rises, which I named Waldron's Bluff [Green Point, the high bluff between Mayger and Rainier, Oregon]; it is 3 miles in length, and rises 800 feet above the river. Above the turn at Oak Point there are two islands, Gull [Crim's Island] and Weaquus [small island north of Crims, not the same island as today's Gull]; the former is 2 miles long, by one-third of a mile wide, separated from the prairie land by the Kinak Passage [Bradbury Slough], one-eighth of a mile wide. Of its northwest end is a shoal, which must be avoided." [Wilkes, 1841, Volume XXIII, Hydrography]

The Last "Oak Point" ... (Washington)
A few years after Wilkes, George Abernethy established a mill on the Washington side of the Columbia River and used the name "Oak Point". Oak Point has remained on the Washington side of the Columbia River ever since.

"OAK POINT, a town on the Columbia River in the southwestern part of Cowlitz County. On Sunday October 28, 1792, Lieutenant W.R. Broughton, who was exploring the Columbia River in the armed tender Chatham for Captain Vancouver wrote in his log: "for the first time in this river some oak trees were seen, one of which measured thirteen feet in girth; this, therefore, obtained the name of Oak Point. Oak Point became a great landmark. It was mentioned by Alexander Henry, the Younger, on January 9, 1814. This point is on the Oregon side of the Columbia but the Pioneer botanist, David Douglas, who mentioned it frequently, located it on the north bank while describing the oak trees. "Plentiful on the north banks of that stream sixty miles from the ocean, and from that circumstance named by Capt. Vancouver 'Oak Point' 1792." He gave the tree its botanical name Quercus Garryana ... Hubert Howe Bancroft says that the Oak Point Mills were built on the north side of the river in the summer of 1850 by a man named Dyer for Abernethy and Clark of Oregon City." [Meany, 1923, "Origin of Washington Geographic Names", University of Washington]

"A north bank point of Columbia River, 14 miles west of Longview, southwest Cowlitz County. It was named for very large oak trees, up to 13 ft. circumference, which grow on the point. In 1792, these were noted by Lieut. W.R. Broughton of Capt. George Vancouver's expedition." [Hitchman, 1985, "Place Names of Washington", Washington Historical Society]

"One of the best places on the river for the purpose [salmon fishing] was at Oak Point, on the Oregon side -- and here let me explain why there are two Oak Points opposite each other. When Vancouver's first officers explored the river they found a grove of oak trees on the mainland on the south side of the river. Being the first oak trees found they named it Oak Point. When the saw mill was built on the opposite side of the river it was generally called the Oak Point mill, and when a postoffice was established there it was called the Oak Point office. So, though there are no oak trees and no "point" there it still goes by the name that belongs to the opposite side of the river." ["Reminiscences.", IN: "The Daily Morning Astorian", October 4, 1885, courtesy Historic Oregon Newspapers Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, 2019.]

Unfortunately Meany (1923), Hitchman (1985), and others mis-identify Lieutenant Broughton's "Oak Point".

Hubert Howe Bancroft in "History of Oregon, 1848-1888" wrote:

"Below the Cowlitz, at old Oak Point on the south side of the river, lived John McLean, a Scotchman. Oak Point Mills on the north side were not built till the following summer, when they were erected by a man named Dyer for Abernethy and Clark of Oregon City." [Bancroft, 1888, IN: The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft]

According to the U.S. Geological Survey's Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) database, the 1905 U.S. Postal Guide listed an "Oakpoint" Washington Post Office.


Early Maps ...

Image, 1792, Oak Point, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
1792 Map detail, Lieut. William Broughton of the Capt. George Vancouver Expedition, the Columbia River showing Broughton's "Oak Point", Washington. Original map courtesy U.S. Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) database, 2019.
Image, 1841, Oak Point, Oregon, and Basaltic Cliffs, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
1841 Map detail, Charles Wiles, U.S. Exploring Expedition, showing Oregon's "Oak Point" and Washington's "Basaltic Cliffs". Original map courtesy NOAA Office of Coast Surveys, 2004.
Cadastral map detail, Oak Point, Oregon and Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
1856 Cadastral map detail of T8N R4W, showing Oak Point Mill, Washington, and Oak Point, Oregon (unmarked). "Low swampy Island" on the right is today's Crims Island. Original map courtesy U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Image, 1981, Port Westward, Oregon, and Oak Point, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
1981 Topographic map detail, Oregon's "Port Westward" and Washington's "Oak Point". Original map couresty National Geographic's "TOPO!" program.


Oak Point (Oregon) in 1940 ...
From the Oregon State Archives "A 1940 Journey Across Oregon":

"At 61.7 m. is a junction with a gravel road.

Right on this road to QUINCY, 1 m. (18 alt., 503 pop.), center of a drained and diked area of the Columbia River lowlands; L. here 3 m. on a dirt road to OAK POINT. The Winship brothers of Boston attempted to establish a trading post and settlement at this place which is known as Fanny's Bottom. On May 26, 1810, while Astor was still maturing his plans for the Pacific Fur Company, Captain Nathan Winship arrived in the Columbia River with the ship Albatross. He began construction of a two story log fort and planted a garden. However, the attempt was abortive. Robert Stuart, of the Astorians, wrote in his diary under date of July 1, 1812: "About 2 hours before sunset we reached the establishment made by Captain Winship of Boston in the spring of 1810 It is situated on a beautiful high bank on the South side & enchantingly diversified with white oaks, Ash and Cottonwood and Alder but of rather a diminutive size here he intended leaving a Mr. Washington with a party of men, but whether with the view of making a permanent settlement or merely for trading with the Indians until his return from the coast, the natives were unable to tell, the water however rose so high as to inundate a house he had already constructed, when a dispute arose between him and the Hellwits, by his putting several of them in Irons on the supposition that they were of the Chee-hee lash nation, who had some time previous cut off a Schooner belonging to the Russian establishment at New Archangel, by the Governor of which place he was employed to secure any of the Banditti who perpetrated this horrid act The Hellwits made formidable preparations by engaging auxiliaries &c. for the release of their relations by force, which coming to the Captain's knowledge, as well as the error he had committed, the Captives were released, every person embarked, and left the Columbia without loss of time "".



Oak Point (Washington) in 1941 ...

From "The New Washington: A Guide to the Evergreen State" (1941, Writers' Program, Work Projects Administration):

"STELLA, 54.2 m. (12 alt., 298 pop.), a dairying and lumbering village, received its name from the daughter of Richard Packard, who in 1880 established a store and post office there. During August, salmon from the Columbia abound near the mouth of Germany Creek. Black clusters of scavenger birds feed on the fish that die after spawning.

Several brightly painted buildings (L) constitute OAK POINT, 59.2 m. (94 alt., 177 pop.), where Mill Creek flows into the eddies of the Columbia River."


Views ...

Image, 2012, Port Westward, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Port Westward, Oregon, once known as "Oak Point", looking across to today's Oak Point, Washington. Image taken August 27, 2012.


Oak Point, etc.

  • Basalt Cliff ...
  • Oak Point Mills ...
  • Oregon White Oak ...


Basalt Cliff ...
A massive basalt cliff on the Washington side of the Columbia River marks "Oak Point".

Image, 2005, Oak Point, Washington, from Bradbury Slough, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Oak Point, Washington, from Bradbury Slough, Oregon. Image taken February 21, 2005.
Image, 2003, Oak Point, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Basalt cliff below Oak Point, Washington. Image taken November 9, 2003.
Image, 2003, Oak Point basalt cliff, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Weathered basalt cliff below Oak Point. Image taken November 9, 2003.


Oak Point Mills ...
"Oak Point Mills. -- A visit of about two hours at the historic works of Mr. A.S. Abernethy, on Nikisticoke creek, W.T., last Saturday gave us an opportunity to visit the pioneer mills, which at last gave the place the name of Oak Point. Mr. Abernethy's operations extend over a period of more than a quarter of a century at Oak Point, and embrace manufacturing, shipping, flouring, lumbering, etc. For many years past the flouring mill has remained idle, but is still complete in its line of gearing, bolts, etc., and with the addition of needed repairs and a few parts of machinery could again be made useful. The saw mill is now in good running order, and it is expected that as soon as business will justify, its wheels will be again set in motion. Oak point must be considered one of the finest locations on the lower Columbia river for business. It was settled at an early day, when the pioneer had the pick of places, and has lost nothing in respect to location by the building up of innumerable other points above and below it (including Portland). Capt. Rockwell of the United States coast survey was stationed at Oak Point one season, and he has left an elegant painting of scenes about there, true to nature, which include the hospitable home of our friend, the Hon. A.S. Abernethy, proprietor of Oak Point."


Source:    "The Daily Astorian", October 16, 1877, courtesy Historic Oregon Newspaper Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, 2019.


Oregon White Oak ...
Lewis and Clark are given credit for "discovering" the Oregon White Oak. On October 20, 1805, Lewis and Clark first came saw the acorns of the Oregon White Oak in an Indian Lodge near Roosevelt, Washington, and were informed they were collected from the Celilo Falls area. It wasn't until the return trip however that Captain Lewis collected a sample of the oak to include in the expedition's botanical collection. Records show he collected the sample on March 26, 1806, at which time the men were below the mouth of the Cowlitz River. Explorers and travelers called the oak grove at "Fanny's Bottom" - today's Clatskanie River floodplain - "Oak Point" for many years until the name became associated with a spot on the north side of the Columbia River.
[More]


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 6, 1805, first draft ...


Clark, November 6, 1805 ...





Clark, March 26, 1806 ...


Lewis, March 26, 1806 ...




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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:
  • Bancroft, H.H., 1888, "History of Oregon, Vol.II, 1848-1888", IN: The Works of Hubert Howe B ancroft, Volume XXX, The History Company, Publishers, San Francisco;
  • Barry, J.N., 1932, "Columbia River Exploration, 1792", IN: Oregon Historical Quarterly, 1932;
  • Coues, E. (editor), 1897, "The Manuscript Journals of Alexander Henry and of David Thompson, 1799-1814", Volume II, Francis P. Harper, New York;
  • Historic Oregon Newspaper Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, 2019;
  • Hitchman, R., 1985, "Place Names of Washington", Washington State Historical Society;
  • McArthur, L.A., and McArthur, L.L., 2003, "Oregon Geographic Names", Oregon Historical Society Press, Portland;
  • Meany, E.S., 1923, "Origin of Washington Geographic Names", University of Washington Press, Seattle;
  • U.S. Geological Survey's Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) database, 2019;
  • Washington State Department of Transportation website, 2015, "History of Roads & Highways in the State of Washington;
  • Wilkes, 1841 ...;
  • Writers' Program, Work Projects Administration (WPA), 1941, "The New Washington: A Guide to the Evergreen State", sponsored by the Washington State Historical Society;


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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June 2019