Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Oneonta Creek, Gorge, and Tunnel, Oregon"
Includes ... Oneonta Gorge ... Oneonta Creek ... Oneonta Bluffs ... The Golden Age of Postcards ...
Image, 2005, Oneonta Gorge, click to enlarge
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Oneonta Gorge, looking upstream. Image taken June 29, 2005.


Oneonta Gorge and Oneonta Creek ...
Oneonta Gorge and Oneonta Creek are located on the Oregon side of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 138. Oneonta Falls is located about half a mile up Oneonta Creek. The Oneonta area can be reached via the Historic Columbia River Highway. Upstream is the John B. Yeon State Park, Ainsworth State Park, and Horsetail Falls. Downstream is Multnomah Falls and the Benson State Recreation Area.

Image, 2005, Oneonta Creek, looking downstream, click to enlarge
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Oneonta Creek, looking downstream at Historic Columbia River Highway Bridge. Image taken June 29, 2005.
Image, 2005, Historic Columbia River Highway Bridge, click to enlarge
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Historic Columbia River Highway Bridge at Oneonta. Image taken August 27, 2005.
Image, 2006, Oneonta Creek and Railroad Bridge, click to enlarge
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Looking downstream at Oneonta Creek, with Railroad Bridge. Image taken September 23, 2006.


Oneonta in 1940 ...
From the Oregon State Archives "A 1940 Journey Across Oregon":

"... ONEONTA GORGE, 156.9 m., is a deep, narrow cleft in the basalt bluff through which flows a foaming creek. Fossilized trees caught by a lava flow, are entombed in its perpendicular walls.

Left from the highway on a trail to ONEONTA FALLS, 800 ft., hidden in the depths of the gorge. The water, falling into the narrow ravine, stirs the air into strong currents giving it a delightful coolness even when temperatures nearby are high. ..."


Oneonta in 1946 ...
ONEONTA PARKING SPACE

"Oneonta Parking Space at Highway Mile Post 34.31 is situated at the west end of the Oneonta tunnel where the highway crosses Oneonta Creek. In the leisurely days of past years, this site was a railroad flag station, where many came on The Dalles local in the early forenoon and returned to Portland in the early evening with creelswell filled with trout taken from this beautiful stream that flows quietly through a narrow, enchanting gorge, its high cliffed wall clothed with mosses, lichens, an abundance of drooping maiden hair ferns and a liberal sprinkling of golden mimulus (monkey flowers) to enrich the general effect. However, the average visitor must view it afar, as the stream bed is the only pathway to the falls a thousand feet or more distant.

Due to the crowding of the precipitous cliffs at both ends of this stop-light tunnel, the highway has encroached upon the Oregon-Washington Railroad Company's right of way and the limited parking space is their property, which they have graciously leased to the State that travelers may have a chance to stop and glimpse the spectacular rock point and the very interesting Oneonta Gorge picture."

Signed:
W.A. Langille, State Parks Historian.

RECOMMENDATIONS:
"A long-term lease should be obtained on this tract or it should be purchased."

Signed:
S.H. Boardman, State Parks Superintendent, March 25, 1946.


Source:    W.A. Langille and S.H. Boardman, 1946, State Parks Historical Sketches: Columbia Gorge State Parks, courtesy of Oregon State Archives website, 2014.


Oneonta Tunnel ...
In 1914 the Historic Columbia River Highway crossed Oneonta Creek and proceeded on through a newly-built 125-foot-long tunnel through the 200-foot-high bluff on the creek's right bank. With construction of Interstate 84 the tunnel fell into dis-use and in 1948 the tunnel was filled with debris and vegetation covered up the entrances.

Penny Postcard, Tunnel at Oneonta Gorge, Oregon, ca.1920
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Oneonta Gorge, Rock Tunnel, Columbia River Highway, Oregon, ca.1920.
Penny Postcard, ca.1920. Caption on front reads: "Rock Tunnel, Oneonta Gorge, Columbia Highway.". Published by Lelund Lund, Tacoma, Washington. Card #151. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Image, 2005, Oneonta Gorge, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Oneonta Gorge tunnel location, Historic Columbia River Highway. View looking across old bridge at what was once the west portal of the Oneonta Tunnel. The Tunnel has since been filled in. The Historic Columbia River Highway is now on the left, with the railroad tracks left of that. Image taken October 22, 2005.


"Re-opening" the Oneonta Tunnel ...
In the summer of 2006 the Oneonta Tunnel was dug-out and work began to incorporate the tunnel as part of a walking/bike path along the Historic Columbia River Highway. On August 19, 2006, the tunnel re-opened.

Image, 2006, Oneonta Tunnel, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Oneonta Tunnel west portal construction barriers. The newly re-opened Oneonta Tunnel can be seen behind the barriers. Image taken September 23, 2006.
Image, 2006, Oneonta Tunnel, click to enlarge
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Oneonta Tunnel east portal. Image taken September 23, 2006.
Image, 2006, Oneonta Tunnel, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Oneonta Tunnel west portal. Image taken September 23, 2006.
Image, 2006, Oneonta Tunnel, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Oneonta Tunnel west portal. Image taken September 23, 2006.


Open ...

Image, 2009, Oneonta Tunnel, click to enlarge
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Oneonta Tunnel, east portal open. Image taken April 26, 2009.
Image, 2009, Oneonta Tunnel, click to enlarge
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Oneonta Tunnel, from tunnel looking east. Image taken April 26, 2009.


Oneonta Bluffs ...
The Oneonta Bluffs can be nicely seen from across the river at Washington's St. Cloud Wayside.

Image, 2005, View upstream from St. Cloud Wayside, click to enlarge
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Oneonta Bluffs, as seen from St. Cloud Wayside, Washington. Image taken June 29, 2005.
Image, 2005, Oneonta Bluffs from St. Cloud Wayside, click to enlarge
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Oneonta Bluffs, as seen from St. Cloud Wayside, Washington. Image taken June 29, 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 is a snapshot of history.

Penny Postcard, Oneonta Bluff, with train, Oregon, ca.1911
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Penny Postcard: Oneonta Bluff, with train tracks, ca.1911.
Penny Postcard, Postmarked 1911, "Oneonta Bluff on the Columbia River.". Published by Spokane Post Card Co., Spokane, Washington. Made in Germany. Card #5177. Card is postmarked June 9, 1911. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Tunnel at Oneonta Gorge, Oregon, ca.1920
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Oneonta Gorge, Rock Tunnel, Columbia River Highway, Oregon, ca.1920.
Penny Postcard, ca.1920, "Rock Tunnel, Oneonta Gorge, Columbia Highway.". Published by Lelund Lund, Tacoma, Washington. Card #151. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Oneonta Gorge, Oregon, ca.1920
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Oneonta Gorge, Columbia River, Oregon, ca.1920.
Penny Postcard, ca.1920, "Oneonta Gorge, Columbia River.". Published by The Oregon News Co., Portland, Oregon. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 2, 1805 ...
Examined the rapid below us [from their camp at Fort Rains, looking at the Cascade Rapids] more pertcelarly the danger appearing too great to Hazzard our Canoes loaded, dispatched all the men who could not Swim with loads to the end of the portage below, I also walked to the end of the portage with the carriers where I delayed untill everry articles was brought over and canoes arrived Safe. here we brackfast and took a Meridn. altitude 59 45' 45" about the time we were Setting out 7 Squars came over loaded with Dried fish, and bear grass neetly bundled up, Soon after 4 Indian men came down over the rapid in a large canoe.     passed a rapid at 2 miles & 1 at 4 miles opposite the lower point of a high Island on the Lard Side [Bradford Island], and a little below 4 Houses on the Stard. Bank, a Small Creek on the Lard Side [Tanner Creek] opposit Straw berry Island [Hamilton Island], which heads below the last rapid, opposit the lower point of this Island [Hamilton Island] passed three Islands covered with tall timber [today there are two, Ives and Pierce] opposit the Beatin rock [Beacon Rock]    Those Islands are nearest the Starboard Side, imediately below on the Stard. Side passed a village of nine houses [indentified on Atlas map#79 as the "Wah-clallah Tribe of Shahala Nation", location near today's Skamania and Skamania Landing], which is Situated between 2 Small Creeks [Woodard Creek and Duncan Creek], and are of the Same construction of those above; here the river widens to near a mile, and the bottoms are more extensive and thickly timbered, as also the high mountains on each Side, with Pine, Spruce pine, Cotton wood, a Species of ash, and alder.     at 17 miles passed a rock near the middle of the river [Phoca Rock], about 100 feet high and 80 feet Diamuter,     proceed on down a Smoth gentle Stream of about 2 miles wide, in which the tide has its effect as high as the Beaten rock [Beacon Rock] or the Last rapids at Strawberry Island [Hamilton Island],- Saw great numbers of waterfowl of Different kinds, Such as Swan, Geese, white & grey brants, ducks of various kinds, Guls, & Pleaver [today just below Beacon Rock is Franz National Wildlife Refuge]. ...     we encamped under a high projecting rock on the Lard. Side [Rooster Rock, with Crown Point rising above it],     here the mountains leave the river on each Side [leaving the Columbia River Gorge, Steigerwald Land NWR is on the north and the Sandy River delta is on the south], which from the great Shute to this place is high and rugid [Columbia River Gorge]; thickly Covered with timber principalley of the Pine Species. The bottoms below appear extensive and thickly Covered with wood.     river here about 2 miles wide.     Seven Indians in a Canoe on their way down to trade with the nativs below, encamp with us, those we left at the portage passed us this evening and proceeded on down The ebb tide rose here about 9 Inches, the flood tide must rise here much higher- we made 29 miles to day from the Great Shute [Cascade Locks]-





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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: "ColumbiaRiverHighway.com" website, 2006; Oregon State Archives website, 2005; U.S. Forest Service website, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, 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.
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May 2009