Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Portage Around the Cascade Rapids"
Includes ...
Image, 2014, Path, Oregon Portage Road, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
East path leading to old remnant Oregon's 1850s portage road. Image taken June 5, 2014.


Portage around the Cascade Rapids ...
Until the Cascade Canal and Locks opened in 1896, folks traveling up and down the Columbia River had to portage around the Cascade Rapids. Carts, trams, wagons, railroads, and military roads developed, with each end of the portage connected to Steamboats.

Image, 2005, Fort Cascades, Cascades_portage_railroad, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Cascades Portage Railroad, Fort Cascades Historic Site, Hamilton Island, Washington. Image taken April 2, 2005.


Timeline

  • 1805 and 1806 ... Lewis and Clark ...
  • 1811 ... David Thompson ...
  • 1850 ... First Railroad in the Columbia Gorge ...
  • 1855 ... Fort Cascades ...
  • 1855 ... Bradford Brothers (north side) ...
  • 1855 ... Military Portage Road (north side) ...
  • 1855 ... Kilborn, Ruckel, and Olmstead, Oregon Portage around the Cascade Rapids (south side) ...
  • 1860 ... Consolidation, Oregon Steam Navigation Company ...
  • 1861 ... "Upper Cascades", "Middle Cascades", and "Lower Cascades" ...
  • 1862 ... Oregon Pony (south side) ...
  • 1863 ... Cascades Portage Railroad (north side) ...
  • 1867 ... Historical Photos, Oregon Portage Railroad ...
  • 1881 - 1886 ... Cascade Locks ...
  • 1888 ... Passage through the Gorge ...


1805 and 1806 ... Lewis and Clark ...
In 1805 Lewis and Clark first portaged around the "Upper Cascades" (the "Great Shute") using the Washington side of the Columbia. The men carried their gear from the areas of today's Ashes Lake to Fort Rains, spending the night of November 1, 1805 near Fort Rains. The next day they carried their gear around the "Lower Cascades" ("a Second Shute") and took their canoes down empty.

"... The morning was cloudy. We unloaded our canoes and took them past the rapids, some part of the way by water, and some over rocks 8 or 10 feet high. It was the most fatiguing business we have been engaged in for a long time, and we got but two over all day, the distance about a mile, and the fall of the water about 25 feet in that distance. ..." [Gass, October 31, 1805]

"... A verry Cool morning wind hard from the N. E.    The Indians who arrived last evining took their Canoes on ther Sholders and Carried them below the Great Shute, we Set about takeing our Small Canoe and all the baggage by land 940 yards of bad Slippery and rockey way The Indians we discoverd took ther loading the whole length of the portage 2 miles, to avoid a Second Shute which appears verry bad to pass, and thro' which they passed with their empty canoes.

we got all our baggage over the Portage of 940 yards, after which we got the 4 large Canoes over by Slipping them over the rocks on poles placed across from one rock to another, and at Some places along partial Streams of the river. in passing those canoes over the rocks &c. three of them recived injuries which obliged us to delay to have them repared. ..." [Clark, November 1, 1805]

"... Examined the rapid below us 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. ..." [Clark, November 2, 1805]

The "Upper Cascades" made a bend around a rocky point on the Oregon shore, then went into a 2,000-foot-long pitch in the river and a 21-foot drop. Lewis and Clark's map has the inscription:

"The Great Shoot or Rapid. 150 Yards wide and 400 Yards long crowded with Stones and Islands."

The "Lower Cascades" was a long three-and-a-half-mile pitch in the Columbia River through the area of today's Bonneville Dam. The lower end was in the vicinity of Hamilton Island on the Washington side across from Munra Point on the Oregon side. In his journal, Captain Clark referred to this area as "a Second Shute".

"... The Indians who arrived last evining took their Canoes on ther Sholders and Carried them below the Great Shute, we Set about takeing our Small Canoe and all the baggage by land 940 yards of bad Slippery and rockey way The Indians we discoverd took ther loading the whole length of the portage 2 1/2 miles, to avoid a Second Shute which appears verry bad to pass, and thro' which they passed with their empty canoes. ..." [Clark, November 1, 1805]

1811 ... David Thompson ...
In 1811 explorer David Thompson found the portage to be 1,450 yards long.

1850 ... First Railroad in the Columbia Gorge ...
The first railroad was built in the Columbia River Gorge in 1850 (note: some sources say 1851), 45 years after Lewis and Clark. The railroad, located on the Washington side of the Columbia River, was a wooden-rail portage road and the "cars" were four-wheeled platforms pulled by donkeys. These tramways were designed to get folks around the Cascade Rapids. Eventually a steam locomotive replaced the donkeys.

"... In 1851, Hardin (or Justin) Chenowith built a railroad consisting of one wagon on wood rails pulled by a single mule. Chenowith charged 75 cents for every hundred pounds of freight. He added more mules and cars (the first railroad in the future Washington state) and sold it to the Bradford family, which expanded it further and built a hotel. By 1854, Upper Cascades included a store, a hotel, a blacksmith forge, and corrals for stock. ..." ["HistoryLink.org" website, 2006]

"... The first railroad of any kind built in Oregon was a wooden tramway constructed on the north side of the Columbia River around the Cascades in 1850 by F.A. Chenoweth. This was rebuilt in 1856 by P.F. Bradford. In 1862, the portage road from The Dalles to Celilo was built to cheapen transportation to the newly discovered mines in Idaho. ..." [J.B. Horner, 1919, Oregon: Her History, Her Great Men, Her Literature, p.193]

"F.A. Chenoweth, afterwards Judge Chenoweth, of Corvallis, settled at the Cascades, and in 1850 built the first portage road on the line of the old Indian trail, which had been in use so long "that the memory of man runneth not to the contrary".

His road was a railroad built entirely of wood, and the car was drawn by one lone mule. The road was on the north side of the Columbia, and at that time was in Oregon. ...

Then there were no settlers east of the Cascade Mountains, and no immediate prospect of any, so he sold his road to D.F. and P.F. Bradford, who were either more hopeful of the future, or had better foresight than Judge Cheneweth. The rebuilt the road in 1856, making many improvements on it. ...

This road was rebuilt again in 1861, with iron rails, and had steam locomotives. It was the first railroad of the kind built in Oregon, and though small was the beginning of railroading in the Northwest. ...

Some time later in the '50's Colonel Ruckel and H. Olmstead buit and operated a portage road on the south bank of the Columbia. ..."

Source:    P.W. Gillette, 1906, History of Oregon Steam Navigation Co., IN: Oregon Historical Quarterly, vol.5, 1906.



In 1852 emigrant Parthenia Blank described the route:

"... a railroad 3 miles long made of scantling [timber frame] and plank without iron. On this runs a small car propelled by a mule attached by a long rope for an engine and a pair of thrills [shafts on each side of the mule] between which the engineer stations himself and walks and guides the car. On this the charge is 75 cts. per cwt. but takes no passengers. At the end of the railroad the goods have to be let down perpendicularly some 150 feet [others estimate 50 feet] to the river from whence they are taken on a boat to the steamboat landing about 3 miles more. ..." [passage courtesy Oregon Historical Society website, 2005, embedded comments theirs]

OLD MULE PORTAGE ROAD AT CASCADES:

"[In 1854] the portage of six miles was a rather complicated process. Frieght for transportation was first loaded in schooners, which, when the wind blew sufficiently strong, were driven to the landing then known as the middle blockhouse, but now called Sheridan's Point, where they were unloaded onto a tram car that came around Sheridan's Point, and was hauled up by a windlass run by a very patient and intelligent mule. When the car reached the summit of the incline the mule was unhitched from the windlass, attached to the car and started for the upper Cascades alone over a wooden tramway, with a couple of boards in the middle of the track for the "engine" to walk on. Arriving at his destination, the mule was unhitched, turned around and coupled onto an empty flat car and started on his return trip. A pole was lashed to his side and then to the car. This acted as a kind of automatic brake to keep the car from running over the "engine". This arrangement worked well for a while, and saved the services of a conductor, but the mule onto his job, and when well out of sight would stop to get up more steam and incidentally to take good long naps, thereby seriously interfering with the transportation business. Eventually a fieman had to be added to the list of train hands."


Source:    H.C. Coe, 1903, Hood River 50 Years Ago, "Hood River Glacier", April 2, 1903, courtesy Historic Oregon Newspaper Archives, University of Oregon Libraries website, 2015.


Image, 2005, North Bank Road information signs, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Information sign for the North Bank Road. Caption for the left image reads: "Washington boasts the river's first railroad, which was built in 1851. A wooden cart on wooden rails and pulled by mules, it assisted early settlers around the Columbia's rapids. Despite this early start, modern locomotives were a long time coming." Caption for the right image reads: "In a driving rain on March 11, 1908, delighted locals joined dignitaries here at Sheridan's Point to celebrate completion of the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway between Pasco and Vancouver." Image taken June 29, 2005.


1855 ... Fort Cascades ...
In 1855 Fort Cascades was built to protect the lower end of this portage.
[More]

Image, 2005, Fort Cascades Compound, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Location of Fort Cascades, Hamilton Island, Washington. Image taken April 2, 2005.


1855 ... Bradford Brothers (north side) ...
In 1856 the "Upper Cascades" becames the easternmost end of the Cascade Portage Railway, first operated by the Bradford Brothers.

"... Daniel F. Bradford, and Putnam his brother, late in the fall of 1855, commenced the construction of a tramway between the Upper and Lower Cascades, five miles in length, which was well-nigh completed in the early spring of 1856. ..." [History Of The Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington, 1889]

"... The rush of miners to the Colville diggings in 1855, with the corresponding growth of the Cascades and The Dalles as distributing points and centers of trade, and also as keys to Eastern Oregon and Washington, had necessitated not only open communication across the portage between the Cascades of the Columbia, but had invited the supplying of improved facilities for travel, and the transportation of merchandise. The growing trade at The Dalles, the increased number of troops concentrated at that point, the presence of volunteers and regulars in the Yakima and Walla Walla country, and the necessary transportation of munitions of war and supplies for troops, had induced the putting on of steamers to ply between Portland and the Lower Cascades, as also upon the Columbia river above the Upper Cascades, running from thence to The Dalles. Such lines established, the trans-shipment of merchandise, and its conveyance over the portage, required appliances for handling and transportation. For these objects, Daniel F. Bradford, and Putnam his brother, late in the fall of 1855, commenced the construction of a tramway between the Upper and Lower Cascades, five miles in length, which was well-nigh completed in the early spring of 1856. During the previous winter (1855-56), a strong guard had been on duty at the blockhouse located a mile below the Upper Cascades landing, which had been erected by Major Rains in the fall of 1855; and from the name of its builder it had been uniformly but unofficially called Fort Rains. ..."


Source:    History Of The Pacific Northwest Oregon and Washington, 1889


The 1860 Washington Territory cadastral survey map (tax survey) for T2N R7E, shows "Bradford's Railroad" which followed the Washington shoreline. It began at the location of today's Ashes Lake (just upstream of "U.S. Garrison", known today as Fort Lugenbeel) and ended just upstream of the location of today's Fort Rains Fort Rains was not shown on map. Also shown on the map is the "U.S. Military Road", going between the locations of Fort Lugenbeel and Fort Cascades (located on Hamilton Island).

1855 ... Military Portage Road (north side) ...
In 1855 the U.S. Topographical Engineers sent Lt. George H. Derby and Robert E.K. Whiting, a civil engineer, to survey a 95-mile route from Fort Vancouver, Washington, to The Dalles, Oregon. That route included a military portage road around the Cascade Rapids. By October 1856 the Army had completed the Military Portage Road which covered a distance of six miles from the Lower to the Upper Landing.

"... The government of Washington Territory was officially organized in February, 1854. Governor Stevens in his message to the first legislature revealed his particular interest in transportation by emphasizing the urgent need for roads. The lawmakers not only authorized the construction of many territorial roads, but memorialized Congress for federal aid through appropriations for military routes. The generous Thirty-third Congress complied in February, 1855, by allocating $25,000 to be spent between Fort Vancouver and The Dalles of the Columbia, and $30,000 from Fort Vancouver to Fort Steilacoom on Puget Sound. The supervision of the roads was placed under the newly created Pacific Coast Office of Military Roads in San Francisco with Major Hartman Bache in command. Lieutenant George H. Derby was ordered to Fort Vancouver to superintend the field work in Washington and Oregon. ...   

When Lieutenant Derby was delayed during the summer of 1855 with the Oregon roads, Washington residents pressed for some progress there before the winter. Finally in September, Derby dispatched his civilian engineering assistant, George Gibbs, to survey a trail along the Columbia and Cowlitz rivers and on to Steilacoom. Another civilian, Robert Whiting, was to assist on the road to The Dalles. Not until October was the lieutenant personally able to examine the 95-mile route from Fort Vancouver to The Dalles. The road along the north bank of the Columbia was found good for the first 15 or 20 miles until the Cape Horn Mountains, a part of the Cascade Range, were reached. Here all prospect for a wagon road terminated. The range could not be avoided and its descent was impossible for wagons. Then came the Columbia bottoms, often flooded by the river rise of 12 to 15 feet in the spring, and a road could not be raised above the flood level because the mountains came down to the river. Halfway to The Dalles, the traveler encounted the Cascades, a 30-foot fall in the river within five miles. Around these rapids the Portage Road had been built, but for more than a mile it was impassable, and speculators had built a wooden trainway three feet wide to transport freight. The United States Army paid twenty cents for each pound handled here. Above the portage the trail ascended the mountains, crossing the Columbia at Wind Mountain and continuing to The Dalles by a circuitous and rugged route along the south bank. Lieutenant Derby suggested that it would cost about a million dollars to make a good wagon road from Vancouver to The Dalles. He proposed to concentrate on improving the Portage Road and eliminate the necessity of using the trainway. The United States would save the amount of the appropriation in a single year. Derby insisted: "Good steamboat navigation from Vancouver to the Cascades, a good road across 'The Portage' and a continuation of steamboat navigation thence to the Dalles, certainly fulfills all the conditions of a 'Military Road' from the Dalles to Columbia Barracks and is moreover the only practicable route." Colonel Abert agreed with the proposal and secured the approval of Secretary Davis.

Because the soil at the Cascades became tenacious mud during the rainy season, Derby suggested the construction of a plank road along the entire distance of the portage. He reasoned that an ordinary dirt road would require repairs after each rainy season and without constant federal appropriations would become useless. A plank road could be expected to last ten years. The present appropriation would suffice to construct a road only 16 feet wide, graded and prepared so that one half of its width could later be planked. The lieutenant proposed to purchase supplies and hire labor to work on the project under his direct supervision. During the season of 1856, he also planned to improve the trail from Vancouver to The Dalles by widening, straightening, and reducing grades so that it could be used by dragoons, for a pack trail, and for driving stock.

By May 1 [1856], he had a working party of fifty men whom he intended to employ for four months at the portage site. Two hospital tents were used to accommodate these laborers; a cook was hired to prepare meals. Difficulties immediately arose. Torrential rains fell three or four days out of each week making it impossible for the men to work. The expense of their board and the delay in construction perturbed Derby; the loss of wages on rainy days annoyed the laborers. ...    The Portage Road was half completed by August 1. A month later three and one-half miles were in excellent condition and all anticipated its completion within six weeks. The initial appropriation had served to cut out timber, grade the roadbed, and provide drainage but, as had been expected, no funds were left for planking. In the difficult places, mountain sides had been cut back and cribwork with rock foundations placed to prohibit slides. Derby reported the existence of a wagon road good in dry summer weather, but muddy and impassable for seven months out of the year during the rains. A sum of $18,800 was needed for planking and he proposed that the work be done by the quartermaster's department at Vancouver. ...

Lieutenant George H. Mendell assumed the responsibilities as superintendent of military roads in Oregon and Washington in October, 1856. Operations on the Portage Road, virtually completed by Lieutenant Derby, were suspended the following month and laborers discharged. However, as a result of winter rains, slides from the embankments crashed down on the cribwork protecting the roads, and in places where the soil was soft these timbers gave way, falling into the roadway and blocking travel. In the spring of 1857 the funds remaining in the federal appropriation were used to rebuild the cribwork, drain the surface of the road, and to gravel, corduroy with logs, or plank those segments most difficult for wagon travel. Mendell, like Derby, considered it an excellent summer road. The quartermaster's department of the Army used it continuously. ..."


Source:    William Turrentine Jackson, 1952, Wagon Roads West; a Study of Federal Road Surveys and Construction in the Trans-Mississippi West, 1846-1869, University of California Press.


Image, 2005, Fort Cascades, Military Portage Road, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Military Portage Road, Fort Cascades Historic Site, Hamilton Island, Washington. Image taken April 2, 2005.


1855 ... Kilborn, Ruckel, and Olmstead, Oregon Portage around the Cascade Rapids (south side) ...
In 1855 W.R. Kilborn built a portage road on the south side of the Cascade Rapids until Joseph Ruckel and Harrison Olmstead took over operations and improved the road. Between 1855 and 1862 the road traversed from the Upper Cascades to the mouth of Tanner Creek, spanning the Cascade Locks area. Horse-drawn carts on wooden planks transported goods and people around the Cascade Rapids. Their competition on the north side was the portage railroad of the Bradford Brothers.
[More]

1856 Oregon Portage Road today ...
A portion of the 1856 Oregon portage road still exists today and both the east and west end of this remnant can be reached from the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail between Eagle Creek and the Toothrock Trailhead, east of Tanner Creek.
[More]

Image, 2014, Oregon Portage Road, click to enlarge
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GPS, west path leading to old remnant Oregon's 1850s portage road. Image taken June 5, 2014.


N 45° 38' 10.0"
W 121° 56' 34.4"
Image, 2014, Oregon Portage Road, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
GPS, east path leading to old remnant Oregon's 1850s portage road. Image taken June 5, 2014.


N 45° 38' 29.1"
W 121° 55' 34.6"


1860 ... Consolidation, Oregon Steam Navigation Company ...
"The development of steamboat and portage services in the Gorge of the Columbia River also had important impact on use of the Barlow Road. In 1850 entrepreneurs established a north bank portage system between the Upper and Lower Cascades. They steadily improved this route from mule-drawn cart on a tramway to a full portage system with warehouses, inclines, hotels, and steamboat connections. In 1855 Joseph Ruckel and Harrison Olmstead launched a competing portage operation along the Oregon shore from the Upper Cascades to the mouth of Tanner Creek. At the Middle Cascades they constructed an incline and warehouse to serve steamboats in those months when vessels could ascend beyond the upper end of Bradford Island. These improvements competed with the Barlow Road. They created relatively safe, efficient, and speedy connections for both passengers and freight. Cost for services, however, was the major element. The portage companies literally charged "all the traffic would bear" (Gill 1924).

In 1860 the Oregon Steam Navigation Company consolidated portage interests in the Gorge. The clever manipulations of Capt. John Ainsworth and his partners led to a takeover of the Bardford & Company operations on the north bank of the Columbia and, at the same time, purchase of the Ruckel and Olmstead line along the Oregon shore. Ainsworth then traveled to California, purchased a small locomotive, the "Oregon Pony", obtained track, shipped materials to the Gorge, and constructed in 1862 a portage railroad along the base of the cliffs from Tanner Creek east to present Cascade Locks, Oregon. With its steamboats and Gorge railroad, the O.S.N. Company emerged during the Civil War as the region's transportation monopoly. The discovery of gold in Idaho and Montana in 1862 and the rushes to that region fueled the flow of goods and passengers and confirmed the value of the company's investments. The Barlow Road thus by the Civil War became the "poor man's" route or trace, perhaps more useful for livestock drovers. It was an arduous, time-consuming, but cheaper alternative to the Columbia Gorge."

Source:    Stephen Dow Beckham and Richard C. Hanes, 1992, The Barlow Road, Clackamas County, Oregon, Inventory Project, Historic Context, 1845-1919, prepared for the Clackamas County Department of Transportation and Development, August 1992.


1861 ... "Upper Cascades", "Middle Cascades", and "Lower Cascades" ...
By 1861 the Cascades included three settlements - "Upper", "Middle", and "Lower", and became the largest settlement in Washington Territory, and numbers some 3,000 people.

1862 ... Oregon Pony (south side) ...
The Oregon Pony was the first steam engine in the Pacific Northwest and operated on the tramway built on the Oregon side of the Columbia River to portage around the Cascade Rapids. In 1862 Captain John C. Ainsworth was in San Francisco and purchased rails and a small locomotive, the Oregon Pony, for shipment to the Gorge. Within a few months, workers transformed the old cart-rail system of Ruckel and Olmstead into Oregon's first railroad line - a five-mile route from Tanner Creek to the head of the Cascade Rapids.
[More]

Image, 2005, South Support, Bridge of the Gods, click to enlarge
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Oregon Pony, South Support, Bridge of the Gods Mural, Cascade Locks, Oregon. Image taken May 13, 2005.
Image, 2006, Oregon Pony, click to enlarge
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Glass enclosure, Oregon Pony, at Cascade Locks Marine Park, Oregon. Image taken September 16, 2006.


1863 ... Cascades Portage Railroad (north side) ...
The Cascades Portage Railroad covered six miles from the Lower Landing on Hamilton Island to the Upper Landing just downstream from Stevenson, Washington, near Ashes Lake. The first steam engine (named "Ann") began operating on the tracks on April 20, 1863. The Oregon Steam Navigation Company (see below) operated the railway until 1907, until competition from the Cascade Canal and Locks, and the Transcontinental Railroad on the Oregon shore, made the railway obsolete. Part of the tracks were then used by Frank Warren for his cannery tramway.

Image, 2014, Fort Cascades Historic Site, Hamilton Island, Washington, click to enlarge
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Cascades Portage Railroad, Fort Cascades Historic Site, Hamilton Island, Washington. Image taken April 7, 2014.
Image, 2014, Fort Cascades Historic Site, Hamilton Island, Washington, click to enlarge
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Cascades Portage Railroad, Fort Cascades Historic Site, Hamilton Island, Washington. Image taken April 7, 2014.


1867 ... Historical Photos, Oregon Portage Railroad ...

Image, 2014, Oregon Portage Road, click to enlarge
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HISTORICAL PHOTO, "Mule Power Train on the Oregon Portage Railroad in 1867". From: Gill, 1924. Original photo courtesy Mrs. Barbara A. Bailey.
Image, 2014, Oregon Portage Road, click to enlarge
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HISTORICAL PHOTO, "On the Oregon Portage Railroad in 1867, showing the Toot and Eagle Creek Bridges". From: Gill, 1924. Original photo courtesy Oregon Historical Society.
Image, 2014, Oregon Portage Road, click to enlarge
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HISTORICAL PHOTO, "The Sawmill, Headquarters Building and Eagle Creek Bridge of the Oregon Portage Railroad in 1867, looking toward Bonneville". From: Gill, 1924. Original photo courtesy Oregon Historical Society.
Image, 2014, Oregon Portage Road, click to enlarge
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HISTORICAL PHOTO, "Middle Landing or Middle Cascades on the Oregon Portage Railroad viewed from the Washington side of the river in 1867". From: Gill, 1924. Original photo courtesy Mrs. Barbara A. Bailey.


1881 - 1886 ... Cascade Locks ...
In 1881 construction of a canal was begun to bypass the "Upper Cascades". It was finished in 1896. This 3,000-foot-long canal, called the Cascade Locks, made the Columbia River passable to The Dalles, Oregon.

Image, 2011, Looking upstream from Bridge of the Gods, click to enlarge
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Cascade Locks as seen from Bridge of the Gods. Image taken May 20, 2011.


1888 ... Passage through the Gorge ...
Excerpt from: The Deseret News, July 11, 1888, article written by C.R. Savage for the newspaper, courtesy Harold B. Lee Library online archives, Brigham Young University. The Deseret News was the first newspaper published in the Utah Territory, just three years after the Mormon pioneers settled the Great Salt Lake valley, with the first issue being June 15, 1850.

DOING THE WEST FOR THE PICTURESQUE.

A Photographer's Ramble on the Oregon Short Line. -- Oregon Railway and navigation Co. -- Northern Pacific. -- Oregon and California Railway. -- And Home by the Central.

"... Night closes in upon us as we cross the stretch of country between Pendleton and the lower part of the Columbia River. We first reach this western wonder at Umatilla, and skirt it down to Portland. But many objects of surpassing beauty are passed while you are sleeping. If the object of the tourist is to see the true grandeur of the mightly Columbia, I would earnestly advise stopping off at Dalles and taking a ride down to Portland on the steamboat. You can go direct to the boat from the track. Having travelled both routes I give mypreference to the river route, and will endeavor to detail the objects of interest on the down trip.

The steamer leaves at the tick of the clock in the morning.

THE "HARVEST QUEEN" is a beautiful boat with superb appointments, roomy, clean and commodious. As we leave the wharf we seem to glide without effort at a high rate of speed, passing in rapid succession the lava bluffs on each side of the river, (it is high water in June). The whole volume of drainage from the plains of western Washington Territory and British Columbia pass down and form the boundary line of Oregon, and Washington Territory. Oregon is on our left and Washington on our right. ...

At Hood River on a clear day a grand view of Mount Hood can be obtained. Mount Adams is also seen from this point; the former is in Oregon, the latter in Washington.

At different points the line of the railroad can be seen. Miles upon miles of trestle work has been constructed to get a road through by the Oregon Railway and navigation Company. The trains of the Northern Pacific and the Union Pacific all pass over this line. ...

At Cascade Locks we leave our harvest queen. A little narrow guage railroad makes the portage of the cascades of the Columbia. An old block house still stands with port holes that was once the defensive fort of the volunteers -- and here our General Sheridan gained laurels as an energetic fighter in his youth. ...

The steamer for Portland is taken at the end of the little road. Here we got on the Multnomah, not so fine a vessel as the Harvest Queen, but a snug boat all the same. ..."



See Also ...


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, October 31, 1805 ...
A Cloudy rainey disagreeable morning I proceeded down the river to view with more attention [Cascade Locks area] we had to pass on the river below, the two men with me Jo. Fields & Peter Crusat proceeded down to examine the rapids the Great Shute [Cascade Rapids] which commenced at the Island on which we encamped [Ashes Lake, now under the waters of the Bonneville Reservoir] Continud with great rapidity and force thro a narrow chanel much compressd. and interspersed with large rocks for a mile, at a mile lower is a verry Considerable rapid at which place the waves are remarkably high, and proceeded on in a old Indian parth 2 miles by land thro a thick wood & hill Side, to the river where the Indians make a portage, from this place I dispatched Peter Crusat (our principal waterman) back to follow the river and examine the practibility of the Canoes passing, as the rapids appeared to continue down below as far as I could See, I with Jo. Fields proceeded on, at a mile below the end of the portage [Fort Rains] ...     at 2 miles lower & 5 below our Camp I passed a village of 4 large houses abandend by the nativs, with their dores bared up, ...     from a Short distance below the vaults the mountain which is but low on the Stard. Side leave the river, and a leavel Stoney open bottom Suckceeds on the Said Std. Side for a great Distance down, the mountains high and rugid on the Lard Side this open bottom is about 2 miles a Short distance below this village is a bad Stoney rapid and appears to be the last in view I observed at this lower rapid the remains of a large and antient Village which I could plainly trace by the Sinks in which they had formed their houses, as also those in which they had buried their fish- from this rapid to the lower end of the portage [vicinity of Fort Cascades at the lower end of Hamilton Island] the river is Crouded with rocks of various Sizes between which the water passes with great velociety createing in many places large Waves, an Island which is Situated near the Lard. Side [Bradford Island] occupies about half the distance the lower point of which is at this rapid. immediately below this rapid the high water passes through a narrow Chanel through the Stard. Bottom forming an Island of 3 miles <wide> Long & one wide, I walked through this Island [Hamilton Island] which I found to be verry rich land, and had every appearance of haveing been at Some distant period Cultivated. at this time it is Covered with grass intersperced with Strawberry vines. I observed Several places on this Island where the nativs had dug for roots and from its lower point I observed 5 Indians in a Canoe below the upper point of an Island near the middle of the river Covered with tall timber [???],    which indued me to believe that a village was at no great distanc below, I could not See any rapids below <for> in the extent of my view which was for a long distance down the river, which from the last rapids [Middle Cascades] widened and had everry appearance of being effected by the tide,- I deturmind to return to Camp 10 miles distant [on an island by Ashes Lake, across from Cascade Locks, Oregon], a remarkable high detached rock Stands in a bottom on the Stard Side [Beacon Rock] near the lower point of this Island on the Stard. Side about 800 feet high and 400 paces around, we call the Beaten rock.     a Brook [Hamilton Creek] falls into the narrow Chanel [Hamilton Slough, today's Greenleaf Slough] which forms the Strawberry Island [Hamilton Island], which at this time has no running water, but has every appearance of dischargeing emence torrents &c. &c. Jo. Fields Shot a Sand hill Crane. I returned by the Same rout on an Indian parth passing up on the N W. Side of the river to our Camp at the Great Shute [an island near Ashes Lake, across from Cascade Locks, now under the waters of Bonneville Reservoir]. found Several Indians from the village, I Smoked with them; Soon after my return two Canoes loaded with fish & Bear grass for the trade below, came down from the village at the mouth of the Catterack River [Klickitat River], they unloaded and turned their Canoes up Side down on the beech, & camped under a Shelveing rock below our Camp ...

This Great Shute or falls [Upper Cascade Rapids] is about a mile with the water of this great river Compressed within the Space of 150 paces in which there is great numbers of both large and Small rocks, water passing with great velocity forming & boiling in a most horriable manner, with a fall of about 20 feet, below it widens to about 200 paces and current gentle for a Short distance. a Short distance above is three Small rockey Islands, and at the head of those falls, three Small rockey Islands are Situated Crosswise the river, Several rocks above in the river & 4 large rocks in the head of the Shute; those obstructions together with the high Stones which are continually brakeing loose from the mountain on the Stard Side and roleing down into the Shute aded to those which brake loose from those Islands above and lodge in the Shute, must be the Cause of the rivers daming up to Such a distance above, <and Show> where it Shows Such evidant marks of the Common current of the river being much lower than at the present day






Clark, November 1, 1805 ...
A verry Cool morning wind hard from the N. E. [Lewis and Clark's camp of October 31, 1805, was across from Cascade Locks, on an island off the Washington shore near Ashes Lake, now under the waters of the Bonneville Reservoir.] The Indians who arrived last evining took their Canoes on ther Sholders and Carried them below the Great Shute ["Lower Falls of the Columbia", the "Cascade Rapids"], we Set about takeing our Small Canoe and all the baggage by land 940 yards of bad Slippery and rockey way [this rocky location later became the location of the Bridge of the Gods]     The Indians we discoverd took ther loading the whole length of the portage 2 miles, to avoid a Second Shute [Lower Cascades, by Bonneville Dam] which appears verry bad to pass, and thro' which they passed with their empty canoes. Great numbers of Sea Otters [Harbor Seals], they are So cautious that I with dificuelty got a Shot at one to day, which I must have killed, but could not get him as he Sunk

we got all our baggage over the Portage of 940 yards, after which we got the 4 large Canoes over by Slipping them over the rocks on poles placed across from one rock to another, and at Some places along partial Streams of the river. in passing those canoes over the rocks &c. three of them recived injuries which obliged us to delay to have them repared. [the lower end of the portage at Fort Rains] ...






Clark, April 10, 1806 ...
Collins went out in the bottom to hunt [on the Oregon side of the Columbia in the Bonneville Dam area] agreeable to the order of last evening, and gibsons Crew was derected to delay for Collins dureing which time they were derected to Collect rozin from the pines in the bottom near our Camp [near Tanner Creek]     at 6 A M. we Set out and proceeded to the lower point of the Island [Bradford Island]    from whence we were Compelled to draw our Canoes up a rapid for about 1/4 mile which we Soon performed. Collins & gibson haveing not yet Come over we derected Serjt. Pryor to delay on the Island untill Gibson Came over & assist him with the large toe roap which we also left and to join us at a village of four houses of the Clah-lah-lar Tribe which is opposit to this Island on North Side at which place we intened to brackfast [vicinity of today's North Bonneville].    in crossing the River which at this place is not more than 400 yards wide we fell down a great distance owing to the rapidity of the Current. ...    at 10 oClock Sergt. Pryor and Gibson joined us with Collins who had killed 3 deer. these were all of the blacktailed fallow kind. We Set out and Continued up on the N. Side of the river with great dificuelty in Consequence of the Rapidity of the Current and the large rocks which forms this Shore; the South Side of the river is impassable. [On the Oregon side is the Eagle Creek and Ruckel Creek drainages, neither of which was mentioned in the Journals.]

As we had but one Sufficent toe roap and were obliged to employ the Cord in getting on our Canoes the greater part of the way we could only take them one at a time which retarded our progress very much. by evening we arived at the portage on the N. Side [Fort Rains] where we landed and Conveyed our baggage to the top of the hill about 200 paces distant where we found [formd?] a Camp. we had the Canoes drawn on Shore and Secured. the Small Canoe got loose from the hunters and went adrift with a tin cup & a tomahawk in her; the Indians Caught her at the last Village and brought her up to us this evening for which we gave them two knives; the Canoe overset and lost the articles which were in her..





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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:    See listing at Cascade Rapids.    Also:    Gill, F.B., 1924, "Oregon's First Railway, The Oregon Portage Railroad at the Cascades of the Columbia River", IN: "The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society", Vol.XXV, No.3, September, 1924.    Jackson, W.T., 1952, Wagon Roads West; a Study of Federal Road Surveys and Construction in the Trans-Mississippi West, 1846-1869, University of California Press;

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 2014