Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Reed Island, Washington"
Includes ... Reed Island ... Reed Island State Park ...
Image, 2004, Reed Island, Washington, as seen from Crown Point, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Reed Island, Washington, as seen from Crown Point, Oregon. Steigerwald Lake NWR is in the distance (right) on the Washington shore. Rooster Rock State Park, Oregon, is in the foreground. Image taken October 11, 2004.

Reed Island ...
Reed Island, Washington, is a two and one-half-mile long, 508-acre island in the middle of the Columbia River, at River Mile (RM) 124.5, just upstream of Lady Island, and the Washington communities of Camas and Washougal. The downstream point of Reed Island is across from Cottonwood Beach and Cottonwood Point, and the upper end of the island is across from Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Another half mile upstream on the Washington side is Point Vancouver, the highest point Lieutenant Broughton journeyed in 1792, and named after the expedition commander Captain George Vancouver. On the Oregon side of the Columbia River is Tunnel Point. Good views of Reed Island can be had from Vista House at Crown Point, Oregon

Reed Island State Park ...
Reed Island is an undeveloped Washington State Park, accessible only by boat; ammenities include primitive camp sites, picnic tables, and a short hiking trail. Reed Island supports one of the largest great blue heron rookeries in the Pacific Northwest. In 2002, the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife reported 84 nests surveyed with 82 being active.

Early Reed Island ...
Reed Island was named after William Reed who had property on the island.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records, show a William H. H. Reed being issued a land title on October 26, 1892, for 103.8 acres of parts of T1N R4E Section 23 (Reed Island and parts of the Washington shore), under the 1820 "Sale-Cash Entry".

Reed Island was once called "Vancouver Island", after Point Vancouver, the farthest upstream that Lieutenant Broughton (of the George Vancouver Expedition) journeyed. Point Vancouver lies on the mainland just north of Reed Island. Other names in use for Reed Island have been "Reed's Island" and "Willow Island".

The 1841 Wilkes Expedition called the island "Vancouver I.".

In 1900 James McGowan operated a seining grounds at/near Reed Island.

"Fishermen claim this has been the poorest season for salmon the upper river has ever known ... but the high price paid for fish has enabled the seiners to make some money above expenses. James McGowan, of Reed's Island, and Rich Latourell's ground, near Oneonta, have been making very good catches since the river began to recede." ["The Morning Astorian", July 27, 1900, courtesy Historic Oregon Newspapers Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, 2018]

The 1902 U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey's "Columbia River, Vancouver to Reed Island, Sheet 7" has Reed Island labeled "Reed Island".

A ca.1922 Clark County platt map shows Reed Island labeled as "Willow Isl.".

Views from Airliner ...

Image, 2010, Reed Island, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Columbia River with Reed Island, as seen from airliner landing at PDX. Day overcast and drizzly. Cottonwood Point is directly behind the western (left) end of Reed Island. Image taken October 10, 2010.
Image, 2012, Reed, Gary, and Flag Islands, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
The Columbia River looking towards Washington State. Islands in the Columbia River are (left to right): a marshy un-named "island", Gary Island, Flag Island, and Reed Island (the long island off the Washington shore). Chatham Island lies close to the Oregon shore and is not visible in this image. Also shows Steigerwald Lake NWR behind Reed Island. View from airliner heading towards PDX. Mid afternoon, clouds, gray, and drizzle. Image taken April 24, 2012.

View from Historic Columbia River Highway ...

Image, 2015, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington, as seen from the Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. View from HCRH west of Vista House. Image taken March 30, 2015.
Image, 2015, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington, as seen from the Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Reed Island, Cottonwood Point, Steigerwald Lake NWR, and Point Vancouver. View from HCRH west of Vista House. Image taken March 30, 2015.

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 3, 1805 ...
The Fog So thick [typical of the Pacific Northwest in the fall and spring] this morning that we could not See a man 50 Steps off, this fog detained us untill 10 oClock at which time we Set out [from their camp at Rooster Rock], ...    I walked on the Sand beech Lard. Side, opposit the canoes as they passed allong. The under groth rushes, vines &c. in the bottoms too thick to pass through, at 3 miles I arrived at the enterance of a river [Sandy River] which appeared to Scatter over a Sand bar, the bottom of which I could See quite across and did not appear to be 4 Inches deep in any part; I attempted to wade this Stream and to my astonishment found the bottom a quick Sand, and impassable- I called to the Canoes to put to Shore, I got into the Canoe and landed below the mouth, & Capt Lewis and my Self walked up this river about 1 miles to examine this river which we found to be a verry Considerable Stream Dischargeing its waters through 2 Chanels which forms an Island [Sandy River Delta, which has had various names throughout history] of about 3 miles in length on the river and 1 miles wide, composed of Corse Sand which is thrown out of this quick Sand river Compressing the waters of the Columbia and throwing the whole Current of its waters against its Northern banks, within a Chanel of a mile wide, Several Small Islands 1 mile up this river, This Stream has much the appearance of the River Platt: roleing its quick Sands into the bottoms with great velocity after which it is divided into 2 Chanels by a large Sand bar before mentioned, the narrowest part of this River is 120 yards-on the Opposit Side of the Columbia a <large Creek> falls in [Washougal River]     above this Creek on the Same Side is a Small prarie [location of Washougal, Washington, Cottonwood Beach, now the home of Captain William Clark Park, and the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge]. extensive low country on each Side thickly timbered [low area upstream of Cottonwood Beach and Captain William Clark Park is the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge].

The Quick Sand river [Sandy River] appears to pass through the low countrey at the foot of those high range of mountains in a Southerly direction,- The large Creeks which fall into the Columbia on the Stard. Side [Washougal River] rise in the Same range of mountains to the N. N. E. and pass through Some ridgey land- A Mountain which we Suppose to be Mt. Hood [Mount Hood, Oregon] is S. 85 E about 47 miles distant from the mouth of quick sand river [Sandy River]     This mtn. is Covered with Snow and in the range of mountains which we have passed through and is of a Conical form but rugid- after takeing dinner at the mouth of this river [Sandy River]  we proceeded on passed the head of a Island [Lady Island] near the lard Side [???] back of which on the Same Side and near the head a large Creek falls in [Washougal River, today the town of Camas, Washington, lies between Lady Island and the Washougal River], and nearly opposit & 3 miles below the upper mouth of quick Sand river is the lower mouth, [for?] This Island [Lady Island] is 3 1/2 miles long, has rocks at the upper point, Some timber on the borders of this Island in the middle open and ponney. Some rugid rocks in the middle of the Stream opposit this Island.   <proceeded in> to Center of a large Island in the middle of the river which we call Dimond Isld. [Government Island] from its appearance, here we met 15 Indn men in 2 canoes from below, they informed us they Saw 3 vestles below &c. &c. we landed on the North Side of this Dimond Island and Encamped [on the north side of Government Island, perhaps opposite Fishers Landing],     Capt. L walked out with his gun on the Island, Sent out hunters & fowlers- below quick Sand River [Sandy River] the Countrey is low rich and thickly timbered on each Side of the river  [on the Oregon side this area is the eastern end of the Columbia Slough, located on the floodplain of the Willamette River with the Columbia River],   the Islands open & Some ponds river wide and emence numbers of fowls flying in every direction Such as Swan, geese, Brants, Cranes, Stalks, white guls, comerants & plevers &c. also great numbers of Sea Otter in the river [Harbor Seals] -     a Canoe arrived from the village below the last rapid ...     Capt Lewis borrowed a Small Canoe of those Indians & 4 men took her across to a Small lake in the Isld. [Government Island] ...    ...  :  note the mountain we Saw from near the forks proves to be Mount Hood [Mount Hood, Oregon]

Vancouver PlainsReturn to




*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

  • "Historic Oregon Newspapers Archives", University of Oregon Libraries, 2018;
  • Vancouver-Clark Washington Parks and Recreation website, 2004;
  • Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website, 2004;

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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November 2010