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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Rowena and Rowena Crest, Oregon"
Includes ... Rowena Crest ... Rowena Gap ... Rowena ... Rowena Loops ... "Grant's Castle" ... Historic Columbia River Highway ...
Image, 2004, Rowena Crest, Oregon, from Mayer State Park, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Rowena Crest (in background, left), as seen from Mayer State Park, Oregon. Image taken November 11, 2004.


Rowena ...
Rowena, Rowena Crest, Rowena Gap, Rowena Creek, and Rowena Dell all share the same name. At least three different theories as to the origin of "Rowena" are listed in Oregon Geographic Names (McArthur and McArthur, 2003). The first theory is the name Rowena was for H.S. Rown who, in the early 1880s was an offical of the railroad company that was building along the south bank of the Columbia River. The second possibility, according to local long-time residents, was that "Rowena" was the name of a girl who lived in the vicinity. The last theory presented was that "Rowena" was the young lady in Sir Walter Scott's "Ivanhoe", a popular novel of the era. Rowena Post Office was established in 1911 and existed until 1916. Today the small town of Rowena, Oregon, still exists along the old Historic Columbia River Highway.

Rowena Crest ...
Rowena Crest is a high point on the Oregon side of the Rowena Gap, and is located along the Historic Columbia River Highway at Columbia River Mile (RM) 180.5. Rowena Crest is part of Oregon's Mayer State Park. Downstream is Tom McCall Nature Preserve. Parking at the top of the crest provides spectacular views of the Columbia River, Mayer State Park, and across to Lyle, Washington and the mouth of the Klickitat River.

Image, 2005, Sign, Rowena Crest, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Rowena Crest, on the Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken September 18, 2005.


"Grant's Castle" and "Memaloose Castle ...
In the early 1900s the massive basalt feature at Rowena was known as "Grant's Castle" or "Memaloose Castle".

A 1902 publication "Oregon Teacher's Monthly", calls the Rowena feature "Memaloose Castle".

"On the Oregon shore, high up on the side of the rough mountain, is a natural curiosity which is associated with the island [Memaloose Island] in name only. It is Memaloose Castle. It is an exact likeness to a ruined castle, and four towers still climb into the air as though trying to lift their heads above the background of green in mute observance by those who pass. At the base of these towers are heaps of broken rock resembling the crumbled walls of a once-pretentious edifice. The resemblance is complete, and of all places where nature has tried to reproduce the destructible works of man in bold contrast to her own indestructible productions, this is the most striking. What wonders cannot nature build?" [Max McClay, 1902, "Nature on Memaloose Island": IN: Oregon Teacher's Monthly, vol.7, no.2, October 1902, Salem, Oregon]

In the 1904 publication "The Trail of Lewis and Clark, 1804-1904", written by Olin D. Wheeler, today's Rowena Crest was called "Grant's Castle".

In the 1905 Oregon Sunday Journal article "With Lewis and Clark, from Celilo to the Sea", "Grant's Castle was a name use for a basalt feature on the Oregon side of the Columbia, while "Memaloose Castle" was a name used for a feature on the Washington side of the river.

"Between their camp [Lewis and Clark's] at Crates Point and the Klickitat river on the Washington shore are the first points that are from a scenic standpoint beautiful and awe-inspiring. The first is what is known as the Devil's slide. High up the mountain side is a chute extending from the top of the mountain to the river below; for a portion of the way it is lined on either side by huge slabs of basalt many feet in thickness. Immediately below, on the same side of the river, is what is commonly known as Grant's castle, a towering, massive reproduction of the castels of feudal days. It rests on a shelf of the mountain, 300 feet above the river, while the roof of its watch-tower, six stories above, is 800 feet above the surface of the waters below. Nature has been lavish with this colossal structure, painting it a steel gray, green foliage of the cliffs adjoining; windows, portholes and terraces are also given it, all of which combined make it look at first glance as if it had been built by the hand of man. ...

... Just below the mouth of the Klickitat river is Memaloose castle. Memaloose castle, a counterpart of Grant's castle, shows the effects of the elements to a greater degree; the top has crumbled away, and falling on the terraces below ahs given to it a dome shape, while the body of the castle still holds its shape. In coming up stream the castles are indistinct, and can hardly be located by those who have never before seen them, but while immediately opposite and above they are clearly outlined and are readily found by the passing tourist." [Oregon Sunday Journal", August 13, 1905]

In 1912 John Harvey Williams' publication titled "The Guardians of the Columbia ..." contains an illustration of Rowena's Crest with the caption: "'Grant's Castle' and Palisades of the Columbia, on north side of the river below The Dalles".


Historic Columbia River Highway ...
Rowena Crest is on the Oregon side of the Columbia River and is part of the Rowena Gap basalt flows. The Historic Columbia River Highway passes over Rowena Crest, and contains an impressive loop in the eastern side.

[More Historic Columbia River Highway]
[More HCRH Route]

  • HMP 79.8 ... Rowena Crest Overlook, Mayer State Park (1924)
  • HMP 79.9 - 82.1 ... Loops, Rowena Crest to Rowena Ferry Road
  • HMP 80 to 82 ... Rowena Loops (1921)
  • HMP 80.0 ... Pedestrian Observatory east of Rowena Crest Overlook (1921)

  • Rowena Crest Overlook, Mayer State Park (1924):   "This overlook, within a five-acre tract, provides a veiw of the Columbia River and surrounding plateau from an elevation of 747 feet. It is bordered by a masonry guard wall characteristic of those found on the CRH. Rowena Crest Overlook is part of Mayer State Park, created when successful East Coast industrialist and local orchardist Mark A. Mayer donated 260 acres to the state for park purposes." [National Historic Landmark Nomination Form, 1996]

    "Mayer State Park was created in 1924 when Mark A. Mayer gave 260 acres to the state for park purposes. The park contains 615.29 acres, land both on top of the crest and near the river. The overlook is at an elevation of 747 feet and provides a view of the Columbia River Gorge eastward." [National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, 1983]

  • Rowena Loops (1921):   "This set of loops is similar to the Figure-Eight Loops and the Hood River Loops. They carry the CRH from Rowena Crest, at an elevation of 747 feet, to less than 200 feet, near the river's edge. The designer (J.H. Scott, Oregon State Highway Dept.) followed the formula that Samuel Lancaster created at the onset of the highway's construction. He developed distance to carry the highway between these two points with 5 percent maximum grades and 200-foot minimum turning radii." [National Historic Landmark Nomination Form, 1996]

    "The Rowena Loops were designed to keep the grade of descent from the high bluffs on Rowena Crest down to the river level at a manageable five percent. The highway winds and circles down through a figure eight and a series of curves to Rowena Canyon and Rowena." [National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, 1983]

  • Rowena Loops:   "The Rowena Loops require the full attention of the driver, as the narrow highway winds down the steep slope. The trade-mark rock walls again appear. Trees are scattered within grassy areas. An observatory is located below the Crest, with no parking available, so it is mainly accessible to westbound bicyclists." [HCRH Master Plan, 2005]

  • Pedestrian Observatory east of Rowena Crest Overlook (1921):   "This basalt masonry pedestrian alcove with concrete caps just east of and below Rowena Crest Overlook gave drivers the opportunity to view the Columbia River and fertile bottomland near the community of Rowena." [National Historic Landmark Nomination Form, 1996]

Image, 2005, Historic Columbia River Highway, from Rowena Crest, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Rowena Loops, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. View from Rowena Crest. Image taken September 18, 2005.
Image, 2005, Rowena Loops, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Rowena Loops, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. View from Rowena Crest. Image taken September 18, 2005.


Rowena, Rowena Crest, and Rowena Dell in 1940 ...
From the Oregon State Archives "A 1940 Journey Across Oregon":

"... West of ROWENA, 109.2 m. (148 alt., 60 pop.), the highway climbs the face of a steep cliff by a series of sharp curves and switch-backs known as the Rowena Loops. ...

ROWENA CREST, 111.8 m. (706 alt.), is in MAYER STATE PARK; parking place. From the crest one has a panoramic view of cliff and winding river.

ROWENA DELL, 112.6 m., a sheer walled canyon (R) was infested by rattlesnakes until pioneers fenced the lower end and turned in a drove of hogs. Then for a time the dell was called Hog Canyon. ..."


Image, 2004, Rowena Crest, Oregon, from Mayer State Park, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Rowena Crest, Oregon, from Mayer State Park, Oregon. Image taken November 11, 2004.
Image, 2006, Rowena Crest and Interstate 84, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Rowena Crest and Interstate 84, Oregon. View from moving car on Interstate 84 heading west. Image taken October 2, 2006.


Rowena, etc.

  • Historic Columbia River Highway ...
  • On the Road to Rowena Crest ...
  • One Day at Rowena Crest ...
  • Rowena Creek and Rowena Dell ...
  • Rowena Gap ...
  • Tom McCall Nature Preserve ...
  • Views from Rowena Crest ...


Historic Columbia River Highway ...
[More]

Image, 2005, Barn near Rowena Crest, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Barn near Rowena Crest, on the Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken September 18, 2005.
Image, 2005, Near Rowena Crest, Historic Columbia River Highway, click to enlarge
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Near Rowena Crest, Historic Columbia River Highway. View shot through front window, moving car. Image taken September 18, 2005.
Image, 2005, Near Rowena Crest, Historic Columbia River Highway, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Near Rowena Crest, Historic Columbia River Highway. View shot through front window, moving car. Image taken September 18, 2005.


One Day at Rowena Crest ...

Image, 2005, at Rowena Crest, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Porsches, Rowena Crest, Oregon. Image taken September 18, 2005.


Rowena Creek and Rowena Dell ...
Rowena Creek enters the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 179, just downstream of Tom McCall Nature Preserve and Rowena Crest and upstream of the Oregon town of Mosier. Lyle, Washington and the Klickitat River are across from Rowena Creek on the Washington side of the Columbia. Rowena Dell is the valley of Rowena Creek. Rowena Dell at one time was called "Hog Canyon" after residents, tired of the rattlesnakes infesting the canyon, fenced the end and turned hogs loose. After the Columbia River Highway was built, residents wanted a more "elegant" name and chose "Rowena Dell".
[More]

Image, 2005, Rowena Dell, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Rowena Dell, Oregon, looking downstream. View from bridge on the Historic Columbia River Highway. Image taken September 18, 2005.


Rowena Gap ...
The Rowena Gap is a water gap of Columbia River Basalt, located on the Columbia River upstream of the mouth of the Klickitat River and Lyle, Washington. On the Oregon side is Mayer State Park, Rowena Crest, and Tom McCall Nature Preserve. Six separate basalt flows can be counted in the 1,000-foot-high cliffs. One particularly spectacular flow on the Oregon side of the Columbia River was originally known as "Cape Horn", before that name became attached to a basalt cliff further downstream.
[More]

Image, 2004, Rowena Gap, Washington side, from Mayer State Park, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Rowena Gap, Washington side, from Mayer State Park, Oregon. Image taken November 11, 2004.


Tom McCall Nature Preserve ...
The 271-acre Tom McCall Nature Preserve is a plateau called "Rowena Plateau". It is located on the Oregon side of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 180, just west of Rowena Crest and east of the Oregon town of Mosier. Tom McCall Nature Preserve was named for one of Oregon's governors, Thomas Lawson McCall. Ownership and management of the preserve includes The Nature Conservancy, Mayer State Park and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There are two trails on the preserve. The 1-mile plateau trail begins at the interpretive sign at the entrance to the preserve and crosses Rowena Plateau to spectacular cliff edges. The trail also circles a permanent pond. A great view of the Rowena Creek drainage and Rowena Dell can be had from the cliff edge. The 3-mile McCall Point trail to the top of McCall Peak (open May through November) begins from the south side of the turnaround and gains 1,000 feet in elevation and provides a spectacular view of the area. Wildflowers are abundant in the spring.
[More]

Image, 2005, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon. View towards the Columbia River and the state of Washington. The Rowena Dell/Rowena Creek is visible on the left. Image taken September 18, 2005.


Views from Rowena Crest ...

Image, 2008, Lyle, Washington, from Rowena Crest, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Lyle, Washington, from Rowena Crest, Oregon. Image taken August 23, 2008.
Image, 2005, Rowena Gap, Washington side, from Rowena Crest, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Mayer State Park, the Columbia River, and Washington's Rowena Gap basalts, as seen from Rowena Crest, Oregon. Image taken September 18, 2005.

The Lyle Convict Road was located along the lowest bench above Washington State Highway 14.
Image, 2008, Klickitat River, Washington, click to enlarge
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Klickitat River and the "twin bridges", as seen from Rowena Crest, Oregon. Image taken August 23, 2008.
Image, 2010, Klickitat River, Washington, click to enlarge
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Klickitat River and the "twin bridges", as seen from Rowena Crest, Oregon. Image taken March 6, 2010.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, October 29, 1805 ...
A cloudy morning wind from the West but not hard, we Set out at day light [from their camp on Rocky Island at Crates Point], and proceeded on about five miles Came too on the Stard. Side at a village of 7 houses built in the Same form and materials of those above, here we found the Chief we had Seen at the long narrows [The Dalles] ...     they are hospitable and good humered Speak the Same language of the inhabitants of the last village, we call this the friendly village [vicinity of Dougs Beach]. ...     after brackfast we proceeded on, the mountains are high on each Side [high basalt cliffs of the Rowena Gap, with Rowena Crest on the south and the Chamberlain Lake area on the north], containing Scattering pine white oake & under groth, hill Sides Steep and rockey; at 4 miles lower we observed a Small river falling in with great rapidity on the Stard. Side [Klickitat River] below which is a village of 11 houses [today the town of Lyle is on the upstream side of the Klickitat], here we landed to Smoke a pipe with the nativs and examine the mouth of the river, which I found to be 60 yards wide rapid and deep, The inhabitants of the village are friendly and Chearfull; those people inform us also those at the last village that this little river is long and full of falls, no Salmon pass up it, it runs from N. N. E. that ten nations live on this river and its waters, on buries, and what game that Can kill with their Bow & arrows

we purchased 4 dogs and Set out- (this village is the of the Same nation of the one we last passed) and proceeded on The Countrey on each side begin to be thicker timbered with Pine and low white Oake; verry rockey and broken [passing Mayer State Park on the Oregon side]. passed three large rocks in The river the middle rock is large long and has Several Squar vaults on it. we call this rockey Island the Sepulchar [Memaloose Island] - The last river we passed we Shall Call the Cataract River [Klickitat River] from the number of falls which the Indians say is on it- passed 2 Lodges of Indians a Short distance below the Sepulchar Island [Memaloose Island] on the Stard. Side river wide, at 4 mile passed 2 houses on the Stard. Side, Six miles lower passed 4 houses above the mouth of a Small river 40 yards wide on the Lard. Side [Hood River]    a thick timbered bottom above & back of those houses; those are the first houses which we have Seen on the South Side of the Columbia River, (and the axess to those dificuelt) for fear of the approach of their common enemies the Snake Indians, passed 14 houses on the Std. Side Scattered on the bank- from the mouth of this little river which we shall Call Labeasche River [Hood River], the falls mountain [Mount Hood] is South and the top is covered with Snow.    one mile below pass the mouth of a large rapid Stream on the Stard. Side [White Salmon River], opposit to a large Sand bar [from Hood River], in this creek the Indians above take their fish, here we Saw Several canoes, which induced us to call this Canoe Creek [White Salmon River] it is 28 yards wide, about 4 miles lower and below the Sand bar [Hood River sandbar] is a butifull cascade falling over a rock of about 100 feet [Wah Gwin Gwin Falls, location of the Columbia Gorge Hotel],

[On the route map (Moulton, vol.1, map#78) a "C___ Spring" is shown on the north side of the river, today the location of Spring Creek and Spring Creek Fish Hatchery, with no mention of it in any text. On the south side, at the location of Wah Gwin Gwin Falls, only "Cascade" is labeled and "4 Houses of Indians".]

a Short distance lower passed 4 Indian houses on the Lard. Side in a timbered bottom, a fiew miles further we came too at 3 houses on Stard. Side, back of which is a pond [today the location of Drano Lake. The Little White Salmon River empties into Drano Lake.] in which I Saw Great numbers of Small Swan, Capt. Lewis and went into the houses of those people ...     Here the mountains are high on each Side, those to the Lard. Side has Some Snow on them at this time, more timber than above and of greater variety.





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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:    McArthur, L.A., and McArthur, L.L., 2003, Oregon Geographic Names, Oregon Historical Society Press, Portland;    Oregon State Archives website, 2005;    Wheeler, O.D., 1904, "The Trail of Lewis and Clark, 1804-1904", published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York, vol.II, p.156;   

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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December 2012