Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Rowena Creek and Rowena Dell, Oregon"
Includes ... Rowena Creek ... Rowena Dell ... "Hog Canyon" ...
Image, 2005, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon. View looking downstream Rowena Creek at Rowena Dell. Image taken September 18, 2005.

Rowena Creek ...
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. Also on the Washington side are the drainages of Major Creek and Catherine Creek.

Rowena Dell ...
Rowena Dell is the valley of Rowena Creek.

"Hog Canyon" ...
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".

Hog Canyon or Rowena Dell?

"This canyon, a deep gash in the rock running back from the river, is far more picturesque than its name, which is said to have come down to it through the fact that a man who once lived in the canyon kept hogs. Some months ago members of the wormen's club at The Dalles were commissioned to select a new name for the canyon. Evidently the romanticists prevailed in the club councils, for their choice was "Rowena Dell." The reaction from this has been about as severe if not more so than from "Hog canyon," with the result that in most circles it is still called by the old name."

Source:    "The Sunday Oregonian", September 26, 1920, courtesy Historic Oregon Newspaper Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, 2016.

Historic Columbia River Highway ...
Rowena Dell lies along the Historic Columbia River Highway just east of Rowena Crest.

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

  • HMP 79.0 ... Hog Creek Canyon (Rowena Dell) Bridge (1920)
  • HMP 79.7 ... Dry Canyon Creek Bridge (1921)

  • Hog Creek Canyon (Rowena Dell) Bridge (1920):   "This structure is a 20-foot reinforced concrete deck girder span. Original concrete railings were upgraded in the 1950s." [National Historic Landmark Nomination Form, 1996]

    "This small brige is a 20-foot long reinforced concrete multi-beam span." [National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, 1983]

  • Dry Canyon Bridge (1921):   "This 101-foot reinforced-concrete structure includes a 75-foot open-spandrel ribbed deck arch. Artistic details throughout are signature features of C.B. McCullough-designed bridges." [National Historic Landmark Nomination Form, 1996]

    "The reinforced concrete deck arch structure is 101 feet long, with a 75-foot rib arch and 13-foot concrete slab spans at each end." [National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, 1983]

Image, 2005, Historic Columbia River Highway, Rowena Dell, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Dry Canyon Bridge and Rowena Dell, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. View from bridge on the Historic Columbia River Highway looking downstream towards the Columbia River. Mount Adams, Washington, is on the skyline right. 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. ..."

Views ...

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

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.

Columbia River GorgeReturn 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

  • McArthur, L.A., and McArthur, L.L., 2003, Oregon Geographic Names, Oregon Historical Society Press, Portland;
  • Oregon State Archives website, 2005, "A 1940 Journey Across Oregon";

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