Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Ruckel Creek, Oregon"
Includes ... Ruckel Creek ... Deadman Creek ...
Image, 2013, Bonneville Dam, on the Columbia River, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Bonneville Dam as seen from Hamilton Island, with Ruckel Creek drainage (behind left), un-named peak, and Eagle Creek drainage (behind right). Bonneville Dam as seen from Hamilton Island, accessed from Washington State Highway 14. Image taken February 19, 2013.

Ruckel Creek ...
Ruckel Creek is located on the Oregon side of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 147, upstream of Bonneville Dam. Downstream is Eagle Creek and Tanner Creek while upstream is the Oregon community of Cascade Locks. Ruckel Creek was named to honor J.S. Ruckel who helped build the 1850s portage tramway on the south side of the Columbia River, improving transportation around the Cascade Rapids.

Ruckel Creek Drainage ...
According to the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program's website (2014), there are nineteen small rivers and creeks entering the Columbia River between the Bonneville Dam and Hood River, with the three largest drainages being Eagle Creek, Phelps Creek, and Herman Creek. The 4-mile-long Ruckel Creek is located just upstream of Eagle Creek and downstream of Herman Creek. The lower 2.1 miles is intermittent with a 40-foot falls ("WaterfallsNorthwest.com" website lists height at 46 feet) located at Ruckel Creek Mile 0.2.

Image, 2017, Ruckel Creek Falls from Interstate 84, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Ruckel Creek Falls as seen from Interstate 84. View from moving car heading east. Image taken December 6, 2017.

Early Ruckel Creek ...
Ruckel Creek was at one time called "Deadman Creek" or "Deadman's Creek". In 1915, with the construction of the Columbia River Highway, the creek was re-named to "Ruckel Creek" to honor J.S. Ruckel who helped build the 1850s portage tramway on the south side of the Columbia River. The tramway transported folks and goods around the Cascade Rapids.

"The Committee felt that the name Deadman was not a good name for a natural feature, and the State Highway authorities wished a new name, There seemed to be no local sentiment about the matter, and the creek was therefore named ... for J.S. Ruckel, a pioneer transportation man who was interested in the first portage railroad at Cascade." ... Will G. Steel, Pres., Ore. Geographic Board.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's General Land Office Records (GLO) database, Joseph S. Ruckel and Benjamin Jennings were granted title to 150.80 acres of T2N R7E, parts of sections 14 and 23, on September 20, 1861 (Military Warrant, Scrip Warrant Act of 1855).

The 1860 cadastral survey map (tax map) shows a "Col. Buckle" residence located at "Middle Cascades, East".

Oregon Steam Navigation Company ...
"The permanent settlement of Idaho territory began with the discovery of gold at Pierce City, on Oro Fino creek, in 1860. It was then a part of Washington Territory and the name "Idaho" was not known or applied at that time. The rush to these mines was made principally by the Columbia river route and so extensive did the traffic, carried on by river boats, become that a company was formed called the Oregon Steam Navigation company, of which Colonel J.S. Ruckel was a stockholder. One of the steamboats constructed by this company, plying on the Columbia river, was called the "Idaho," and launched in 1860."

Source:    John E. Rees, 1817, "Idaho - Meaning and Origin", IN: Oregon Historical Quarterly, vol.18.

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

  • HMP 43.6 ... Ruckel Creek
  • HMP 43.6 ... Ruckel Creek Bridge (1917)
  • HMP 43.6 ... Ruckel Creek Bridge (1915, 1915-1916)

  • Ruckel Creek Bridge (1915, 1999):   "This modest reinforced-concrete slab span carries the CRH over Ruckel Creek. A four-arch masonry guard wall on the span's north shoulder had partially collapsed since the structure was abandoned in the late 1930s. The FHWA rebuilt the wall in 1999." [National Historic Landmark Nomination Form, 1996]

    "The small concrete slab span bridge is 10 feet in length, with concrete abutments faced with stone. ...   The bridge is part of a Forest Service trail, accessible from the Eagle Creek Campground." [National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, 1983]

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

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

  • Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program (2014), "NWCouncil.org" website, 2017, Lower Oregon Columbia Gorge Tributaries Watershed Assessment;
  • McArthur, L.A., and McArthur, L.L., 2003, Oregon Geographic Names, Oregon Historical Society 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.
© 2019, Lyn Topinka, "ColumbiaRiverImages.com", All rights reserved.
Images are NOT to be downloaded from this website.
December 2017