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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Rufus, Oregon"
Includes ... Rufus ... John Day Dam ... The Golden Age of Postcards ...
Image, 2006, Rufus, Oregon, from Interstate 84, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Rufus, Oregon, from Interstate 84. View is west towards Mount Hood on the horizon. The Columbia River is to the right. Image taken October 2, 2006.


Rufus ...
Rufus, Oregon, is located at Columbia River Mile (RM) 213, two miles downstream of the John Day Dam, and five miles upstream of the Sam Hill Memorial Bridge. The Sam Hill Memorial Bridge connects Biggs/Biggs Junction, Oregon, with Maryhill, Washington.

Early Rufus ...
Rufus was named for Rufus C. Wallis, the original settler in the community. He arrived from Tennessee and settled in the Rufus area in 1884. The Rufus Post Office was established in 1886, with Wallis as the first postmaster.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Mangement's General Land Office Records (2006) show Rufus C. Wallis being given title to 179.8 acres (1820 Sale-Cash Entry) on June 3, 1896, of T3N R17E Section 31, and 163.8 acres (1820 Sale-Cash Entry) on August 28, 1896, of T3N R17E Section 31.


From the City of Rufus ...
"The origins of Rufus began in 1884 with the arrival of Rufus C. Wallis from Tennessee. The first name of the town was Wallis Station in honor of Mr. Wallis who ran a ferry boat and a warehouse and was considered the second largest wheat shipper on record. The early town site consisted of approximately five acres which Wallis surveyed, platted and deeded to the city out of his homesteaded area in 1892. ... Rufus flourished when William H. Biggs, at a legislative session in Salem in 1885, succeeded in securing passage of a bill which compelled the railroads to place sidings where needed, and two of those places were Biggs and Rufus.

Rufus' population experienced an expansion period after the flood of 1894 which literally washed out the neighboring town to the west, Grant. Grant was never rebuilt and the majority of its citizens moved to Rufus. ...

Rufus' third major growth period came during the construction of the John Day Dam between the years of 1959 and 1968, Interstate 84, and other nearby federally funded construction projects. Incorporation as a city came in 1965. ... As the projects were completed between 1965 and 1970, the population declined. ... Although today there are not as many businesses as in the past the mild climate of Rufus and its location close to The Dalles have resulted in a number of people choosing Rufus for a place of retirement."

Source:   "Cityofrufus.net" website, 2011


Image, 2006, Rufus, Oregon, at Interstate 84 Interchange, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Rufus, Oregon, at the Interstate 84 interchange. The town is to the left and the road to the John Day Dam is to the right. View is looking west. Image taken October 2, 2006.


"The Golden Age of Postcards" ...

The early 1900s was the "Golden Age of Postcards", with the "Penny Postcard" being a popular way to send greetings to family and friends. Today the Penny Postcard has become a snapshot of history.

Penny Postcard, Rufus, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Wigwam Cafe, Rufus, Oregon, ca.1950s. Penny Postcard, Chrome, ca.1950s. Caption on the back reads: "Wigwam -- Cafe, Motel & Service Station located where the John Day meets the Columbia River. Featuring one of Oregon's largest private arrowhead collections. Owners, Leonard & Doris Cotton, Rufus, Oregon." Natural Color R Card, from Kodachrome. A Mike Roberts Color Production, Berkeley 2, Calif. Distributed by Western Sales Co., 1034 La Point, Boise, Idaho. Card #SC2681. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, October 22, 1805 ...
A fine morning calm and fare we Set out [downstream of the John Day Dam] at 9 oClock passed a verry bad rapid [today the location of the "Sam Hill Memorial Bridge", U.S. Highway 97 crossing from Biggs Junction, Oregon, to Maryhill, Washington. The rapid, which was labeled "Five-Mile Rapid" in 1858, is now under the waters of the Lake Celilo, the reservoir behind The Dalles Dam.] at the head of an Island close under the Stard. Side [???], above this rapid on the Stard. Side is Six Lodges of nativs Drying fish [Maryhill vicinity], at 9 mls. passed a bad rapid [Deschutes Rapid, also under the waters of Lake Celilo] at the head of a large Island [Miller Island] of high, uneaven [rocks], jutting over the water, a Small Island in a Stard. Bend [???] opposit the upper point, on which I counted 20 parcels of dryed and pounded fish; on the main Stard Shore opposit to this Island five Lodges of Indians are Situated Several Indians in Canoes killing fish with gigs [Haystack Butte, Columbia Hills, vicinity], <and nets> &c. opposit the center of this Island of rocks [Miller Island] which is about 4 miles long we discovered the enterence of a large river on the Lard. Side [Deschutes River] which appeared to Come from the S. E. - we landed at Some distance above the mouth of this river [Deschutes River] and Capt. Lewis and my Self Set out to view this river above its mouth, as our rout was intersepted by a deep narrow Chanel which runs out of this river into the Columbia a little below the place we landed, leaveing a high dry rich Island of about 400 yards wide and 800 yards long here we Seperated, I proceeded on to the river and Struck it at the foot of a verry Considerable rapid [Deschutes Rapids], here I beheld an emence body of water Compressd in a narrow Chanel of about 200 yds in width, fomeing over rocks maney of which presented their tops above the water, when at this place Capt. Lewis joined me haveing ....     at about two miles above this River appears to be confined between two high hils below which it divided by numbers of large rocks, and Small Islands covered with a low groth of timber, and has a rapid as far as the narrows three Small Islands in the mouth of this River, <we returned> this River haveing no Indian name that we could find out, except "the River on which the Snake Indians live," we think it best to leave the nameing of it untill our return [Deschutes River].

we proceeded on pass the mouth of this river [Deschutes River] at which place it appears to discharge 1/4 as much water as runs down the Columbia. at two miles below this River passed Eight Lodges on the Lower point of the Rock Island [Miller Island] aforesaid at those Lodges we saw large logs of wood which must have been rafted down the To war-ne hi ooks River [Deschutes River], below this Island [Miller Island] on the main Stard Shore is 16 Lodges of nativs; here we landed a fiew minits to Smoke, the lower point of one Island opposit [???] which heads in the mouth of Towarnehiooks River [Deschutes River] which I did not observe untill after passing these lodges     about 1/2 a mile lower passed 6 more Lodges on the Same Side and 6 miles below the upper mouth of Towarnehiooks River [Deschutes River] the comencement of the pitch of the Great falls [Celilo Falls], opposit on the Stard. Side is 17 Lodges of the nativs [near Wishram, Washington]     we landed and walked down accompanied by an old man to view the falls [Celilo Falls], and the best rout for to make a portage ...     we made 19 miles to day





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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: City of Rufus website, 2011; McArthur, L.A., and McArthur, L.L., 2003, Oregon Geographic Names, Oregon Historical Society Press, Portland; U.S. Bureau of Land Management website, 2006, General Land Office Records.

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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August 2011