Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Sam Hill Memorial Bridge"
Includes ... Sam Hill Memorial Bridge ... U.S. Highway 97 Bridge ... Biggs Rapid Bridge ... Biggs ... Biggs Junction ... Maryhill-Biggs Ferry ... "Maryhill Station" ... The Golden Age of Postcards ...
Image, 2004, Highway 97 Bridge from Biggs Junction, Oregon, to Maryhill, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Sam Hill Memorial Bridge (U.S. Highway 97, "Biggs Rapid Bridge"). View from Biggs Junction, Oregon. Image taken September 26, 2004.


"Sam Hill Memorial Bridge" ... ("Biggs Rapid Bridge")
The "Sam Hill Memorial Bridge" (U.S. Highway 97) is also known as the "Biggs Rapid Bridge". It connects Biggs Junction, Oregon, with Maryhill, Washington. The Washington State Department of Transportation owns and maintains the bridge. The "Biggs Rapid Bridge" is located 13.6 miles above The Dalles Dam, and has a clearance of 88 feet at the center of the fixed highway span. The bridge consists of 12 spans of welded plate girders and main span. Bridge length is 2,567 feet and 2 inches, with a 26 foot deck width. The bridge was the dream of entrepreneur Sam Hill, and on November 1, 1962, was dedicated as the "Sam Hill Memorial Bridge". The bridge was a toll bridge when first constructed.

Image, 2012, Biggs Rapid Bridge and upstream Columbia River as seen from Maryhill Museum, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
The Sam Hill Memorial Bridge ("Biggs Rapid Bridge") and Columbia River. View from the Maryhill area, Washington. Image taken May 29, 2012.
Image, 2005, On the Biggs to Maryhill Bridge driving towards Washington State, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
On the Biggs to Maryhill Bridge driving towards Washington State. Image taken June 4, 2005.


Maryhill to Biggs Ferry ...
The first ferry in the Maryhill-Biggs area was established in 1868 by William Hicenbotham.

During the early and middle 1880s ferry business was such that two ferries ran simultaneously. Historian Jeffrey Elmer ("Rootsweb.com" website, 2006) quotes from the Goldendale Sentinel June 15, 1944:

"... Wagon and teams were crossed for the sum of three dollars, and horse and rider were charged one dollar. During this period, the early, and middle eighties, business increased so that two ferries were run simultaneously, the "Nellie" with its accompanying sail barge at the upper landing where the present ferry docks; and the "Rattler," a self-propelled boat with the steam engine installed in the barge, at the lower landing, about a mile west of the upper landing. These two, the "Nellie" and the "Rattler," together carried the shore-to-shore traffic until the year 1889, when the "Rattler" was sold and put into service as a ferry at Ainsworth, near the Snake-Columbia junction. The faithful "Nellie" continued service up until 1903, when it burned. This marked the end of the era of steam on the upper Columbia. ..."

The same 1944 Goldendale Sentinel also stated:

"... In 1915 a ferry was re-established at the lower landing. In February of that year Samuel Hill launched the "Governor West." This ran for five years, giving way to the "Everyday Ferry." After little more than a year ferry at the lower landing was discontinued and was never re-established. ..."

The April 24, 1924 Klickitat County Agriculturist, Goldendale, Washington, stated that entepreneur Sam Hill announced he would run a ferry from Maryhill to Biggs.

"... In spite of vigorous opposition by the owners of the present ferry at Maryhill, the board of county commissioners have granted Samuel Hill, good roads booster and owner of a 5000-acre farm at Maryhill, a license to operate a ferry from the Klickitat shore to the Oregon side, at the mouth of Spanish Hollow, not far from the railway station of Biggs. H.G. Van Allen, John H. Johnson, and Ralph L. MacDonald, doing business as the Maryhill Ferry Company, and who hold a Klickitat county license, resisted the granting of a license to Mr. Hill on the ground that issuance of a license to him would be an infringement on rights granted under their license. Hills states that his ferry will be a connecting link between the states of Oregon and Washington for the everyday highway that he is promoting from the Canadian line to Mexico. This ferry, states Mr. Hill, will be an continuous operation until a bridge is constructed. This bridge is located opposite the Hill mansion and the terminus will be close to Biggs. It will be constructed within that the next three years. ..."

Sam Hill's ferry began operations in 1925 and held five cars placed in a single line. Hill boasted that the ferry would make the round-trip from Maryhill to Biggs in 10 minutes.

The January 15, 1931 Goldendale Sentinel, Goldendale, Washington, in a report on the proposed The Dalles Bridge, stated that the The Dalles to Grand Dalles ferry had an income of $17,250 per year, the Maryhill to Biggs ferry made $25,700 per year, the Roosevelt to Arlington ferry made $30,000 per year and the Lyle to Rowena ferry made "about $9,000 per year".

The 1942 U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor Coast and Geodetic Survey's "United States Coast Pilot, Pacific Coast", Serial No.649 lists four ferries across the Columbia upstream of The Dalles:

"... Four ferries cross the Columbia River above The Dalles as follows: Biggs-Merryhill, 16 statute miles; Arlington-Roosevelt, 50 statute miles; Boulder-Alderdale, 65 statute miles; and Irrigon-Coolidge, 88 statute miles. ..."

The last run of the Maryhill ferry was in 1962. According to the Mt. Adams Sun, Bingen, Washington, November 15, 1962:

"... The Maryhill Ferry which has criss-crossed the Columbia for 94 years ended its last run at 7:59 a.m. Thursday, November 1. Nine ferrymen lost their jobs to make way for the new $2.4 million Sam Hill Memorial Bridge which opened to traffic at high noon. ... Bridges have replaced all but four ferries across the Columbia. The ones still operating are at Megler, Cathlamet, Roosevelt and Verneta, all in Washington. ..."

Penny Postcard, Biggs-Maryhill Ferry, ca.1940-50s, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Biggs-Maryhill Ferry, ca.1940-50s. Penny Postcard, ca.1940s - 1950s. Color Photo by George Lindsay. Published by Weisters Color Sales, Inc., Portland, Oregon. Card #K-1746. The Biggs-Maryhill Ferry was replaced in 1962 by the "Sam Hill Memorial Bridge", taking travellers between Biggs, Oregon, and Maryhill, Washington. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


Maryhill Station in 1941 ...
From "The New Washington: A Guide to the Evergreen State, Federal Writers' Project, 1941":

"... MARYHILL STATION, is the depot for the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railroad. A Ferry ($1 per car, passengers included) operates from Maryhill to Biggs, Oregon, on the opposite shore of the Columbia, where US 97 continues southward. ..."


Biggs and Biggs Junction ...
Biggs and Biggs Junction, Oregon, are located on the south bank of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 208, at the location of the junction of the main line of the Union Pacific Railroad and its branch south into Sherman County, Oregon. The community was named for W.H. Biggs, pioneer landowner and legislator.
[More]

Image, 2003, Biggs Rapid Bridge and upstream Columbia River as seen from Maryhill Museum, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
The Sam Hill Memorial Bridge ("Biggs Rapid Bridge") and Biggs Junction, Oregon. View from Maryhill Museum, Washington. Image taken July 5, 2003.


"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, Biggs-Maryhill Ferry, ca.1940-50s, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Biggs-Maryhill Ferry, ca.1940-50s. Penny Postcard, ca.1940s - 1950s. Color Photo by George Lindsay. Published by Weisters Color Sales, Inc., Portland, Oregon. Card #K-1746. The Biggs-Maryhill Ferry was replaced in 1962 by the "Sam Hill Memorial Bridge", taking travellers between Biggs, Oregon, and Maryhill, Washington. 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:    Federal Writers' Project, 1941, "The New Washington: A Guild to the Evergreen State"; NOAA Office of Coast Survey website, 2005; "Rootsweb.com" website, 2005, "The Enterprise, White Salmon"; "Rootsweb.com" website, 2006, Klickitat County; Sherman County, Oregon, website, 2005; Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council website, 2005; Washington State Department of Transportation website, 2005.

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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June 2012