Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Skamania Island, Washington"
Includes ... Skamania Island ... "Long Island" ...
Image, 2004, Skamania Island, as seen from Cape Horn, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Skamania Island, Washington, as seen from the Cape Horn overlook. Image taken October 27, 2004.

Skamania Island ...
Skamania Island, Washington, is a 1-mile-long cottonwood-covered island which lies in the middle of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 136. The community of Prindle, Washington lies a mile and one-half east of Skamania Island, and further upstream is Franz Lake NWR. Downstream on the Oregon side is Dalton Point. Skamania Island is managed by the U.S. Forest Service (Gifford Pinchot).

Early Skamania Island ...
In 1805 Lewis and Clark passed through the area of today's Skamania Island but make no mention of the island. Their route map [Moulton, vol.1, map#79] shows no island.

In 1841 Charles Wilkes of the U.S. Exploring Expedition, called an island "Long Island", located in the vicinity of today's Skamania Island.

"... Here the channel is the whole width of the river; as it approaches Long Island it turns towards the south shore. Long Island lies close to the north shore, is composed of sand, with a very few bushes growing on it. Between it and the shore there is a narrow passage for barges and boats, which may be used to avoid the strength of the current when ascending the river. Seven miles above Long Island is the head of navigation, near what was named Castle, at Observatory Point, on the north shore. ..."

"Castle" is Beacon Rock. However, this web author is not sure which of today's locations is "Observatory Point".

The 1948 U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (NOAA) map shows Skamania Island to be just over one mile long and 1/2 mile wide. It is not named.

In 1984 T.M. Nutting, Commander, U.S. Coast Guard, and Charles E. Harrington, Chief Geographer of NOAA/National Ocean Service, requested that the island be named "Skamania Island" after "local usage". The island was described as "island, 2.4 km (1.5 mi) long, in the Columbia River 1.9 km (1.2 mi) E of Prindle" and "Island - in Columbia River, 1.6 km (1 mile) long, 1.6 km (1 mile) NNW of Multnomah Falls, T1N, R6E, Sections 7 & 12".

The U.S. Board of Geographic Names made "Skamania Island" the official name in 1985.

Views ...

Image, 2004, Beacon Rock, Washington, from Dalton Point, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Skamania Island and Beacon Rock, Washington, from Dalton Point, Oregon. Skamania Island is in the middle left (treed area in the Columbia). Image taken June 27, 2004.
Image, 2006, Portland Women's Forum Scenic Viewpoint, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
View upstream from the Portland Women's Forum Scenic Viewpoint. View of Crown Point and Vista House, with Skamania Island, Beacon Rock, and the Bonneville Dam complex in the background. Image taken September 23, 2006.
Image, 2004, Columbia River Gorge and Crown Point, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Columbia River Gorge and Crown Point. View from The Portland Womans Forum Scenic View (formerly Chanticleer Point). Image taken October 11, 2004.

Death of an Island ...
Sometime between my images of 2006 and 2015 from Cape Horn, Skamania Island was eroded away. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife makes reference to its disappearance by June 2012.

"The current language for the sturgeon angling closure below Bonneville Dam during May 1 - August 31 references the "upstream exposed end of Skamania Island". Due to high flows over the past few years, Skamania Island has eroded and is no longer an accurate reference point. Staff proposes modifying the language to reference existing markers on both sides of the river and removing the reference to Skamania Island."

Source:    Oregon and Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife Joint Staff Report: Summer Fact Sheet No.3, June 28, 2012.

Image, 2004, Columbia River looking upstream from Cape Horn, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
2004 ... Columbia River looking upstream from Cape Horn, Washington. Skamania Island and Beacon Rock are in the distance. Image taken October 27, 2004.
Image, 2006, Cape Horn Landing and Phoca Rock, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
2006 ... Beacon Rock and Skamania Island, as seen from the Cape Horn Viewpoint. Image taken April 22, 2006.
Image, 2015, Columbia River looking upstream from Cape Horn, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
2015 ... Skamania Island location, as seen from Cape Horn, Washington. Image taken October 3, 2015.

Before and After ...

Image, 2004, Skamania Island, as seen from Cape Horn, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
2004 ... Skamania Island as seen from the Cape Horn, Washington. Image taken October 27, 2004.
Image, 2015, Columbia River looking upstream from Cape Horn, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
2015 ... Skamania Island location, as seen from Cape Horn, Washington. Image taken October 3, 2015.

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 2, 1805 ...
Examined the rapid below us [from their camp at Fort Rains, looking at the Cascade Rapids] more pertcelarly the danger appearing too great to Hazzard our Canoes loaded, dispatched all the men who could not Swim with loads to the end of the portage below, I also walked to the end of the portage with the carriers where I delayed untill everry articles was brought over and canoes arrived Safe. here we brackfast and took a Meridn. altitude 59 45' 45" about the time we were Setting out 7 Squars came over loaded with Dried fish, and bear grass neetly bundled up, Soon after 4 Indian men came down over the rapid in a large canoe.     passed a rapid at 2 miles & 1 at 4 miles opposite the lower point of a high Island on the Lard Side [Bradford Island], and a little below 4 Houses on the Stard. Bank, a Small Creek on the Lard Side [Tanner Creek] opposit Straw berry Island [Hamilton Island], which heads below the last rapid, opposit the lower point of this Island [Hamilton Island] passed three Islands covered with tall timber [today there are two, Ives and Pierce] opposit the Beatin rock [Beacon Rock]    Those Islands are nearest the Starboard Side, imediately below on the Stard. Side passed a village of nine houses [indentified on Atlas map#79 as the "Wah-clallah Tribe of Shahala Nation", location near today's Skamania and Skamania Landing], which is Situated between 2 Small Creeks [Woodard Creek and Duncan Creek], and are of the Same construction of those above; here the river widens to near a mile, and the bottoms are more extensive and thickly timbered, as also the high mountains on each Side, with Pine, Spruce pine, Cotton wood, a Species of ash, and alder.     at 17 miles passed a rock near the middle of the river [Phoca Rock], about 100 feet high and 80 feet Diamuter,     proceed on down a Smoth gentle Stream of about 2 miles wide, in which the tide has its effect as high as the Beaten rock [Beacon Rock] or the Last rapids at Strawberry Island [Hamilton Island],- Saw great numbers of waterfowl of Different kinds, Such as Swan, Geese, white & grey brants, ducks of various kinds, Guls, & Pleaver [today just below Beacon Rock is Franz National Wildlife Refuge]. ...     we encamped under a high projecting rock on the Lard. Side [Rooster Rock, with Crown Point rising above it],     here the mountains leave the river on each Side [leaving the Columbia River Gorge, Steigerwald Land NWR is on the north and the Sandy River delta is on the south], which from the great Shute to this place is high and rugid [Columbia River Gorge]; thickly Covered with timber principalley of the Pine Species. The bottoms below appear extensive and thickly Covered with wood.     river here about 2 miles wide.     Seven Indians in a Canoe on their way down to trade with the nativs below, encamp with us, those we left at the portage passed us this evening and proceeded on down The ebb tide rose here about 9 Inches, the flood tide must rise here much higher- we made 29 miles to day from the Great Shute [Cascade Locks]-

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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

  • Hay, K.G., 2004, The Lewis and Clark Columbia River Water Trail, Timber Press, Portland;
  • U.S. Geological Survey's Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) website, 2006, 2017;

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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Images are NOT to be downloaded from this website.
July 2017