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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"St. Helens, Oregon"
Includes ... St. Helens, Oregon ... Mount St. Helens ... "Plymouth" ... "New Plymouth" ... "Casenau" ... Columbia County Courthouse ... Columbia View Park ... "Seaman" ... "down the trodden path" ... St. Helens Centennial ... Saint Helens, Washington ... Sand Island ... National Register of Historic Places ...
Image, 2004, View from public dock, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Sunset, marina at St. Helens, Oregon. View looking downstream from St. Helens Courthouse Docks. Image taken November 8, 2005.


St. Helens, Oregon ...
St. Helens, Oregon, is a deep-water seaport, and is located at Columbia River Mile (RM) 86, eighteen miles upstream of Rainier, Oregon, and just downstream of where the Multnomah Channel merges into the Columbia River. The community lies within the Scappoose Bay watershed. Downstream is Deer Island, the small communities of Columbia City, Goble, and Prescott Beach, and the location of the Trojan Nuclear Facility. Upstream is Linnton, Sauvie Island, and the St. Johns Bridge. Across the river from St. Helens is Sand Island, and on the Washington side the mouth of the Lewis River enters the Columbia a mile upstream. Lewis and Clark passed through the area in 1805 and referred to the "rocky clifts" on which would eventually border the town of St. Helens.

"... passed a large Slew 1/4 of a mile wide or at a 1/2 of a mile on th Lard. Side Some low rockey clifts below. ..." [Clark, November 5, 1805, first draft]

"... we passed a Chanel 1/4 of a mile wide which I take to be the one the Indian Canoe entered yesterday from the lower point of Immage Canoe Island     a Some low clifts of rocks below this Chanel ..." [Clark, November 5, 1805]

The Name: "St. Helens" ...
According to the St. Helens Chamber of Commerce Website (2004) two different versions exist of why the Oregon community is named St. Helens". One is that founder Henry Knighton named the settlement for the mountain plainly visible across the Columbia River. However other historians insist the Knighton family came from St. Helens, England, and Henry Knighton named his new community for his family's home town.

Mount St. Helens ...
Mount St. Helens can be seen from various areas around St. Helens, Oregon, including a nice view from the turnoff to Scappoose Bay, a couple of miles upstream of St. Helens.

Image, 2005, Mount St. Helens from Scappoose Bay, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Mount St. Helens, Washington (slightly steaming), as seen from Scappoose Bay, Oregon. View from just off of U.S. Highway 30, two miles south of St. Helens, Oregon. Scappoose Bay is to the right. Image taken November 8, 2005.


St. Helens in 1852 and 1853, Ezra Meeker ...
St. Helens, October 7th, 1852.    Dear Brother: Come as soon as you can. Have rented a house, sixty boarders. This is going to be the place. Shall I send you money?.    Oliver P. Meeker


Sure enough, I found St. Helens to be the place. Here was to be the terminus of the steamship line from San Francisco. "Wasn't the company building this wharf?" "They wouldn't set sixty men to work on the dock unless they meant business." "Ships can't get up the Willamette -- that's nothing but a creek. The big city is going to be here."

This was the talk that greeted my ears as I went looking about.


One January morning in 1853, our sixty men boarders did not go to work at the dock building as usual. Orders had come to suspend work. Nobody knew why, or for how long. We soon learned that the steamship company had given up the fight against Portland and would thence-forward run its steamers to that port. The dock was never finished and was allowed to fall into decay.


Source:   Excerpts from Ezra Meeker, in collaboration with Howard R. Driggs, 1905, Ox-Team Days on the Oregon Trail: World Book Company, New York, p.72-73.


St. Helens' Columbia River shoreline ...

Image, 2007, View from public dock, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Columbia River as seen from public dock, St. Helens, Oregon. View looking downstream, from public dock at St. Helens Courthouse Docks. Image taken February 17, 2007.
Image, 2007, View from public dock, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Homes, as seen from public dock, St. Helens, Oregon. View looking downstream, from public dock at St. Helens Courthouse Docks. Image taken February 17, 2007.
Image, 2007, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Scene, at the marina, St. Helens, Oregon. Image taken February 17, 2007.
Image, 2007, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Pilings, St. Helens, Oregon. Image taken February 17, 2007.
Image, 2007, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Pilings, St. Helens, Oregon. Image taken February 17, 2007.
Image, 2007, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Cormorant, St. Helens, Oregon. Image taken February 17, 2007.
Image, 2007, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Pilings, St. Helens, Oregon. Image taken February 17, 2007.
Image, 2004, Marina at St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Columbia River and the St. Helens Courthouse Docks, St. Helens, Oregon. Image taken February 28, 2004.
Image, 2007, Marina, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Marina, St. Helens, Oregon. Sand Island is in the background. Image taken February 17, 2007.
Image, 2006, Marina, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Marina, St. Helens, Oregon. Sand Island is in the background. Image taken October 31, 2006.


Early St. Helens ...
St. Helens, Oregon, was first called "Plymouth" by founder Henry M. Knighton, a mariner from New England who emigrated to the area in 1845. Oregon Geographic Names (McArthur and McArthur, 2003) states "Plymouth" was used in print in 1847 and 1848, and "New Plymouth" appeared in print in 1849. Then the name gets confusing. Oregon Geographic Names goes on to state that in August 1849 Knighton signed a deed in which he refers to "Plymouth and now called Kasenau", after Chief Cassino, a prominent native in the area. However eight months later, in April 1850, Knighton again used the name "Plymouth" as he established the "Plymouth Post Office" with himself as postmaster. Yet one month later Knighton refers to "Casenau now called St. Helens". "St. Helens" stuck. In November 1850 the post office was renamed "St. Helen" with William H. Tappan as postmaster. The missing "s" was later corrected and the post office became "St. Helens".

According to the St. Helens Chamber of Commerce website (2004):

"... Bartholomew White had the first sawmill in St. Helens around 1844. It was taken over by Henry Knighton, en emigrant, in 1845. Knighton filed a pre-emption claim on land to site the city in 1846 and moved here in 1847. He had his claim surveyed and mapped in 1848-1850. Knighton believed his town, which he had first named Plymouth (after the New England town) and later Casenau (after a prominent Native American Chief) and eventually changed to St. Helens, would easily surpass the newly founded village of Portland as a fresh water port. It might have, but the Pacific Mail docks in St. Helens burned and Portland businessmen persuaded Pacific Mail to move its terminal to their new town on the Columbia River, near the mouth of the Willamette. ... The famous geologist, Thomas Condon, taught the first school in St. Helens. In 1854 Columbia County was created, being formerly a part of Washington County. After a heated battle St. Helens was named the county seat in August 1903. The old courthouse, made of locally quarried stone, was built in 1906. The present town site was chartered by an act of the Legislature on February 25, 1889. The post office was established in 1853. ..."

The U.S. Geological Survey's Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) website (2007) lists "Houlton" and "Milton" as previous names used for St. Helens and for the St. Helens Railroad Station. "Houlton" and "Milton" both appeared on early Burlington Northern Timetables. Early maps however (Johnson, 1865, Colton, 1867) show "Milton" to the southwest of "St. Helens", with "St. Helens" being on the railroad track. The GNIS Website lists "Plymouth Post Office" and "Saint Helen Post Office" as variants for today's St. Helens Post Office.

The Bureau of Land Management's General Land Office Records (GLO) website (2007) shows title being granted to Elizabeth J. Knighton and Henry M Heirs of Knighton on February 4, 1867, for 637.7 acres for parts of T4N R1W Sections 3 and 4 and T5N R1W Sections 33 and 34, under the 1850 "Oregon-Donation Act".

In 1984 the "St. Helens Downtown Historic District" was added to the National Register of Historic Places (District, #84000137). The District rougly covers Strand, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, Cowlitz, and St. Helens Sts., and Columbia Blvd.


Street Scenes ...

Image, 2007, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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St. Helens, Oregon. Image taken February 17, 2007.
Image, 2007, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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City Hall, St. Helens, Oregon. Originally the Columbia County Bank in 1908, it became City Hall in 1937. Image taken February 17, 2007.
Image, 2007, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Columbia County Courthouse, St. Helens, Oregon. The "down the trodden path" is in the foreground. Image taken February 17, 2007.


St. Helens in 1940 ...
From the Oregon State Archives "A 1940 Journey Across Oregon":

"... ST. HELENS, 28.6 m. (98 alt., 3,944 pop.), a river port, is also a market and court town. Its manufacturing plants produce insulating board, pulp and paper, lumber, and dairy products.

The site of St. Helens was first known as Wyeth's Rock for the early trader, Nathaniel Wyeth, who had built a temporary post here in 1834. Captain H. M. Knighton took up the site as a donation land claim and in 1847 laid out the town as a competitor of the newly established Portland, which he contemptuously referred to as "Little Stump Town." It is said that Knighton named the town both to honor his native city of St. Helens, England, and for the beautiful mountain that rises a few miles to the northeast. According to some early records the vicinity was also referred to as Plymouth Rock or Plymouth and the earliest election district established here was named the Plymouth precinct. The earliest school was established in 1853 by the Reverend Thomas Condon, a noted scientist, who later became professor of geology at the University of Oregon. He added to his small salary as pastor of the St. Helens Congregational church by his teaching. The KNIGHTON HOUSE, 155 S. 4th St., was built in 1847 with lumber shipped around Cape Horn from Bath, Maine. Many of the town's buildings, including the COLUMBIA COUNTY COURT HOUSE, at First St. on the river bank, are built of stone from local quarries. ..."


St. Helens from the Washington side ...

Image, 2007, St. Helens, Oregon, from near mouth Lewis River, click to enlarge
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St. Helens, Oregon. View from just downstream the mouth of the Lewis River, Washington, showing the Columbia County Courthouse and Public Docks. Image taken March 4, 2007.
Image, 2007, St. Helens, Oregon, from near mouth Lewis River, click to enlarge
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Columbia County Courthouse, St. Helens, Oregon. View from the Washington side of the Columbia River, just downstream the mouth of the Lewis River, Washington, showing both the old (left) and the new (right) Columbia County Courthouse. Image taken March 4, 2007.


Around St. Helens, etc.

  • Columbia View Park ...
  • Courthouse ...
  • "down the trodden path" ...
  • Sand Island ...
  • St. Helens Centennial, 1989 ...

Columbia View Park ...
On the southeast side of the Columbia County Courthouse lies Columbia View Park. A replica of the first Warrior Rock Lighthouse is located at the north end of the park, along with a statue of "Seaman", Captain Lewis's Newfoundland dog (carved by Robert Tidwell of St. Helens). Seaman made the journey with Lewis and Clark. The park also has picnic tables and playground.

Image, 2006, Columbia View Park, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Columbia View Park, St. Helens, Oregon. Image taken October 31, 2006.
Image, 2006, Columbia View Park, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Columbia View Park, St. Helens, Oregon. Image taken October 31, 2006.
Image, 2006, Columbia View Park, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Columbia View Park, St. Helens, Oregon. On the left is a replica of the original lighthouse at Warrior Rock on Sauvie Island. On the right is a statue of "Seaman", Captain Lewis's dog who made the Lewis and Clark journey. Image taken October 31, 2006.
Image, 2006, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Columbia View Park, St. Helens, Oregon. "Seaman", Captain Lewis's dog who made the Lewis and Clark journey. Image taken October 31, 2006.
Image, 2006, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Columbia View Park, St. Helens, Oregon. "Seaman", Captain Lewis's dog who made the Lewis and Clark journey. The panels show a map of the Lewis and Clark journey and plots journal entries which mention the dog. Panels courtesy of the Historical Society of Columbia County with a grant from the National Park Service. Image taken October 31, 2006.
Image, 2006, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Columbia View Park, St. Helens, Oregon. "Seaman", Captain Lewis's dog who made the Lewis and Clark journey. Image taken October 31, 2006.


Courthouse ...
St. Helens' courthouse - Columbia County Courthouse - was built in 1906. It was made of locally quarried stone. In the early 1900s St. Helens' basalt rock quarry was a major industry for the area.
[More]

Image, 2006, Courthouse, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Courthouse, St. Helens, Oregon. The St. Helens' Courthouse was built in 1906. Image taken October 31, 2006.
Image, 2006, Courthouse, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Side window glass, Courthouse, St. Helens, Oregon. Image taken October 31, 2006.


"down the trodden path" ...
At the front of the courthouse in St. Helens, Oregon, a small grassy treed park exists with a granite squares pathway depicting the journey of Lewis and Clark. The black granite tiles trace Lewis and Clark's journey to the Pacific in 1805, and the green granite tiles (facing the other direction) depict the journey home in 1806. Plants and animals discovered along the journey are included, as well as everyday objects the men used.
[More]

Image, 2006, Down the trodden path, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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"down the trodden path", St. Helens, Oregon. Portion of the granite tiled pathway depicting the journey of Lewis and Clark. Image taken October 31, 2006.
Image, 2006, Down the trodden path, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Captain Clark's signature, "down the trodden path", St. Helens, Oregon. Image taken October 31, 2006.
"... I marked my name the Day of the month & year on a Alder tree, the party all cut the first letters of their names on different trees in the bottom."
[Clark, November 23, 1805]
Image, 2006, Down the trodden path, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Straggly Gooseberry, "down the trodden path", St. Helens, Oregon. Image taken October 31, 2006.


Sand Island ...
The Sand Island at St. Helens, Oregon, was created in the late 1920s from dredge spoils. The island is accessible only by boat, and offers docks, picnic tables, nature trails and a beach for sunbathing and swimming. Good views of Sand Island can be had from the Columbia shoreline at St. Helens.

Image, 2004, Sand Island from St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Columbia River and Sand Island, from St. Helens, Oregon. Image taken February 28, 2004.
Image, 2007, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Sand Island, from St. Helens, Oregon. View from Public Boat Ramp. Image taken February 17, 2007.


St. Helens Centennial, 1989 ...
In 1989, St. Helens, Oregon, celebrated its 100th birthday. A "Flag and Fountain" commemorate the event, and buried within is a "Time Capsule", scheduled to be be opened 100 years later, on July 4, 2089.

Image, 2006, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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St. Helens, Oregon, Centennial Monument. The plaque calls this the St. Helens Centennial "Flag and Fountain". Image taken October 31, 2006.
Image, 2006, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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St. Helens, Oregon, Centennial Eagle. Image taken October 31, 2006.
Image, 2007, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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St. Helens, Oregon, Time Capsule. The Time Capsule is buried at the base of the "Fountain". Image taken February 17, 2007.
Image, 2007, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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St. Helens, Oregon, Time Capsule. The Time Capsule is buried at the base of the "Fountain". Image taken February 17, 2007.
Image, 2006, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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St. Helens, Oregon, Centennial Flag. Image taken October 31, 2006.


Saint Helens, Washington (the town) ...

Washington State has its "St. Helens" town also, and, like St. Helens, Oregon, it too is named after Mount St. Helens. Nineteen miles northeast of Castle Rock, Washington (located on the Cowlitz River) is located the small community of Saint Helens, Washington. St. Helens, Washington is located on the North Fork Toutle River, a tributary of the Cowlitz. According to the U.S. GenWeb Project Website for Cowlitz County, the Saint Helens Post Office was first established in 1892 as "Sugar Creek", one mile northeast of the present-day townsite. The town was renamed Saint Helens in October 1893 after nearby Mount St. Helens.


Views from St. Helens ...

Good views of Sand Island and Mount Hood, Oregon can be seen from the Columbia River shoreline at St. Helens. Across the river the mouth of the Lewis River can be seen.

Image, 2004, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Columbia River and downstream tip of Sand Island, from St. Helens, Oregon. Banks of Washington State are in the background, left. Boats are at tip of Sand Island. View from Public Boat Ramp. Image taken August 29, 2004.
Image, 2007, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Columbia River and downstream tip of Sand Island, from St. Helens, Oregon. Banks of Washington State are in the background, left. Boats are anchored off tip of Sand Island. View from Public Boat Ramp. Image taken February 17, 2007.
Image, 2005, Mount Hood from marina at St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Mount Hood, Oregon, as seen from the docks at St. Helens. Image taken November 8, 2005.
Image, 2005, Mount Hood from marina at, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Mount Hood, Oregon, as seen from the marina at St. Helens, Oregon. Image taken November 8, 2005.
Image, 2004, View from public dock, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Sunset, Columbia River from the marina at St. Helens, Oregon. Looking across the Columbia River. The mouth of the Lewis River (note railroad bridge) can just be seen in the distance. Image taken November 8, 2005.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 5, 1805 ...
Rained all the after part of last night, rain continues this morning, I [s]lept but verry little last night [Post Office Lake, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge] for the noise Kept dureing the whole of the night by the Swans, Geese, white & Grey Brant Ducks &c. on a Small Sand Island [one of the islands of the Ridgefield Refuge] close under the Lard. Side; they were emensely noumerous, and their noise horid- we Set out <at about Sun rise> early here the river is not more than 3/4 of a mile in width, passed a Small Prarie on the Stard. Side [quite possibly the location of today's Campbell Lake] passed 2 houses about 1/2 a mile from each other on the Lard. Side a Canoe came from the upper house, with 3 men in its mearly to view us, passed an Isld. Covered with tall trees & green briers [Bachelor Island] Seperated from the Stard. Shore by a narrow Chanel [Lake River or Bachelor Island Slough] at 9 [8?] miles I observed on the Chanel [Lake River or Bachelor Island Slough] which passes on the Stard Side of this Island [Bachelor Island] a Short distance above its lower point is Situated a large village [Cathlapotle Village, near where Lewis and Clark camped on March 29, 1806, a place now known as Wapato Portage], the front of which occupies nearly 1/4 of a mile fronting the Chanel, and closely Connected, I counted 14 houses in front here the river widens to about 1 1/2 miles. ...    about 1 1/2 miles below this village on the Lard Side behind a rockey Sharp point [Warrior Point, Sauvie Island], we passed a Chanel 1/4 of a mile wide [Multnomah Channel] which I take to be the one the Indian Canoe entered yesterday from the lower point of Immage Canoe Island [Hayden Island, at this point Lewis and Clark had not discovered Hayden Island and Sauvie Island were two separate islands]     a Some low clifts of rocks below this Chanel [St. Helens, Oregon], a large Island Close under the Stard Side opposit [Lewis River floodplain, home of Woodland, Washington, possibly more of an "island" in 1805 ???], and 2 Small Islands, below [today's Burke and Martin Islands], here we met 2 canoes from below,- below those Islands a range of high hills form the Stard. Bank of the river [Martin Bluff], the Shore bold and rockey, Covered with a thick groth of Pine     an extensive low Island [Deer Island], Seperated from the Lard side by a narrow Chanel, on this Island we Stoped to Dine I walked out found it open & covered with <Small> grass interspersed with Small ponds, in which was great numbr. of foul, the remains of an old village on the lower part of this Island, I saw Several deer ...     below the lower point of this Island [Deer Island] a range of high hills which runs S. E. forms the Lard. bank of the river the Shores bold and rockey & hills Covered with pine, [Lewis and Clark are passing Goble, Oregon, and the area around the Trojan Nuclear Power Facility     The high hills leave the river on the Stard. Side a high bottom between the hill & river [Kalama, Washington]. We met 4 Canoes of Indians from below, in which there is 26 Indians, one of those Canoes is large, and ornimented with Images on the bow & Stern. That in the Bow the likeness of a Bear, and in Stern the picture of a man- we landed on the Lard. Side & camped [near Prescott Beach, Oregon] a little below the mouth of a creek [Kalama River] on the Stard. Side a little below the mouth of which is an Old Village which is now abandaned-;     here the river is about one and a half miles wide. and deep, The high Hills which run in a N W. & S E. derection form both banks of the river the Shore boald and rockey, the hills rise gradually & are Covered with a thick groth of pine &c. The valley [Columbian Valley] which is from above the mouth of Quick Sand River [Sandy River] to this place may be computed at 60 miles wide on a Derect line, & extends a great Distanc to the right & left rich thickly Covered with tall timber, with a fiew Small Praries bordering on the river and on the Islands; Some fiew Standing Ponds & Several Small Streams of running water on either Side of the river; This is certainly a fertill and a handsom valley, at this time Crouded with Indians. The day proved Cloudy with rain the greater part of it, we are all wet cold and disagreeable- I saw but little appearance of frost in this valley which we call <Wap-pa-too Columbia> from the root or plants growing Spontaniously in this valley only ...     We made 32 miles to day by estimation-





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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 St. Helens website, 2006; Cowlitz County Washington GenWeb Project website, 2004; Hitchman, R., 1986, Place Names of Washington, Washington Historical Society; "Longview Daily News" Recreation Guide, 2006; McArthur, L.A., and McArthur, L.L., 2003, Oregon Geographic Names, Oregon Historical Society Press; Meeker, E., in collaboration with Howard R. Driggs, 1905, Ox-Team Days on the Oregon Trail, by Ezra Meeker, World Book Company, New York, p.72-73; National Register of Historic Places website, 2007; Oregon State Archives website, 2005; St. Helens, Oregon, Chamber of Commerce website, 2004; U.S. Bureau of Land Management General Land Office Records (GLO) website, 2007; U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information (GNIS) website, 2007.

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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September 2008