Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"The Dalles - Celilo Canal, Oregon"
Includes ... The Dalles - Celilo Canal ... The Dalles - Celilo Locks ... Celilo Falls ...
Penny Postcard, The Dalles-Celilo Locks, Upper Section, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Upper Section of The Dalles-Celilo Locks, Oregon. Penny Postcard, Divided Back (1915-1930), "Upper Section of The Dalles-Celilo Locks, Oregon.". Published by Chas. S. Lipschuetz Company, Portland, Oregon, "American Art Post Card", Card #200. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Image, 2005, Celilo Park and Celilo, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Celilo Park and Celilo, Oregon, as seen from Washington State Highway 14. Image taken May 24, 2005.

Today's Celilo Park looks over the area which once was Celilo Falls. Celilo Park is the location of the upper end of the The Dalles - Celilo Canal.

The Dalles - Celilo Canal and Locks ...
The 8-mile-long The Dalles - Celilo Canal, located three miles north of The Dalles, was completed in 1915, creating a steamboat waterway around the Fivemile Rapids ("Long Narrows"), Tenmile Rapids ("Short Narrows"), and Celilo Falls. Combined with the Cascade Locks near Bonneville, it provided a clear journey from the Pacific Ocean to Lewiston, Idaho, a distance of 500 miles.

The Celilo canal was 8.5 miles long, 65 feet wide, and eight feet deep at low water. There were five locks which were 45 feet wide and 300 feet long. The upper end of the canal was just above Celilo Falls and the lower end was just below Big Eddy, three miles above The Dalles. The canal had a drop of 81 feet in the Columbia River. After fifteen years of construction, the first steamers went through the lock on April 28, 1915.

"The Dalles - Celilo Canal, 8.6 statute miles long, has its lower end 3.3 statute miles above The Dalles. There are 5 locks in the canal with a depth of 7 feet over the lower sill; the useable dimensions of the locks are 265 feet long and 45 feet wide. This canal is drowned out when the state at the upper pool exceeds 18 feet. There is a turning basin, 220 feet wide, in the canal near its lower end. There are two warehouses on the canal with a combined capacity of 15,000 tons of wheat."

Source:    The 1942 United States Coast Pilot, Pacific Coast, Serial No.649.

Early Images ...

Penny Postcard, Celilo Canal near The Dalles, ca.1920, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Celilo Canal near The Dalles, Oregon. Penny Postcard, Divided Back (1915-1930), "Celilo Canal, near The Dalles, Oregon". A.M. Prentiss Photo. "American Art Post Card". Published by Lipschuetz and Katz, Portland, Oregon. Card #401. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, The Dalles-Celilo Locks, Upper Section, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Upper Section of The Dalles-Celilo Locks, Oregon. Penny Postcard, Divided Back (1915-1930), "Upper Section of The Dalles-Celilo Locks, Oregon.". Published by Chas. S. Lipschuetz Company, Portland, Oregon, "American Art Post Card", Card #200. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Caption on back reads: "Upper section of the New Dalles-Celilo Locks constructed by the U.S. Government making continuous navigation possible on the Columbia River for its entire course along the Northern Boundary of the State. On the right hand side by side is The State Portage Railway and the O.W.R.& N. Line. The North Bank Railroad Bridge in distance."
Penny Postcard, The Dalles-Celilo Canal, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: The Dalles-Celilo Canal. Penny Postcard, Divided Back (1915-1930), "Celilo Falls, Upper End of Celilo Canal and Indian Village, B.C. Markham, The Dalles, Ore.". Card #95. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, The Dalles-Celilo Canal click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: The Dalles-Celilo Canal with Cape Horn. Penny Postcard, Divided Back (1915-1930). Card #650. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.

Today's Views ...
The lower end of The Dalles - Celilo Canal and Locks began at today's The Dalles Dam and the upper end was at the location of today's Celilo Park.

Image, 2005, Celilo Park and Celilo, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Celilo Park, the location of the upstream end of The Dalles - Celilo Canal. Image taken May 24, 2005.

Today's Celilo Park looks over the area which once was Celilo Falls. Celilo Park is the location of the upper end of the The Dalles - Celilo Canal. View from Washington State Highway 14.
Image, 2011, The Dalles, Oregon, click to enlarge
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The Dalles Dam and the location of the downstream end of The Dalles - Celilo Canal. Image taken June 4, 2011.

View from The Dalles looking down at The Dalles Dam. The location of the downstream entrance to The Dalles - Celilo Canal is on the right.

The Dalles - Celilo Canal and Locks, etc.

  • First Steamers and Formal Dedication ...
  • April 28, 1915 ...
  • April 29-May 3, 1915 ...
  • "Undine" ...

First Steamers and Formal Dedication ...
On April 28, 1915, the first steamers went through the locks. They were the "Inland Empire", heading east to west, and the "J.N. Teal", heading west to east. The formal dedication of The Dalles - Celilo Canal was held at Big Eddy, the downstream end of the canal, on the afternoon of May 5, 1915.

"... Portland's contribution to the festivities at The Dalles on May 5, 1915, was a marine parade more than a mile long, headed by the steamer "Undine" which had aboard governors, U.S. senators and representatives, many admirals and "lady admirals" and such lesser mortals as mayors, legislatures, port commissioners and civic leaders. ... [the] first sternwheeler to pass through the new canal at its gay dedication was the Inland Empire. W.P. Gray, the celebration admiral and a distinguish figure in Columbia river navigation, was on the bridge. ..." [Oregon Journal, January 1, 1957, Portland, Oregon]

In 1957 the opening of The Dalles Dam and Locks flooded the locks and canal at Celilo, ending its history. Today, Celilo Park is located at what was once the upper end of the The Dalles - Celilo Canal.

April 28, 1915 ...
Crowds Go Wild as Vessels Meet in Lock.
Honor Accorded Inland Empire and J.N. Teal.
Indians Among Spectators as Upper and Lower Columbia Come Together for Traffic -- Wool Cargo for Boston Carried

Uninterrupted navigation between the Pacific Ocean and Lewiston, Idaho, more than 500 miles inland, has been established.

The heretofore insuperable barrier of rock that nature placed in the channel of the mighty Columbia where that stream cuts through the Cascade Range, has been conquered.

A vessel from the salt waters of the Pacific yesterday passed successfully around that barrier into the upper channels of the Columbia and a vessel from the head of navigation on the Snake River passed successfully around it toward tidewater below.

Canal Coast $5,000,000.

The Celilo Canal, which has been ten years in building and upon which Uncle Sam has expended $5,000,000, has been opened.

Yesterday's opening, though, was wholly informal. It was merely preliminary to the formal opening, which will take place next Wednesday. ...

Open-River Boats Passed.

To the steamer Inland Empire, one of the original open-river fleet, was given the honor of leading the way through the canal. She passed down the river, from east to west. The J.N. Teal, of the same fleet, went up the river, from west to east.

It was the first time that a lower river boat ever entered the upper river. it was not the first time, though, that an upper river craft had passed into the lower river, as a number of vessels built up above have been sent successfully over the rapids in periods of high water, but they never returned. The open canal now makes their return possible. ...

It was 1:26 p.m. when the Inland Empire entered the upper gateway. Twelve minutes later she steamed into the first lock. The lock had been filled. Slowly the craft sank down to the stage below -- a distance of 12 feet.

Whistles Announce Entry.

A gentle breeze was blowing and her flags waved proudly aloft. She uttered an exultant shriek from her whistle. The old engine of the Portage Railway stood alongside and answered with three or four cheering blasts. The crowd on deck cheered and waved their hats. ...

Although the voyage was in the nature of a trial trip, the Inland Empire carried a cargo of 15,000 pounds of wool, consigned by George H.L. Sharp, of The Dalles, to a Boston firm. ...

At 3:17 the vessel entered the upper one of the twin locks at Five Mile Rapids. "Just like Panama," exclaimed Mr. Teal: "we have twin locks."

The Inland Empire quickly dropped to the level of the lower dock, were a passing basin has been prepared. Just as she reached this point the J.N. Teal, in charge of Captain Arthur Riggs, was entering the basin from below. The Teal bore a large party of excursionists from The Dalles. Hundreds of others had come out by automobile and on the Portage railway. As the two steamers came up side by side pandemonium reigned. The steamboat sirens exchanged salutes, the shrill blasts from the construction engines joined with the coarse honks of automobile horns and the chorus of cries from the assembled crowds swelled into a mighty tumult.

The two vessels then continued on their separate ways. The canal locks closed behind them.

Navigation through the Celilo canal had become an accomplished fact.

Source:    "Morning Oregonian", April 29, 1915, courtesy Historic Oregon Newspapers Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, 2016.

April 29-May 3, 1915 ...

The completion and opening of the canal were celebrated by communities of Washington, Oregon and Idaho during the week of May 3-8, 1915.

The Canal is nearly nine miles long, is lcoated on the Oregon shore of the Columbia near the city of The Dalles and circumvents from east to west, Celilo or Tumwater Falls, Ten-Mile Rapids, and Five-Mile Rapids or The Dalles. A total fall of about eighty feet is overcome. The Canal has been under construction since 1905 and its cost (including the open river improvement of Three-Mile Rapids, just west of the lower end of the canal) has been about $4,800,000.

Incident to the week of celebration was the first continuous trip to be made by a steamer from Portland to Lewiston, Idaho, and return. The Steamer Undine left Portland on the night of April 29, having been chartered by the Portland Chamber of Commerce, and bearing about 100 excursionists. This vessel arrived safely at Lewiston on the morning of May 3 where the first of the series of celebration programs was held, characterized by pageantry and rejoicing, attracting a large attendance, including the governors of Oregon, Idaho and Washington, a number of United States senators and representatives.

Pasco and Kennewick, Washington, united in a celebration on May 4 ...

Wallula, Washington, site of the historic Fort Walla Walla, was a celebraion center for Walla Walla, Dixie, Freewater and other towns. ...

Umatilla County, Oregon, was well represented in the celebration at Umatilla ...

Maryhill (formerly Columbus), Washington was reached by the celebration fleet on the morning of May 5 ...

The formal dedication of The Dalles - Celilo Canal occurred at a point on the canal known as Big Eddy on the afternoon of May 5. Hon. Joseph N. Teal, chairman of the Oregon Conservation Commission, and a leader in the public movement for the building of the canal, presided.

Nearly all craft in the Portland Harbor joined in the celebration at the metropolis of Oregon which followed an early morning program at Vancouver, Washington.

The Steamer Georgiana was made the flag ship of the celebration fleet, succeeding the Undine, on the remainder of the run from Portland to Astoria and the sea was reached aboard the Government light house tender, Manzanita, thus making it possible for participants to say that they had completed the first uninterrupted journey from tide water to the Inland Empire of Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

Source:    Marshall N. Dana, 1915, "Celebration of the Open Columbia", IN: The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society, vol.XVI, no.2, June 1915.

"Undine" ...
With more than 100 people aboard, the sternwheeler "Undine" was the first steamer to go from Portland, Oregon, to Lewiston, Idaho, during the week-long celebrations of the opening of The Dalles - Celilo Locks and Canal. The "Undine" was the flagship to a long string of vessels participating in the celebrations. She left Portland at 1 a.m. on April 30 and arrived in Lewiston the morning of May 3. On the return trip she led the "fleet" from community to community to participate in canal opening celebrations.

"... The Undine party left Portland at 1 o'clock Friday morning, April 30. The vessel passed through the Cascade locks at 6 o'clock in the morning and reached The Dalles about 10 o'clock. The vessel was delayed there for several hours on account of high winds, but about 3 o'clock in the afternoon left on the up-river journey. It took about four hours to go through the locks and waterways. The Undine's first stop was at Maryhill, Wash., ...

The Undine reached Pasco, Wash., on Saturday night, with a brief call at Umatilla, Or., in the afternoon.

On Sunday night they stopped about three miles below Almota, Wash., after calling at Riparia in the afternoon for copies of The Sunday Oregonian.

At 10 o'clock Monday morning the Undine reached Lewiston -- its objective point. ...

The Undine, followed by the steamer J.N. Teal and the Government vessels ...   left at daybreak the following morning for the festivities at lower river points. ..."

Source:    "The Sunday Oregonian", May 9, 1915, courtesy Historic Oregon Newspapers Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, 2016.

Photo of steamer Undine, Sunday Oregonian, May 2, 1915
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Photo, Steamer "Undine" going through a lock of The Dalles - Celilo Canal, as published in the "Sunday Oregonian", May 2, 1915. Original courtesy Historic Oregon Newspapers Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, 2013.

"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. The Penny Postcard today has become a snapshot of history.

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

Clark, October 24, 1805 ...
The first pitch of this falls [Celilo Falls] is 20 feet perpendicular, then passing thro' a narrow Chanel for 1 mile to a rapid of about 18 feet fall below which the water had no perceptable fall but verry rapid ...     It may be proper here to remark that from Some obstruction below, the cause of which we have not yet learned, the water in high fluds (which are in the Spring) rise <nearly> below these falls nearly to a leavel with the water above the falls; the marks of which can be plainly trac'd around the falls. at that Stage of the water the Salmon must pass up which abounds in Such great numbers above- below thos falls are Salmon trout and great numbers of the heads of a Species of trout Smaller than the Salmon. those fish they catch out of the Salmon Season, and are at this time in the act of burrying those which they had drid for winter food. ...    Capt Lewis and three men crossed the river and on the opposit Side to view the falls which he had not yet taken a full view of-     At 9 oClock a. m. I Set out with the party and proceeded on down a rapid Stream of about 400 yards wide at 2 1/2 miles the river widened ito a large bason to the Stard. Side on which there is five Lodges of Indians. here a tremendious <heigh> black rock Presented itself high and Steep appearing to choke up the river [the future Browns Island] nor could I See where the water passed further than the Current was drawn with great velocity to the Lard Side of this rock at which place I heard a great roreing. I landed at the Lodges and the natives went with me to the top of this rock which makes from the Stard. Side; from the top of which I could See the dificuelties we had to pass for Several miles below; at this place the water of this great river is compressed into a Chanel [the "Short Narrows" or Tenmile Rapids] between two rocks not exceeding forty five yards wide and continues for a 1/4 of a mile when it again widens to 200 yards and continues this width for about 2 miles when it is again intersepted by rocks. This obstruction in the river accounts for the water in high floods riseing to Such a hite at the last falls. The whole of the Current of this great river must at all Stages pass thro' this narrow chanel of 45 yards wide. as the portage of our canoes over this high rock would be impossible with our Strength, and the only danger in passing thro those narrows was the whorls and Swills arriseing from the Compression of the water, and which I thought (as also our principal watermen Peter Crusat) by good Stearing we could pass down Safe, accordingly I deturmined to pass through this place notwithstanding the horrid appearance of this agitated gut Swelling, boiling & whorling in every direction (which from the top of the rock did not appear as bad as when I was in it;[)] however we passed Safe to the astonishment of all the Inds: of the last Lodges who viewed us from the top of the rock [this high rock became Browns Island when the waters of Lake Celilo inundated the valley]. passed one Lodge below this rock and halted on the Stard. Side to view a verry bad place, the Current divided by 2 Islands of rocks the lower of them large and in the middle of the river, this place being verry bad I Sent by land all the men who could not Swim and Such articles as was most valuable to us Such as papers Guns & amunition, and proceeded down with the Canoes two at a time to a village of 20 wood housies in a Deep bend to the Stard. Side [area of Horsethief Butte and Horsethief Lake] below which a rugid black rock about <the> 20 feet hiter <of> than the Common high fluds of the river with Several dry Chanels which appeared to Choke the river up quite across; this I took to be the 2d falls or the place the nativs above call timm, The nativs of this village [vicinity of today's Wishram] reived me verry kindly, one of whome envited me into his house, and the first wooden houses in which Indians have lived Since we left those in the vicinity of the Illinois, they are scattered permiscuisly on a elivated Situation near a mound of about 30 feet above the Common leavel [Wakemap Mound], which mound has Some remains of houses and has every appearance of being artificialó ...    I dispatched a Sufficent number of the good Swimers back for the 2 canoes above the last rapid and with 2 men walked down three miles to examine the river Over a bed of rocks, which the water at verry high fluds passes over, on those rocks I Saw Several large Scaffols on which the Indians dry fish; as this is out of Season the poles on which they dry those fish are tied up verry Securely in large bundles and put upon the Scaffolds, I counted 107 <Scaff> Stacks of dried pounded fish in different places on those rocks which must have contained 10,000 w. of neet fish, The evening being late I could not examine the river to my Satisfaction, the Chanel is narrow and compressed for about 2 miles [the "Long Narrows" or Fivemile Rapids], when it widens into a deep bason to the Stard. Side ["Big Eddy", today the location of Spearfish Lake], & again contracts into a narrow chanel divided by a rock [head of Threemile Rapids] I returned through a rockey open countrey infested with pole-cats to the village where I met with Capt. Lewis the two old Chiefs who accompanied us & the party & canoes who had all arrived Safe; the Canoes haveing taken in Some water at the last rapids. here we formed a Camp near the Village [near Horsethief Butte and Horsethief Lake] ...

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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:    See The Dalles;    includes:

  • Historic Oregon Newspapers Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, 2013;

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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February 2013