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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon"
Includes ... Tom McCall Nature Preserve ... Rowena Plateau ... Rowena Dell ... Rowena Creek ... Missoula Floods ...
Image, 2007, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon. View towards the Columbia River and the state of Washington. The Rowena Dell/Rowena Creek is visible on the left. Image taken May 13, 2007.


Tom McCall Nature Preserve ...
The 271-acre Tom McCall Nature Preserve is a plateau called "Rowena Plateau". It is located on the Oregon side of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 180, just west of Rowena Crest and east of the Oregon town of Mosier. Tom McCall Nature Preserve was named for one of Oregon's governors, Thomas Lawson McCall. Ownership and management of the preserve includes The Nature Conservancy, Mayer State Park and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There are two trails on the preserve. The 1-mile plateau trail begins at the interpretive sign at the entrance to the preserve and crosses Rowena Plateau to spectacular cliff edges. The trail also circles a permanent pond. A great view of the Rowena Creek drainage and Rowena Dell can be had from the cliff edge. The 3-mile McCall Point trail to the top of McCall Peak (open May through November) begins from the south side of the turnaround and gains 1,000 feet in elevation and provides a spectacular view of the area. Wildflowers are abundant in the spring.

Image, 2005, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon. Image taken September 18, 2005.


Rowena Plateau ...
The Tom McCall Nature Preserve and nearby Rowena Crest are located on a high basalt mesa known as the "Rowena Plateau". During the end of the last ice age over 200 feet of raging flood waters (today known as the Missoula Floods) ripped across this plateau stripping it clean. Over the next ten thousand years this surface was covered by 3 to 4 feet of loess (wind blown ash, most likely from nearby Mount St. Helens volcano) which eventually eroded into the mounds. These mounds, wildflower-covered in the spring, dot the surface of the basalt flow. They are commonly referred to as "biscuit mounds" or "biscuit scabland".

The Plateau ...

Image, 2007, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Rowena Plateau, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon. Image taken May 13, 2007.
Image, 2007, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Along the trail, looking towards Lyle, Washington. View from Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon. Image taken May 13, 2007.
Image, 2007, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Trail, Rowena Plateau, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon. Image taken May 13, 2007.
Image, 2007, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Loess mounds, Rowena Plateau, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon. Image taken May 13, 2007.
Image, 2007, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Loess mounds, Rowena Plateau, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon. Image taken May 13, 2007.
Image, 2007, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Flowers and mounds, Rowena Plateau. View from Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon. Image taken May 13, 2007.
Image, 2007, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Rowena Plateau, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon. Image taken May 13, 2007.


Plateau Views

Spring 2009 ...

Image, 2009, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Rowena Plateau, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon, with the Columbia River. Gold Stars dot the hillside. Image taken April 4, 2009.
Image, 2009, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Arrowleaf Balsamroot, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon. Image taken April 18, 2009.
Image, 2009, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Shooting Stars, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon. Image taken April 4, 2009.
Image, 2009, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Grass Widows, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon. Image taken March 21, 2009.
Image, 2009, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Yellow Bells, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon. Image taken April 4, 2009.
Image, 2009, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Columbia Desert Parsley, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon, with the Columbia River. Image taken April 4, 2009.


May 2007 ...
Wildflowers abound in the spring but a VERY WINDY DAY !!!!!! ... flower photography was next to impossible ...

Image, 2007, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon. View towards the Columbia River and the state of Washington. The Rowena Dell/Rowena Creek is visible on the left. Image taken May 13, 2007.
Image, 2007, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Lupine, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon. Rowena Dell is in the background. Image taken May 13, 2007.
Image, 2007, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Balsamroot and Lupine, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon. Image taken May 13, 2007.
Image, 2007, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Balsamroot, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon. Image taken May 13, 2007.


September 2005 ...

Image, 2005, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Rowena Dell, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon. View looking downstream Rowena Creek at Rowena Dell. Image taken September 18, 2005.
Image, 2005, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Trail, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Oregon. Image taken September 18, 2005.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, October 29, 1805 ...
A cloudy morning wind from the West but not hard, we Set out at day light [from their camp on Rocky Island at Crates Point], and proceeded on about five miles Came too on the Stard. Side at a village of 7 houses built in the Same form and materials of those above, here we found the Chief we had Seen at the long narrows [The Dalles] ...     they are hospitable and good humered Speak the Same language of the inhabitants of the last village, we call this the friendly village [vicinity of Dougs Beach]. ...     after brackfast we proceeded on, the mountains are high on each Side [high basalt cliffs of the Rowena Gap, with Rowena Crest on the south and the Chamberlain Lake area on the north], containing Scattering pine white oake & under groth, hill Sides Steep and rockey; at 4 miles lower we observed a Small river falling in with great rapidity on the Stard. Side [Klickitat River] below which is a village of 11 houses [today the town of Lyle is on the upstream side of the Klickitat], here we landed to Smoke a pipe with the nativs and examine the mouth of the river, which I found to be 60 yards wide rapid and deep, The inhabitants of the village are friendly and Chearfull; those people inform us also those at the last village that this little river is long and full of falls, no Salmon pass up it, it runs from N. N. E. that ten nations live on this river and its waters, on buries, and what game that Can kill with their Bow & arrows

we purchased 4 dogs and Set out- (this village is the of the Same nation of the one we last passed) and proceeded on The Countrey on each side begin to be thicker timbered with Pine and low white Oake; verry rockey and broken [passing Mayer State Park on the Oregon side]. passed three large rocks in The river the middle rock is large long and has Several Squar vaults on it. we call this rockey Island the Sepulchar [Memaloose Island] - The last river we passed we Shall Call the Cataract River [Klickitat River] from the number of falls which the Indians say is on it- passed 2 Lodges of Indians a Short distance below the Sepulchar Island [Memaloose Island] on the Stard. Side river wide, at 4 mile passed 2 houses on the Stard. Side, Six miles lower passed 4 houses above the mouth of a Small river 40 yards wide on the Lard. Side [Hood River]    a thick timbered bottom above & back of those houses; those are the first houses which we have Seen on the South Side of the Columbia River, (and the axess to those dificuelt) for fear of the approach of their common enemies the Snake Indians, passed 14 houses on the Std. Side Scattered on the bank- from the mouth of this little river which we shall Call Labeasche River [Hood River], the falls mountain [Mount Hood] is South and the top is covered with Snow.    one mile below pass the mouth of a large rapid Stream on the Stard. Side [White Salmon River], opposit to a large Sand bar [from Hood River], in this creek the Indians above take their fish, here we Saw Several canoes, which induced us to call this Canoe Creek [White Salmon River] it is 28 yards wide, about 4 miles lower and below the Sand bar [Hood River sandbar] is a butifull cascade falling over a rock of about 100 feet [Wah Gwin Gwin Falls, location of the Columbia Gorge Hotel],

[On the route map (Moulton, vol.1, map#78) a "C___ Spring" is shown on the north side of the river, today the location of Spring Creek and Spring Creek Fish Hatchery, with no mention of it in any text. On the south side, at the location of Wah Gwin Gwin Falls, only "Cascade" is labeled and "4 Houses of Indians".]

a Short distance lower passed 4 Indian houses on the Lard. Side in a timbered bottom, a fiew miles further we came too at 3 houses on Stard. Side, back of which is a pond [today the location of Drano Lake. The Little White Salmon River empties into Drano Lake.] in which I Saw Great numbers of Small Swan, Capt. Lewis and went into the houses of those people ...     Here the mountains are high on each Side, those to the Lard. Side has Some Snow on them at this time, more timber than above and of greater variety.





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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: Bishop, E.M., 2004, Hiking Oregon's Geology, The Mountaineers Books; The Nature Conservatory website, 2005, 2008; Waitt, R., 2007, personal communication, "Missoula Floods".

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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April 2009