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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Umatilla Rapids and "Devils Bend Rapids"
Includes ... Umatilla Rapids ... Devils Bend Rapids ... Muscle Shell Rapid ...
Image, 2004, McNary Dam and Umatilla Rapids, from overlook, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
McNary Dam and the location of the Umatilla Rapids. View from Dam overlook, Oregon, Highway 730, approximate location of the downstream end of the Umatilla Rapids, Lewis and Clark's "Muscle Shell Rapid". Image taken September 24, 2004.


Umatilla Rapids ...
The historic "Umatilla Rapids" were rapids located along the Columbia River at Columbia River Mile (RM) 291, just upstream of today's community of Umatilla and the Umatilla River. The McNary Dam crosses the Columbia at the location of the Umatilla Rapids.

Devils Bend Rapids ...
The Devils Bend Rapids, now under the waters of Lake Umatilla (the reservoir behind the John Day Dam), were located at Columbia River Mile (RM) 286, five miles downstream of the Umatilla Rapids.

Early History ...
There are rapids located on each side of the Umatilla River. The downstream rapids was called "Devil's Bend Rapids" while the upstream rapids, located at the location of today's McNary Dam, was called the "Umatilla Rapids".

Lewis and Clark referred to the upstream rapids as "Muscle Shell Rapid".

A 1858 military recon map and a 1863 exploration and survey map have "Umatilla Rapids" located the downstream side of the Umatilla River.

The 1907 USGS 1:125,000 "Umatilla Quadrangle" topographic map has "Devil's Bend Rapids" located on the downstream side of the Umatilla River and the "Umatilla Rapids" located on the upstream side of the Umatilla River.


Early Maps ...

Historic Map, 1907, Irrigon and Plymouth, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
1907 Topographic map detail, showing Irrigon, Oregon, and Coolidge and Plymouth, Washington. Also showing the Columbia River, the "Devils Bend Rapids", and the mouth of the Umatilla, Oregon. Original map 1:125,000 "Umatilla Quadrangle", Washington-Oregon, U.S. Geological Survey, 1908 edition.
Historic Map, 1907, Plymouth and Umatilla, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
1907 Topographic map detail, Plymouth, Washington, and Umatilla, Oregon. Includes Umatilla and the Umatilla River, Oregon, and Plymouth and Sillusi Butte, Washington, along with the Columbia River and the "Devils Bend Rapids" and "Umatilla Rapids". Original map 1:125,000 "Umatilla Quadrangle", Washington-Oregon, U.S. Geological Survey, 1908 edition.


Lewis and Clark and the Umatilla Rapids ...
The rapids mentioned by Lewis and Clark in 1805 was located on the upstream side of the Umatilla River. It was labeled "Muscle Shell Rapid" on the route map [Moulton, vol.1, map#75].

"... I deturmined to walk down on the Lard Side, with the 2 Chiefs the interpreter & his woman, and derected the Small canoe to prcede down on the Lard Side to the foot of the rapid which was about 2 miles in length ..." [Clark, October 19, 1805]

"... This rapid I observed as I passed opposit to it to be verry bad interseped with high rock and Small rockey Islands, here I observed banks of Muscle Shells banked up in the river in Several places. ..." [Clark, October 19, 1805]

Alexander Ross and the Umatilla Rapids, 1811 ...
"On the 10th [August 10, 1811], at an early hour, we proceeded on our voyage, and met with no obstacle till the evening, when we arrived at the foot of a long and strong rapid, where we encamped near the mouth of a considerable river called Umatallow [Umatilla River], which enters the Columbia here. This river takes its rise in a long range of blue mountains [Blue Mountains], which runs nearly east and west, and forms the northern boundary of the great Snake nation. Opposite to our encampment, on the west side, is situated a large mound or hill of considerable height, which, from its lonely situation and peculiar form, we called Dumbarton Castle [Sillusi Butte]. ...

On the 11th we commenced ascending the rapid [Umatilla Rapids] -- a task which required all our skill and strength to accomplish; and paddles, poles, hauling lines, and carrying-straps were in requisition in turn, and yet half the day was consumed ere we got to the top. At the foot of this rapid, which is a mile in length, the river makes a quick bend to the east for about two miles, then comes gradually round again to the north from the head of the rapid. The channel of the river is studded on both sides with gloomy black rocks arranged like colonnades, for upwards of twenty miles. Here are some sandy islands also, on one of which we encamped; and a dark and cheerless encampment it was, surrounded and shaded by these gloomy heights."


Source:    Alexander Ross, 1849, "Adventures of the first settlers on the Oregon or Columbia River", Smith, Elder and Co., Astoria, Oregon.


Views ...

Image, 2004, Washington banks from upstream McNary Dam, from overlook, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Washington banks, upstream of McNary Dam. View from Dam overlook, Oregon, Highway 730, approximate location of the downstream end of the Umatilla Rapids, Lewis and Clark's "Muscle Shell Rapid". Image taken September 24, 2004.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, ...
 




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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:
  • Ross, A., 1849, "Adventures of the first settlers on the Oregon or Columbia River", Smith, Elder and Co., Astoria, Oregon;


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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July 2018