Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Umatilla River, Oregon"
Includes ... Umatilla River ... "Youmalolam River" ... "Umatallow R." ...
Image, 2003, Umatilla River looking towards the Columbia River, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Umatilla River, Oregon, looking towards mouth. Umatilla River, looking downstream towards its confluence with the Columbia River, as seen from the Highway 730 bridge crossing the Umatilla. Image taken September 29, 2003.


Umatilla River ...
The Umatilla River is located on the Oregon side of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 289. The river is three miles downstream from the McNary Dam and the town of Umatilla, Oregon. Plymouth, Washington is located across the Columbia on the Washington side. Downstream of Umatilla and the Umatilla River is Irrigon, Oregon, the location of Lewis and Clark's campsite of October 19, 1805.

Umatilla River Drainage ...
According to the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority website (2004), the Umatilla River drains an area of nearly 2,290 square miles, and originates in the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon. It flows north and west to enter the Columbia River. Elevations in the Umatilla River drainage range from about 5,800 feet near Pole Springs on Thimbleberry Mountain to 260 feet at the mouth of the Umatilla River. The south and east portions of the drainage lie on the steep, timbered slopes of the Blue Mountains within the Umatilla National Forest. The remainder of the drainage consists of moderate slopes and level terrain.

Many Names ...
Umatilla ... Umatilah ... Umatillah ... Umatella ... Umatallow ... Utalla ... Utilla ... Emmitilly ... Ewmitilly ... Eu-o-tal-la ... Youmalolam ... You-matella ...

Early Umatilla River ...
Lewis and Clark passed through the area on October 19, 1805, and missed the Umatilla River. On their return trip on April 27, 1806 they once again passed the river, and once again they fail to mention it in their journal. Nicholas Biddle's inserted notes in the journal:

"... passed above our camp a small river called Youmalolam riv. ..." [Lewis, April 27, 1806]

The text from the Biddle/Allen publication:

"... We were detained till nine o'clock, before a horse, which broke loose in the night, could be recovered. We then passed, near our camp, a small river, called Youmalolam, proceeded through a continuation, till at the distance of fifteen miles, the abrupt and rocky hills three hundred feet high, return to the river. These we ascended, and then crossed a higher plain for nine miles, when we again came to the water side ..."

The river is marked on Lewis and Clark's route map [Moulton, vol.1, map#75] as the "You ma lol am R", their spelling of the Indian name for the river. Lewis and Clark camped across from the mouth of the Umatilla River on April 26, 1806.

In 1838 the "Map of the United States Territory of Oregon West of the Rocky Mountains, Exhibiting the various Trading Depots or Forst occupied by the British Hudson Bay Company, connected with the Western and northwestern Fur Trade. Compiled in the Bureau of Topographical Engineers, from the latest authorities, under the direction of Col. J.J. Abert, by Wash: Hood." had the river labeled "Umatallow R.". Upstream the Wallula Gap area of the Columbia River was labeled "Gt. Bend.".

In 1836 naturalist John Kirk Townsend visited the Umatilla River. He called it the "Utalla" or "Emmitilly" river.

"... July 26th. -- At noon, to-day, we arrived at the Utalla, or Emmitilly river, where we found a large village of Kayouse Indians, engaged in preparing kamas ..." [Townsend, July 26, 1836]

In 1841, Charles Wilkes, on his "Map of the Oregon Territory", listed the river as "Umatilla R." on the main map of the territory, and "Umatilla or Utilla" on the inset map of the Columbia River. Other various spellings of the name exist. Alexander Ross gives "You-matella" and "Umatallow" and John C. Fremont give "Umatilah". Other names appearing on early maps were "Utalla", "Ewmitilly", "Eu-o-tal-la" and "Umatella".


Penny Postcard, Umatilla, Oregon
Click image to enlarge
Umatilla River, Umatilla, Oregon.
Penny Postcard, Real Photo, Divided Back, "Umatilla Riv. and Columbia Riv. - Umatilla, Ore.". Christian. Card #11-920. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Umatilla, Oregon
Click image to enlarge
Ferrying sheep across the Columbia, Umatilla, Oregon.
Penny Postcard, Real Photo, Divided Back, "Ferrying Sheep Across the Columbia, Umatilla, Ore.". In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


Views ...

Image, 2006, Umatilla River, Oregon, looking upstream, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Umatilla River, Oregon, at Interstate 82. View from Umatilla River Road, looking downstream. Image taken September 29, 2006.
Image, 2006, Umatilla River, Oregon, looking upstream, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Umatilla River, Oregon, at Interstate 82. View from Umatilla River Road, looking downstream. Image taken September 29, 2006.
Image, 2003, Umatilla River, Oregon, looking upstream, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Umatilla River, Oregon, looking upstream. Umatilla River, looking upstream, as seen from the Highway 730 bridge crossing the Umatilla. Image taken September 29, 2003.
Image, 2003, Umatilla River, Oregon, at mouth looking across the Columbia River, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Umatilla River, Oregon, at mouth looking across the Columbia River. Plymouth, Washington is on the Washington bank. View from the Highway 730 Bridge crossing the Umatilla. Image taken September 29, 2003.


"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. Today the Penny Postcard has become a snapshot of history.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, October 19, 1805 ...





Clark, April 26, 1806 ...
This morning early we proceeded on [from their campsite at Alder Creek, Washington] and at the distance of three miles entered a low leavel plain Country of great extent.   :  here the river hills are low and receed a great distance from the river this low Country Comenced on the South Side about 10 miles below our Encampment of the last night [Alder Creek], those plains are Covered with a variety of herbatious plants, Grass and 3 Species of Shrubs.     at the distance of 12 miles halted near Some willows which afforded us a Sufficient quantity of fuel to cook our dinner which Consisted of the ballance of the dogs we had purchased yesterday evening and Some jerked Elk....     the roads dusty ...    after dinner we Continued our march through a leavel plain near the river 16 miles and encamped [near Plymouth, Washington, across from the mouth of the Umatilla River] about a mile below 3 Lodges of the fritened band of the Wallah wallah nation, and about 7 miles above our encampment of the 19th of Octr. last. [near Irrigon, Oregon] ...     made 28 miles





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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:
  • Center for Columbia River History website, 2005;
  • Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority website, 2004;
  • McArthur, L.A., and McArthur, L.L., 2003, Oregon Geographic Names, Oregon Historical Society Press, Portland;
  • Moulton, 1991, The Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, vol.7;
  • U.S. Army website, 2005;
  • U.S. Library of Congress "American Memories" website, 2004;
  • Walla Walla County Emergency Management Department website, 2005;
  • Washington State Historical Society website, 2004, "Lasting Legacy";
  • Washington State University website, 2005, "Early Washington Maps: A Digital Collection";


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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November 2011