Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Vancouver Landing, Vancouver, Washington"
Includes ... Vancouver Landing ... Vancouver to Portland Ferry ... The Golden Age of Postcards ... Steamboats ... Wagon Roads ...
Image, 2005, at Vancouver Landing, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
View at Vancouver Landing. Image taken July 3, 2005.


Vancouver Landing ...
Vancouver Landing is located at Columbia River Mile (RM) 106.5, on the downstream side of the Interstate 5 Bridge and the upstream side of the railroad bridge. This once was the location of a ferry landing. It is now a public dock and city park for the city of Vancouver, Washington.

Image, 2005, Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Banner, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Banner. Image taken July 3, 2005.
Image, 2005, at Vancouver Landing Public Dock, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Dock at Vancouver Landing. Image taken July 3, 2005.
Image, 2005, Railroad Bridge crossing the Columbia at Vancouver, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Open for traffic, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Bridge crossing the Columbia River connecting Vancouver, Washington, with Portland, Oregon. Span for river traffic is open. View from Vancouver Landing, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken July 3, 2005.
Image, 2005, Hayden Island, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Hayden Island, Oregon, as seen from Vancouver Landing, Washington. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Bridge crossing the Columbia River connecting Vancouver, Washington, with Portland, Oregon. Image taken July 3, 2005.


Vancouver to Portland Ferry ...
The following brief history is compiled from various stories on the "Columbian.com" website (2005 and 2006).

In September 1846 John Switzler, an immigrant from Virginia who had a land claim on Hayden Island, began the first "regular" ferry service across the Columbia. This first ferry (rowing and probably sail) carried foot traffic to and from Hayden Island and the Hudson Bay Company's trading post at Fort Vancouver. Switzler and his sons ran this service for nearly a decade, with service being sporadic. In 1855 Switzler's son, John Jr., took over the ferry operation from his father and, for the next several years, Switzer Jr. provided a more regular service.

"... In April 5, 1855, the county commissioners of Multnomah County established the following rates of ferriage across the Columbia River to Vancouver for the Switzler operation: "For each foot passenger 50 cents; man and horse $1.00; wagon and span $2.00; each additional animal 25 cents. Each cart of buggy and animal, $1.50; each head of horses or cattle 50 cents; each sheep or hog 25 cents; each hundred pounds of freight not on wagon, 25 cents." For these fees, Switzler was required to pay $10 per annum. To continue the trip from Vancouver to Switzler Island it was necessary to take the Love ferry across the Columbia Slough - also referred to at that time by the paradoxical name of Love's Slough - to Portland. At that same meeting rates were set for Lewis Love as follows: "For wagon and animal 25 cents; man on horseback 10 cents; foot passenger 5 cents; loose animals 5 cents." He was required to pay a fee of $5 a year. ..." ["Columbian.com" website, 2005]

"CLACKAMAS COUNTY COURT.-- A special term of this Court was held last week, and some important business transacted. Mr. John Switzler was authorized to keep a public ferry on the Columbia river opposite Fort Vancouver."


Source:    "Oregon Spectator" (Oregon City), October 15, 1846, courtesy Historic Oregon Newspapers Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, 2016.

Other settlers also got into ferry traffic during this time. In 1850 Mr. Forbes Barclay ran a ferry upstream of Vancouver at what was then called the upper landing at the Indian Village. In 1851 a license was granted to William Goodwin to establish a ferry from the head of Lady Island to above the mouth of the Washougal River. In 1854 David C. Parker was granted a license for a ferry in that same area. In 1855 licenses were granted to James Carty for a ferry on Lake River slough and O.W. Bozorth for a ferry on the Cathlapoodle River (today's Lewis River). William Ryan was granted a franchise to establish a ferry in the same area as Mr. Barclay (Ryan Point).

After the Switzlers quit ferrying between Vancouver and Hayden Island, Wesley Van Schuyver ran a service. It was discontinued it in a few months, due to lack of profits. For the next 16 years there was no regular ferry service across the Columbia River from Vancouver.

Regular Ferry service between Vancouver and Hayden Island (and then on to Portland) finally began in 1870. The "regular" ferry run was between the foot of "B" Street (today's Washington Street) and "Switzler's Landing" (on Hayden Island).

"... By the 1870s, with the improvement of rail transport into Portland, there was an increasing need for a dependable ferry system. In September, 1875, the Independent reported that a ferry that had '... recently put on a run between the government wharf and the Oregon shore as a venture was continuing to run, making hourly trips from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.' On Sept. 13, 1878, the ferry was again made mention of in that 'The ferry boat at Vancouver, tied to the bank, was sunk by alternation of the tides. Efforts to get it off the bottom failed due to mishaps. After three days she was raised and towed to Portland for repairs.' ... The Independent doesn't mention whether this ferry was the "Black Maria," the first steam ferry to make the crossing. Instead of being steered by a pilot at a wheel, he stood at the stern with along sweep and guided the boat. ... On May 7, 1879, franchise was granted to William H. Foster and Edwin A. Willis to operate a steam ferry on the Columbia River from the foot of "B" Street, Vancouver, to Switzler's Landing, upon the payment of an annual license fee of five dollars." ..." ["Columbian.com" website, 2005]

Many ferries and ferry franchises existed during the end of the 1900s. Most ran between Vancouver's "B" Street Landing and Switzler's Landing on Hayden Island. Between 1891 and 1905, two ferries named "Vancouver" were run between the "B" Street Landing and "Columbia Beach", a mile upstream on the Oregon side.

The opening of the Interstate 5 Bridge in 1917, spelled doom for the Vancouver Ferry.

"... Amidst all this joyous revelry over the new bridge, the faithful ferry made her last run from Vancouver to the Oregon side with Captain Frank Stevens piloting this last trip, as he had piloted others for 38 years. PRL&P had renewed its ferrying license in 1913, but the opening of the Interstate Bridge ended not only conflict between the company and Clarke County officials over ferry boating, but the ferryboat era itself. ..." ["Columbian.com" website, 2006]

Penny Postcard, Interstate 5 Bridge and the Portland-Vancouver Ferry, ca.1920
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Interstate 5 Bridge and the Portland-Vancouver Ferry, ca.1920. Penny Postcard, ca.1920, "Interstate Bridge, between Vancouver, Wash., and Portland, Ore.". Caption on back reads: "Interstate Bridge, between Vancouver, Wash., and Portland, Ore. -- This bridge was erected during 1917 at a cost of $1,500,000. Previous to the erection of same, the traffic was taken care of by the ferry shown in the picture.". Published by The Oregon News Co., Portland, Oregon. Card #8241. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


Early Ferry Crossings on the Maps ...
The 1888 NOAA Chart #6145 "Columbia River, Sheet No.6, Fales Landing to Portland" shows a ferry landing at Vancouver, downstream of the future Interstate 5 Bridge and upstream of the Railroad Bridge (depicted with "Portland & Puget Sound R.R." label on it), with the Hayden Island ferry landing located upstream of the Interstate 5 Bridge directly across from the upstream end of the Fort Vancouver area, on the downstream end of Tomahawk Island. There is no ferry shown at Ryan Point.

The 1902 NOAA Chart #6146 "Columbia River Vancouver to Bonneville" shows the same as the 1888 NOAA Chart.

An 1888 platt map however shows no railroad bridge, and with a ferry from Vancouver (from the foot of "B Street") heading to the Oregon shore (passing around the upper end of Hayden Island) labeled "Steam Ferry".


Steamboats on the Columbia River ...
While various ferry services were traversing from one side of the Columbia to the other, steamboats were also operating on the Columbia. Since the 1850s steamboats took traffic from Vancouver up the Willamette River to Portland. Steamboats also would run from Astoria to Vancouver, and Vancouver to The Dalles.

"... As far back as 1850, Vancouver had been port for the little steamer "Columbia." In 1854, the "Eagle," a little iron propeller boat of ten tons that had been brought out around the Horn on the deck of a ship, was placed on the route between Portland and Vancouver. Under the command of Captain Woods, its fare was five dollars. In 1857, Vancouver became the terminus of a steamer operating on a regular schedule - the side-wheeler "Vancouver." Beginning in 1870, and running for nearly a decade, the "Vancouver" made the run to Portland. She was joined by the "Wasp," the "Carrie," and "Oneota." Several others were to follow in the years ahead. ..." ["Columbian.com" website, 2005]

From "A History of Clarke County", published in 1885:

"... As early as 1852-53 steamboats were wont to touch at Vancouver and among the first of these were the "Multnomah", Capt. Hoyt, which called twice a week for the mail on her passage to and from Astoria; and the "Fashion" and "Belle", that ran between Portland and the Cascades. In 1854 the "Eagle", a little iron propeller that had been brought out on the deck of a ship round Cape Horn, was placed on the route between Portland and Vancouver, under command of Captain Woods, with Deputy United States Marshal Frush as "the bo'sen tight, and the midshipmite, and the crew of the captain's gig" -- otherwise general factortem. -- Fare five dollars !

Prior to 1855 the steamboats calling were wont to make fast to the river-bank, but that year Barker & Stevens brought a wharf-boat and anchored it at the foot of Main street; while another of the same nature was placed at the foot of B street, where Moore's landing now is, by Hart & Camp. These floating sharves were large and flat, entirely surrounded with a wide gunwale to which were attached proper conveniences by which vessels could be tied, while at either end was a saloon and store with a twelve-foot wide passage between. They gave way to permanent wharves in the following year. ..."

[More]


Need for a "Wagon Road" ...

Weather and floods often interferred with ferry service, increasing the mood of the area for a bridge across the Columbia. The winter of 1892-93 found the Columbia blocked with ice. The flood of 1894, the largest recorded on the Columbia, disrupted not only ferry and steamboat service but also train service.

"... The flood badly wrecked the Portland and Vancouver railroad trestle and it would have to be completely rebuilt. The last trip over the trestle by the electric cars was made on May 31st, and the ferry came up and tied to the trees in one local's yard. The flood also wrecked a large part of the elevated wagon road of the P & V road on the bottoms and the balance was under water. The entire road would have to be rebuilt and the teams could not cross for several months, cutting down on ferry loads. But the ferry still had plenty of work ahead of her carrying supplies for rebuilding back and forth. ..." ["Columbian.com" website, 2005]

The need for a "wagon road" to get across the Columbia became once again obvious when, during the 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial, nearly 2,000 people swamped the ferry on their way from Vancouver to the Centennial in Portland. In 1917 the Interstate 5 Bridge opened. Ferry service across the Columbia River ended soon after.



"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.

Penny Postcard, Interstate 5 Bridge and the Portland-Vancouver Ferry, ca.1920
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Interstate 5 Bridge and the Portland-Vancouver Ferry, ca.1920. Penny Postcard, ca.1920, "Interstate Bridge, between Vancouver, Wash., and Portland, Ore.". Caption on back reads: "Interstate Bridge, between Vancouver, Wash., and Portland, Ore. -- This bridge was erected during 1917 at a cost of $1,500,000. Previous to the erection of same, the traffic was taken care of by the ferry shown in the picture.". Published by The Oregon News Co., Portland, Oregon. Card #8241. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Moonlight, Portland-Vancouver Ferry, ca.1910, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Portland-Vancouver Ferry, "City of Vancouver", ca.1910. Penny Postcard, ca.1910, "New Ferry 'City of Vancouver' between Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Wash.". Published by Sprouse & Son, Tacoma, Wash. Made in Germany. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Moonlight, Portland-Vancouver Ferry, ca.1910, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Portland-Vancouver Ferry, Vancouver, Washington, ca.1910. Penny Postcard, ca.1910, "Vancouver Ferry entering Vancouver, Wash., North Bank Bridge in Distance. On the North Bank Road." Published by Portland Postcard Co., Portland, Oregon. Made in Portland. Card #P1416. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Moonlight, Portland-Vancouver Ferry, ca.1910, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Portland-Vancouver Ferry, "City of Vancouver", ca.1910. Penny Postcard, ca.1910, "Ferry Boat 'City of Vancouver' making connection between Vancovuer, Wash., and Portland, Ore.". Plate 2110. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Moonlight, Portland-Vancouver Ferry, ca.1910, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Portland-Vancouver Ferry, ca.1910. Penny Postcard, Postmarked 1910, "Crossing the Columbia by Moonlight, Portland, Oreg. and Vancouver, Wash. Ferry.". Published by Portland Post Card Co., Portland, Oregon. Card #1008. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 4, 1805 ...
A cloudy cool morning wind from the West we Set out at 1/2 past 8 oClock [from their camp on the north side of Government Island, approximately across from Fisher's Landing], one man Shannon Set out early to walk on the Island [Government Island] to kill Something, he joined us at the lower point with a Buck. This island is 6 miles long and near 3 miles wide thinly timbered     (Tide rose last night 18 inches perpndicular at Camp) near the lower point of this diamond Island [Government Island] is The head of a large Island Seperated from a Small one by a narrow chanel [Lewis and Clark show two large islands on their maps, both in today's Government Island area], and both Situated nearest the Lard Side, those Islands [even today the Government Island reach is a complex of many islands] as also the bottoms are thickly Covered with Pine &c. river wide, Country low on both Sides; [since 1983 the Interstate 205 bridge crosses Government Island connecting Oregon to Washington]     on the Main Lard Shore a Short distance below the last Island we landed at a village of 25 Houses: [near Portland International Airport]; ...     This village contains about 200 men of the Skil-loot nation ...

at 7 miles below this village passed the upper point of a large Island [Hayden Island] nearest the Lard Side, a Small Prarie [Jolie Prairie, today the location of Fort Vancouver and Pearson Airpark. Lewis and Clark camp on this prairie on their return] in which there is a pond [one of the many ponds which use to dot this area] opposit on the Stard. here I landed and walked on Shore, about 3 miles a fine open Prarie for about 1 mile, back of which the countrey rises gradually and wood land comencies Such as white oake, pine of different kinds, wild crabs with the taste and flavour of the common crab and Several Species of undergroth of which I am not acquainted, a few Cottonwood trees & the Ash of this countrey grow Scattered on the river bank, ...     joined Capt. Lewis at a place he had landed with the party for Diner. ...

dureing the time we were at dinner those fellows Stold my pipe Tomahawk which They were Smoking with [Tomahawk pipe, thus giving rise to the name Tomahawk Island] ...    we proceeded on

[The men have passed through the area which, 20 years later, Dr. John McLoughlin would choose for a trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company, later to become Fort Vancouver and eventually the city of Vancouver, Washington.]

met a large & a Small Canoe from below, with 12 men the large Canoe was ornimented with Images carved in wood the figures of <man &> a Bear in front & a man in Stern, Painted & fixed verry netely on the <bow & Stern> of the Canoe, rising to near the hight of a man [Lewis and Clark then named Hayden Island "Image Canoe Island"]     two Indians verry finely Dressed & with hats on was in this canoe passed the lower point of the Island [Hayden Island] which is nine miles in length haveing passed 2 Islands on the Stard Side of this large Island [the location of Vancouver Landing and since 1917 the Interstate 5 Bridge connecting Oregon to Washington State], three Small Islands at its lower point [The downstream end of Hayden Island was at one time composed of small islands. One of these, Pearcy Island, would become today's Kelley Point.]. the Indians make Signs that a village is Situated back of those Islands on the Lard. Side and I believe that a Chanel is Still on the Lrd. Side [it wasn't until Lewis and Clark's return trip they would discover the mouth of the Willamette River] as a Canoe passed in between the Small Islands, and made Signs that way, probably to traffick with Some of the nativs liveing on another Chanel, at 3 miles lower [Sauvie Island is located at this stretch, but it is not until the return that Lewis and Clark recognize it as a separate island], and 12 Leagues below quick Sand river [Sandy River] passed a village of four large houses on The Lard. Side [on Sauvie Island], near which we had a full view of Mt. Helien [Mount St. Helens, Washington] which is perhaps the highest pinical in America from their base it bears N. 25 E about 90 miles- This is the mountain I Saw from the Muscle Shell rapid [Umatilla Rapids, Captain Clark actually saw Mount Adams] on the 19th of October last Covered with Snow, it rises Something in the form of a Sugar lofe- about a mile lower passed a Single house on the Lard. Side, and one on the Stard. Side, passed a village on each Side and Camped near a house on the Stard. Side [Post Office Lake vicinity, today within the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge] we proceeded on untill one hour after dark with a view to get clear of the nativs who was constantly about us, and troublesom, finding that we could not get Shut of those people for one night, we landed and Encamped on the Stard. Side ...

This evening we Saw vines much resembling the raspberry which is verry thick in the bottoms. A range of high hills at about 5 miles on the Lard Side [Portland's West Hills'] which runs S. E. & N W. Covered with tall timber the bottoms below in this range of hills and the river is rich and leavel, Saw White geese with a part of their wings black. The river here is 1 miles wide, and current jentle. opposite to our camp on a Small Sandy Island [one of the small sandy islands prevelent in this stretch of the Columbia. Today the Willow Bar Islands on the east side of Sauvie Island lie across from Post Office Lake.] the brant & geese make Such a noise that it will be impossible for me to Sleap. we made 29 miles to day





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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: Alley, B.F., and Munro-Fraser, J.P., 1885, History of Clarke County, Washington Territory: compiled from the most authentic sources: also biographical sketches of its pioneers and prominent citizens, Portland, Oregon; "Columbian.com" website, 2005, "History"; "Columbian.com" website, 2005, "Reflections"; NOAA Office of Coast Survey websites, 2005; "Rootsweb.com" website, 2005; Washington State Secretary of State 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