Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Willamette River Lighthouse and Willamette River Light, Oregon"
Includes ... Willamette River Lighthouse ... Willamette River Light ... The Golden Age of Postcards ...
Print, Columbia River - Willamette River Lighthouse, Oregon, 1909
Click image to enlarge
Columbia River - Willamette River Lighthouse, ca.1910.
Image scanned from notecard purchased in 2006. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Image, 2003, Columbia River looking downstream from Kelley Point Park, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Columbia River looking downstream from Kelley Point, with mouth of the Willamette River entering from left behind pilings. Image taken September 13, 2003.

Willamette River Lighthouse ...
Between 1895 and the 1935 a lighthouse existed at the mouth of the Willamette River with the Columbia, near Kelley Point. The lighthouse was a two-story, octagonal dwelling on a rectangular cluster of pilings (see "The Golden Age of Postcards" below). The light was a post lantern mounted on a railing of the dwelling. When operational the lighthouse showed a flashing white light every 4 seconds, and a fog bell sounded every 10 seconds. The lighthouse was funded in 1894, established in 1895, and deactivated in 1935 when the station was electrified and automated and the light and fog signal moved to a low piling near the Kelly Point beach. The house was acquired by the Portland Mercantile Exchange and was moved to Kelley Point. It was destroyed by fire in the 1950s.

Columbia River Lighthouses ...
Four lighthouses have been located near the mouth of the Columbia River and two more were located inland. They are the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse (1856), Point Adams Lighthouse (1875), North Head Lighthouse (1898), and the Desdemona Sands Lighthouse (1902), and inland were the Warrior Rock Lighthouse (1888), at the lower mouth of the Willamette River, and the Willamette River Lighthouse (1895), at the upper mouth of the Willamette.

"... On a case-by-case basis Congress appropriated funds for design and construction of important facilities. These included lighthouses: Cape Arago (1866), Cape Blanco (1870), Yaquina Bay (1872), Cape Foulweather (1873), Point Adams (1875), Tillamook Rock (1881), Warrior Rock (1888) at the mouth of the Willamette River, Cape Meares (1890), Umpqua River, Heceta Head, Coquille River (all 1894), and Desdemona Sands (1905 [error ???, 1902, see below]). The goal was to create a system of stations with interlocking lights. On a clear night at sea, a mariner might expect to sight at any point a distinctive beacon on shore to pinpoint the location. Fog signals powered by steam engines blasted warnings from a number of the stations to tell captains to drop anchor or beat a retreat until the mists cleared. ..." [Oregon State "BlueBook" website, 2006]

Willamette River Light ...
The Willamette River Light was established in 1935 when the then-in-service lighthouse was deactivated and the newly electrified light and bell was moved to the end of a dike radiating from Kelley Point.

From the 1942 "Coast Pilot":

"... The Willamette River Light is located on the end of the dike at the eastern side of the entrance to the river at Kelly Point. The light is shown from a house painted with black and red horizontal bands, on a while pile structure, 24 feet above water. A fog signal is sounded on an electric bell; the signal is not sounded from June 1 to August 31. ..."

The 1947 USC&GS Chart #6155, "Port of Portland including Vancouver", shows "Old Lighthouse" close to the tip of Kelley Point, and "Bell" further into the Columbia River off the shallows. The 1959 chart has the lighthouse gone, but the bell marking is still there.

"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, Columbia River - Willamette River Lighthouse, Oregon, ca.1910
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Columbia River - Willamette River Lighthouse, ca.1910.
Penny Postcard, ca.1910, "Light House at the Junction of Columbia and Willamette Rivers.". Published by Portland Post Card Co., Portland, Oregon. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.

"... A tinted photographic postcard. The legend in red at upper left reads "Lighthouse at junction of the Columbia and the Willamette Rivers." The lighthouse, which stands in the middle of the water, is a wooden structure with a metal roof. The wooden pilings and beams supporting the living quarters are built in a square, but the building itself is octagonal. On the lowest level is a fenced deck surrounding the building; the level above that features four tall gable windows, one looking to each of the four directions. At the top is a fenced widow's walk. On the left side of the building can be seen a lantern and a tall pole, perhaps a lightening rod. On the shore beyond the lighthouse are trees. The lighthouse was built near Kelly Point in 1895. In 1935 the lighthouse was electrified and no longer needed keepers to light the lantern or ring the fog bell. It was sold and moved during the 1940s and burned during the 1950s ..." [University of Oregon Photo Archives Website, 2006]
Penny Postcard, Columbia River - Willamette River Lighthouse, Oregon, ca.1910
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Columbia River - Willamette River Lighthouse, ca.1910.
Penny Postcard, Postmarked 1910, "Light House at the Junction of Columbia and Willamette Rivers.". Published by Portland Post Card Co., Portland, Oregon. Card #6080. Card is postmarked July 23, 1910. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, April 2, 1806 ...
This morning we came to a resolution to remain at our present encampment [Cottonwood Beach, Washougal, Washington] or Some where in this neighbourhood untill we had obtained as much dried meat as would be necessary for our voyage as far as the Chopunnish. ...     about this time Several Canoes of the nativs arived at our Camp [Cottonwood Beach] among others two from below with Eight men of the Shah-ha-la Nation those men informed us that they reside on the opposit Side of the Columbia near Some pine trees which they pointed to in the bottom South of the Dimond Island [Government Island], they Singled out two young men whome they informed us lited at the Falls of a large river [Willamette Falls] which discharges itself into the Columbia on it's South Side Some Miles below us. we readily provailed on them to give us a Sketch of this river [Willamette River] which they drew on a Mat with a coal, it appeared that this river which they Call Mult-no'-mah discharged itself behind the Island we call the image Canoe island [Hayden Island], and as we had left this Island to the South both in decending & assending the river we had never Seen it. they informed us that it was a large river and runs a Considerable distance to the South between the Mountains. I deturmined to take a Small party and return to this river and examine its Size and Collect as much information of the nativs on it or near its enterance into the Columbia of its extent, the Country which it waters and the nativs who inhabit its banks &c. I took with me Six Men. Thompson J. Potts, Peter Crusat, P. Wiser, T. P. Howard, Jos. Whitehouse & my man York in a large Canoe, with an Indian whome I hired for a Sun glass to accompany me as a pilot. at half past 11 A. M. I Set out ...     at 8 miles passed a village on the South side [Chinook Landing and Blue Lake area] at this place my Pilot informed me he resided and that the name of his tribe is Ne-cha-co-lee, this village is back or to the South of Dimond island [Government Island], and as we passed on the North Side of the island both decending & assending did not See or know of this Village. I proceeded on without landing at this village. at 3 P. M. I landed at a large double house of the Ne-er-cho-ki-oo tribe of the Shah-ha-la Nation. at this place we had Seen 24 aditional Straw Huts as we passed down last fall [November 4, 1805, in the vicinity of the Portland International Airport] and whome as I have before mentioned reside at the Great rapids of the Columbia [Celilo Falls].     on the bank at different places I observed Small Canoes which the women make use of to gather Wappato & roots in the Slashes. those Canoes are from 10 to 14 feet long and from 18 to 23 inches wide in the widest part tapering from the center to both ends in this form and about 9 inches deep and So light that a woman may with one hand haul them with ease, and they are Sufficient to Carry a woman on Some loading. I think 100 of those canoes were piled up and Scattered in different directions about in the Woods in the vecinity of this house, the pilot informed me that those Canoes were the property of the inhabitents of the Grand rapids who used them ocasionally to gather roots. ...

I left them [village near today's Portland International Airport] and proceeded on on the South Side [North Portland Harbor] of Image Canoe Island [Hayden Island] which I found to be two Islands hid from the opposit Side by one near the Center of the river. the lower point of the upper and the upper point of the lower cannot be Seen from the North Side of the Columbia on which we had passed both decending and ascending and had not observed the apperture between those islands. at the distance of 13 Miles below the last village [location of Portland International Airport] and at the place I had Supposed was the lower point of the image Canoe island [Hayden Island], I entered this river which the nativs had informed us of, Called Mult no mah River [Willamette River] so called by the nativs from a Nation who reside on Wappato Island [Sauvie Island] a little below the enterance of this river. Multnomah [Willamette River] discharges itself in the Columbia on the S. E. and may be justly Said to be the Size of that noble river. Multnomah had fallen 18 inches from it's greatest annual height. three Small Islands are situated in it's mouth [Belle Vue Point and Kelley Point, on opposite sides of the mouth of the Willamette, use to be islands] which hides the river from view from the Columbia.     from the enterance of this river [Willamette River] , I can plainly See Mt. Jefferson [Mount Jefferson, Oregon] which is high and Covered with snow S. E. Mt. Hood East [Mount Hood, Oregon], Mt St. Helians [Mount St. Helens, Washington] a high humped Mountain to the East of Mt St. Helians [Mount Adams, Washington, is east of Mount St. Helens]. I also Saw the Mt. Raneer [Mount Rainier, Washington] Nearly North. Soon after I arived at this river an old man passed down of the Clark a'mos Nation who are noumerous and reside on a branch of this river which receives it's waters from Mt. Jefferson [Mount Jefferson, Oregon] which is emensely high and discharges itself into this river one day and a half up, this distance I State at 40 Miles. This nation inhabits 11 Villages their Dress and language is very Similar to the Quath-lah-poh-tle and other tribes on Wappato Island [Sauvie Island].

The Current of the Multnomar [Willamette River] is as jentle as that of the Columbia glides Smoothly with an eavin surface, and appears to be Sufficiently deep for the largest Ship. I attempted fathom it with a Cord of 5 fathom which was the only Cord I had, could not find bottom ? of the distance across. I proceeded up this river 10 miles from it's enterance into the Columbia to a large house on the N E. Side and Encamped near the house [downstream of Cathedral Park and the St. Johns Bridge, Portland, Oregon, near Portland's Terminal 4.], the flees being So noumerous in the house that we could not Sleep in it.

this is the house of the Cush-hooks Nation who reside at the falls of this river which the pilot informs me they make use of when they Come down to the Vally to gather Wappato. he also informs me that a number of other Smaller houses are Situated on two Bayous which make out on the S. E. Side a little below the house. this house appears to have been laterly abandoned by its inhabitants ...     The course and distance assending the Molt no mar R [Willamette River] from it's enterance into the Columbia at the lower point of the 3rd Image Canoe island.

[This area has changed during the past 200 years. Lewis and Clark called today's Hayden Island "Image Canoe Island". Their "3rd Image Canoe Island" however maybe in reference to the "three Small Islands are situated in it's mouth" (see journal entry above), two of the islands possibly were islands which are today's Belle Vue Point on Sauvie Island, and Pearcy Island which eventually became Kelley Point. Lewis and Clark's route map (Map#79 and Map#80, Moulton, Vol.1) shows a long "Image Canoe Island" with two small islands on the north side of "Image Canoe Island", and three small islands at the mouth of the "Multnomah R.". ]

S. 30 W. 2 Miles to the upper point of a Small Island [???] in the Middle of Moltnomar river [Willamette River]. thence

S. 10 W. 3 miles to a Sluce 80 yards wide [Multnomah Channel] which devides Wappato Island [Sauvie Island] from the Main Stard. Side Shore passing a Willow point on the Lard. Side [???].

S. 60 E. 3 miles to a large Indian house on the Lard Side below Some high pine land.

[Lewis and Clark's map plotted against an 1888 map of the area shows this location to be closer to 2 miles from the Multnomah Channel, just upstream from Portland's Terminal 4, and across from the community of Linnton.]

high bold Shore on the Starboard Side [Tualatin Mountains]. thence

S. 30 E 2 miles to a bend under the high lands on the Stard Side [St. Johns Bridge area located at the base of the Tualatin Mountains]

miles 10 passing a Larborad point [???].

thence the river bends to the East of S East as far as I could See [the stretch through Portland, Oregon]. at this place I think the wedth of the river may be Stated at 500 yards and Sufficiently deep for a Man of War or Ship of any burthern.

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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:    NOAA Office of Coast Survey website, 2006;    University of Oregon Photo Archives website, 2006;    U.S. Coast Guard website, 2005;   

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