Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Terminal 4, Willamette River, Oregon"
Includes ... Willamette River ... Termainal 4 ... Cathedral Park ... St. Johns ... St. Johns Bridge ... Captain Clark's Campsite of April 2, 1806 ...
Image, 2013, Sign, Terminal 4, St. Johns, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Sign to Terminal 4, St. Johns, Oregon. Image taken January 2, 2013.


Terminal 4 ...
Portland's Terminal 4 is located on the Willamette River in St. Johns, Oregon at Willamette River Mile (RM) 5.

Captain Clark's Campsite of April 2, 1806 ...
On April 2, 1806, Captain Clark and seven men left their main camp at Cottonwood Beach (Washougal, Washington), entered the Willamette River behind today's Hayden Island, and explored 6 miles of the Willamette, passing the eastern end of the Multnomah Channel as they went. The men spent the night just downstream of today's Cathedral Park at St. Johns, upstream of the Port of Portland's Terminal 4, and across from Linnton, Oregon.

"... The Current of the Multnomar 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, the flees being So noumerous in the house that we could not Sleep in it. ..." [Clark, April 2, 1806]

The next morning Clark explored just a short distance upstream, reaching the location of today's St. Johns Bridge, before turning around and heading back to the main camp at Washougal.

"... The water had fallen in the course of last night five inches. I Set out and proceeded up a Short distance and attempted a Second time to fathom the river with my cord of 5 fathom but could find no bottom. the mist was So thick that I could See but a Short distance up this river. where I left it, it was binding to the East of S. E. being perfectly Satisfyed of the Size and magnitude of this great river which must Water that vast tract of Country betwen the Western range of mountains and those on the Sea coast and as far S. as the Waters of Callifornia about Latd. 37° North I deturmined to return. at 7 oClock A. M. Set out on my return. ..." [Clark, April 3, 1806]

Today a statue and two plaques are located at the University of Portland commemorating Captain Clark's exploration. Another plaque is located at Kelley Point Park, the easternmost point where the Willamette meets the Columbia.


Image, 2006, St. Johns Bridge, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
St. Johns Bridge, Oregon, with fog hanging over the Tualatin Mountains. The vicinity of the St. Johns Bridge is now considered the turn-around point in Captain Clark's exploration of the Willamette River. View from Cathedral Park, St. Johns, Oregon. Image taken February 5, 2006.
Image, 2012, Terminal 4, Willamette River, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Portland's Terminal 4, as seen from the St. John's Bridge crossing the Willamette River. Image taken January 11, 2012.


Comments ... Captain Clark's Campsite of April 2, 1806 ...
William Clark's Exploration of the Willamette River
By Chuck Sawhill and Glen Kirkpatrick, in: Oregon Chapter of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, June 2000 Newsletter (vol.2, no.3)

Introduction to Project
Member Chuck Sawhill didn't set out to do anything controversial. He was only looking for more information on Clark's adventure up the Willamette River. Next thing he knew, OLCTHF President, Keith Hay, had "suggested" that Chuck lead a project to search and clarify the extent of Clark's exploratory excursion up the Willamette including the location of Clark's camp and turnaround point, as well as compile an inventory of existing and potential statues and plaques. Being a Lewis & Clark novice, Chuck asked for an experienced L&C person and got Glen Kirkpatrick. In addition, they received valuable advice and expertise from Keith Hay, Roger Wendlick, and Doug Erickson.

Summary of Findings Using Clark's original maps, Moulton's descriptions, and various other maps, Glen found that currently accepted locations of Clark's camp at St. Johns and the turnaround at Waud's bluff were incorrect. Locations for Clark's camp should be just south of Terminal 4 and Clark's turnaround in the St. John's area. ...

Historical Background
Lewis and Clark missed the Willamette River on both the west and east bound portions of their travels. Contrary to popular belief, the mouth of the Willamette River was not obscured behind Image Canoe Island (Hayden Island). Our findings, based on a comparison of Clark's maps to the 1888 nautical charts, reveal that the Corps simply mistook the mouth of the Willamette for water flowing around the numerous islands in the confluence of the rivers. This would be easy to do from the north edge of the Columbia River due to the flat terrain and wide gentle current of the Columbia. Also, the Captains had a pre-conceived notion that the Quicksand (Sandy) River was the main drainage to the south due to its massive multiple channel deltas into the Columbia. Therefore, they were not looking for a major river when they passed the mouth of the Willamette.

They were only convinced the Sandy River was not the major river to the south after the Indians told them the Quicksand (Sandy) River was just a short river draining Mt. Hood and that the large river was below Image Canoe (Hayden) Island. Still in disbelief, they sent Pryor and two other men to explore the upper reaches of the Sandy River on April 1,1806 and realized the Indians were correct. ...

On April 2,1806, Captain Clark, an Indian guide and 7 of his men ... canoed up the Willamette from its mouth where it joined the Columbia River, past a sluice (Multnomah Channel) and camped near a native American house, spending the night. The next day, April 3, they proceeded up the Willamette River before turning back to join Lewis near present day Washougal, Washington. ...

Columbia River to Multnomah Channel
Clark's map shows five distinct islands at the mouth of the Willamette. These can all be identified by their shape and location on the 1888 map of the river. Upon close inspection it is evident that the lower point of the third Image Canoe Island, today's Kelly Point, is where Clark starts his course and bearings. Clark measures from Kelly Point to the Multnomah channel, a dead reckoning distance of 5 miles. The actual distance from the mouth of the Willamette to the Multnomah Channel (then and now) is only 3.2 miles so Clark must have incorrectly estimated the distance. However, plotting Clark's 1806 bearings on the 1888 map confirms the accuracy of the bearings.

Location of Clark's Camp
Clark took a bearing of S 60 E from the Multnomah Channel to the Indian house on the Lard (east) side of the river where he camped on the night of April 2. He also notes high pine lands above the house and high bold lands on the starboard (right) side. He estimates the distance from the Multnomah Channel to the camp at three miles. He notes that some smaller houses are situated on two bayous, which appear on the S. E. side a little below the house.

Clark's bearing from the Multnomah Channel to the camp was plotted on the 1888 map. It leads directly to two small lakes, a stream and bluffs that are identifiable on both Clark's maps and the 1888 map. These features pinpoint the location of the April 2nd campsite just south of Municipal Terminal #4. The distance from the Sluice (Multnomah Channel) to the campsite is nearly two miles. ...

Location of Clark's Turnaround
From the Indian House, Clark takes his final bearing of S 30 E to the spot where he turned around. Clark described the spot where he turned around as a "bend under the high lands on the Stard Side passing a larborad point." He goes on to say "thence the river bends to the East of S East as far as I could see," noting on April 3rd that "the mist was So thick that I could See but a Short distance up this river." At the turnaround point, Clark found "the wedth of the river ... 500 yards and Sufficiently deep for a ... Ship of any burthen."

Clark's bearings from the camp to his turnaround point were plotted on the 1888 map. They lead directly to a bend under high lands (as Clark had described) near the present day St. Johns Bridge. The bend in the river at St. Johns is the only bend that can be reached by two lines of sight going from the Multnomah Channel to the east bank and back to the west bank.

Many of the earlier editions of the journal interpret the turnaround point from Clark's dead reckoning of ten miles from the mouth of the river, thus putting the turnaround at Waud's Point. The required conditions do not fit Wauds Point. The river is taking a sharp east-west "s" curve to the east of Swan Island. If he had proceeded to Waud's point, he should have noted Swan Island and Boggs Bottom and plotted them on his maps. He would also have noted them in his journal, which he didn't. This is strong evidence that Clark did not make it that far up the river.

Clark estimated the distance from the Columbia to the Multnomah Channel to be five miles when it was only about three miles. If he did the same for the distance from the Multnomah Channel to the turnaround, the distance would not be five miles but three miles. Scaled on the 1888 map, the original bearings and revised distance together lead to the St. John's area as the turnaround point.


Source:    Oregon Chapter of the Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, June 2000 Newsletter, vol.2, no.3.



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 ¼ 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.



Whitehouse, April 2, 1806 ...
... The natives that were still with us, informed our Officers, that there was a large River [Willamette River], which emptied itself into the Columbia River, on the South side, below Sandy River [Sandy River],-     Captain Clark took me & Six more of our party, and one Indian as a guide, in Order to go down the Columbia River to take a view of that River [Willamette River], We proceeded on in a Canoe down the South side of the River, about 10 Miles.- & passed an Indian Village [Chinook Landing and Blue Lake area] of 21 houses lying on the same side of the River. This Village lay behind an Island, called Swans Island [part of today's Government Island complex. Lewis and Clark maps show two islands, one they called Diamond Island where they camped in November, and the other they called White Brant Island. Today the island nearest the locality of "Swans Island" would be McGuire Island.], & altho we had been on this Island, on our way in descending the River, none of our party had ever seen <it> this Village before. We proceeded on 9 Miles further down the River, & halted at a Village of Indians [locality of today's Portland International Airport]. ...     We proceeded on, on to the Mouth of this great River [Willamette River], which the Indians had given our Officers an account of.- The Mouth of this River came in behind an Island [Hayden Island] lying on the So. side of Columbia River; We arrived at the mouth of this river, about Sunset, & went up it, about 7 Miles, when we encamped at an old Indian lodge [near Terminal 4, south of today's Cathedral Park and the St. Johns Bridge]. The party <under Captain Clark,> resolved upon sleeping in this lodge, but on our entering it, we found the fleas in such great plenty, that we were forced to quit it. The great River is called by the natives the Mult-no-mack River [Willamette River]; it is 500 yards wide at its mouth; & continues that width, as high up, as where we ascended it to. The Indian guide that was with us, told us that it heads Near the head Waters of the California, & that there is a large Nation of Indians who reside some distance up that River <& > who live on a So. fork of this River & that Nation is called the Clark-a-mus Nation <& also another Nation> and that 30 Towns belong to them. Our guide also informed us, that there is another nation of Indians who reside a further distance up that River, by the name of the Cal-lap-no-wah nation; who he said were also very numerous; & that they reside up this River, where it is quite small.- The guide also mentioned that it is 20 days travel to the falls of this River [Willamette Falls], which falls is 40 feet <fall> perpendicular into that River & that the Tide water runs up to it,- & that the Natives have a very large Salmon fishery at that place. ...





Clark, April 3, 1806 ...
The water had fallen in the course of last night five inches. I Set out and proceeded up a Short distance [vicinity of the St. Johns Bridge] and attempted a Second time to fathom the river with my cord of 5 fathom but could find no bottom. the mist was So thick that I could See but a Short distance up this river. where I left it, it was binding to the East of S. E. being perfectly Satisfyed of the Size and magnitude of this great river which must Water that vast tract of Country betwen the Western range of mountains and those on the Sea coast and as far S. as the Waters of Callifornia about Latd. 37° North I deturmined to return. at 7 oClock A. M. Set out on my return. the men exirted themselves and we arived at the Ne er cho ki oo house [Portland International Airport] in which the nativs were So illy disposed yesterday at 11 A. M. I entered the house with a view to Smoke with those people ...     I detained but a fiew minits and returnd on board the canoe. ...     at 3 P M. we arived at the residence of our Pilot [near Chinook Landing and Blue Lake] ...     back of this house I observe the wreck of 5 houses remaining of a very large Village, the houses of which had been built in the form of those we first Saw at the long narrows of the E-lute Nation with whome those people are connected. ...     I provailed on an old man to draw me a Sketch of the Multnomar River [Willamette River] ang give me the names of the nations resideing on it which he readily done, ...   and gave me the names of 4 nations who reside on this river two of them very noumerous. The first is Clark a-mus nation reside on a Small river which takes its rise in Mount Jefferson and falls into the Moltnomar about 40 miles up [Clackamas River].   this nation is noumerous and inhabit 11 Towns.   the 2d is the Cush-hooks who reside on the N E. Side below the falls [Willamette Falls],   the 3rd is the Char-cowah who reside above the Falls on the S W. Side neether of those two are noumerous.   The fourth Nation is the Cal-lar-po-e-wah which is very noumerous & inhabit the Country on each Side of the Multnomar from its falls as far up as the knowledge of those people extend. they inform me also that a high mountain passes the Multnomar at the falls,   and above the Country is an open plain of great extent.    I purchased 5 dogs of those people for the use of their Oil in the Plains, and at 4 P M left the Village and proceeded on to Camp where I joind Capt. Lewis [at Cottonwood Beach]

The enterance of Multnomah river is 142 miles up the Columbia river from its enterance into the Pacific Ocean—.





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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:    Sawhill, C., and Kirkpatrick, G., 2000, Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, Oregon Chapter, June 2000 Newsletter, vol.2, no.3;   

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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