Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Willow Creek and Cecil, Oregon"
Includes ... Willow Creek ... Cecil ... Heppner Junction ... Heppner ...
Image, 2005, Wilow Creek, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Willow Creek, Oregon, from Washington State Highway 14. Image taken May 24, 2005.

Willow Creek ...
Willow Creek lies on the Oregon side of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 252.5. Ten miles upstream is the historic site of Castle Rock and sixteen miles upstream is the city of Boardman. Nine miles downstream is the city of Arlington. Across the Columbia in Washington State lies Alder Creek. Today the mouth of Willow Creek is flooded by the waters of Lake Umatilla, the reservoir behind the John Day Dam.

Lewis and Clark and Willow Creek ...
Lewis and Clark passed by Willow Creek on October 20, 1805.

"... a riverlit falls in on the Lard. Side behind a Small Island a Small rapid below. The Star Side is high rugid hills, the Lard. Side a low plain and not a tree to be Seen in any Direction except a fiew Small willow bushes which are Scattered partially on the Sides of the bank ..." [Clark, October 20, 1805]

Early Willow Creek ...
According to "Oregon Geographic Names" (2003 McArthur and McArthur):

"Lewis and Clark mentioned this stream as a "riverlit" in their journals for Sunday, October 20, 1805. On the sketch map ... it is shown as Choch. It has been known as Willow Creek since pioneer days. Willow Creek Dam was constructed by the USCE in 1983, just upstream from Heppner and below the mouth of Balm Fork. It is designed to prevent another disastrous flood. ..."

Willow Creek and the Oregon Trail ...
The Oregon trail wagons crossed Willow Creek, approximately 15 miles upstream, near the town of Cecil.

Views ...

Image, 2005, Wilow Creek, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Willow Creek, Oregon, from Interstate 84. Image taken September 25, 2005.
Image, 2006, Wilow Creek, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Willow Creek, Oregon, from Interstate 84. View looking upstream at backwaters of the Columbia flooding the mouth of Willow Creek. Sign says "Welcome to Willow Creek Wildlife Area". Image taken September 29, 2006.

Willow Creek, etc.

  • Heppner Junction ...
  • Willow Creek and Heppner Junction in 1940 ...

Heppner Junction ...
The Union Pacific station of Heppner Junction is located at the mouth of Willow Creek. Heppner Junction was once the turnoff for the Union Pacific tracks heading into the city of Heppner. The line was in operation between 1889 and 1994, when it was closed as being non-profitable, and section of track were demolished. Today Heppner Junction is the starting place for the Blue Mountain Scenic Byway, with the turnoff at Oregon Highway 74, just west of Heppner Junction and Willow Creek. The highway joins and then follows Willow Creek within a few miles.

Image, 2006, Heppner Junction, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Heppner Junction, Oregon, from Interstate 84. Image taken September 29, 2006.

Willow Creek and Heppner Junction in 1940 ...
From the Oregon State Archives "A 1940 Journey Across Oregon":

"... HEPPNER JUNCTION, ... (241 alt.), distinguished by an airplane beacon on the cliff (L), is the junction of the Union Pacific Railroad main line with its Heppner branch, as well as the junction of US 30 with State 74. Left from Heppner junction on State 74 through a narrow rimrock walled cleft up Willow Creek. Rust colored, basaltic cliffs are in vivid contrast with emerald green alfalfa fields, sub irrigated by gravity flow of water from Willow and its tributary creeks, and from underground springs. As the route continues into the gradually rising country, wheat fields roll away to the benchlands on either side of the highway.

During gold rush days, miners traveling from lower Columbia River points to the Idaho and John Day mining districts, passed through Willow Creek Valley, hastening south by way of Dixie Creek and the forks of the John Day River. Processions of Columbia River Indians followed this road, to bunt deer, pick berries, and camp in the Blue Mountains, returning down the creek for the salmon fishing at Celilo.

At 15.1 m. is a junction with a gravel road; L here 0.5 m. to CECIL (618 alt., 15 pop.), by the Oregon Trail crossing of Willow Creek. The settlement was an important stage station. The WELL, where travelers obtained drinking water for themselves and their teams, remains at the center of the village street. ..."

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, October 20, 1805 ...

Columbia PlateauReturn to

*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

  • McArthur, L.A., and McArthur, L.L., 2003, "Oregon Geographic Names", Oregon Historical Society Press, Portland;
  • Oregon State Archives website, 2006;
  • "Trainweb.org" website, 2006, "Union Pacific Railroad";
  • Umatilla Chamber of Commerce website, 2006;

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.
May 2014