Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Yakima River, Washington"
Includes ... Yakima River ... Yakama River ... "Tap teel" ... Yakima Fold Belt ...
Image, 2004, Looking towards the mouth of the Yakima River, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Looking upstream on the Columbia River, towards the mouth of the Yakima River, Washington. View from the right bank of the Columbia River looking back at the "estuary" of the mouth of the Yakima River. Image taken September 26, 2004.

Yakima River ...
The Yakima River enters the Columbia River at Columbia River Mile (RM) 333, just upstream of Bateman Island. To the north is Richland, Washington, and to the south are the cities of Pasco and Kennewick. The river drains 6,155 square miles and contains approximately 1,900 river miles of perennial streams. It originates near the crest of the Cascade Range above Keechelus Lake, then flows southeastward for 214 miles to reach its confluence with the Columbia. The Yakima River Valley is bordered on the north by the Rattlesnake Hills Anticline and on the south by the Horse Heaven Hills Anticline.

Lewis and Clark and the Yakima River ...
On October 17, 1805, Captain Clark explored the Columbia as far upstream as Bateman Island, just missing the mouth of the Yakima River, before turning around and returning to the junction of the Snake River with the Columbia, the location of today's Sacajawea State Park.

"... there is no timber of any Sort except Small willow bushes in Sight in any direction - from this Island the natives showed me the enterance of a large Westerly fork which they Call Tpettt at about 8 miles distant, the evening being late I deturmined to return to the forks, at which place I reached at Dark. ..." [Clark, October 17, 1805]

In his journal of October 17, 1805, Captain Clark called the river both the Tapetett, and later in the paragraph the Tap teel River. On October 18 he used Tape tett.

Alexander Ross, August 16, 1811 ...
Fur Trader Alexander Ross wrote about the Yakima River in 1811:

"... On the 16th we left the forks and proceeded up the north branch, which to the eye is as broad and deep here as below the forks. About twelve miles up, a small river entered on the west side, called Eyakema. The landscape at the mouth of the Eyakema surpassed in picturesque beauty anything we had yet seen. Here three Walla-Walla Indians overtook us on horseback, and to our agreeable surprise delivered us a bag of shot which we had left by mistake at our encampment of last night a convincing proof that there is honesty among Indians; and if I recollect well, a similar circumstance, attesting the probity of the Walla-Wallas, occurred when Lewis and Clarke passed there in 1805. We saw but few Indians to-day, and in the evening we encamped without a night watch, for the first time since we left Astoria. General course, north. ..." [Alexander Ross, August 16, 1811]

Early Yakima River Names ...
According to Place Names of Washington (Hitchman, 1984), various names of the Yakima River have included "Tapteal", "Tap-teil", "Nocktosh", "Yahinse", "Eyakama", "Eyakemka", "Yakama", "Skaemena", and the present name "Yakima".

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management's 1865 cadastral survey map (tax map) of T9N R29E shows the "Yakama Riv". Bateman Island is shown but not named.

Yakima Fold Belt ...
The Horse Heaven Hills is an anticline in the Yakima Fold Belt, which was formed by north-south compression of Columbia River Basalt Group (CRBG) lava flows. The CRBG is divided into five formations - the Saddle Mountains, Wanapum, Grande Ronde, Imnaha, and Picture Gorge Basalts. The majority of the CRBG flows are Early Miocene, between 17 and 5.5 million years old, and were erupted from north-south fissures near the present-day Washington-Idaho border. The CRBG consists of approximately 300 thick sequences of flood basalt flows, each flow from 10 to over 100 feet in thickness, with an estimated eruptive volume of at least 700 cubic miles, making them the largest documented individual lava flows on Earth. The flows reached maximum thickness of 16,000 feet in the Pasco Basin, and in the Columbia River Gorge, 21 flows poured through forming layers of rock up to 2,000 feet thick. Concurrent with the CRBG eruptions was the folding and faulting of the basalt in the western part of the Columbia Basin, creating the "Yakima Fold Belt" of anticlines and synclines.

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, October 17, 1805, first draft ...
took 2 men and Set out in a Small Canoe with a view to go as high up the Columbia river as the 1st forks [to the mouth of the Yakima River] which the Indians made Signs was but a Short distance, I set out at 2 oClock firs course was N. 83 W 6 miles to the lower point of a Island on the Lard. Side, passed an Island in the middle of the river at 5 miles [Clover Island], at the head of which is a rapid not bad at this rapid 3 Lodges of mats on the Lard emenc quantites of dried fish, then West 4 miles to the Lower point of an Island on the Stard. Side [Bateman Island], 2 lodges of Indians large and built of mats ...

an Indian Showed me the mouth of the river [Yakima River] which falls in below a high hill on the Lard. N. 80 W. 8 miles from the Island [Bateman Island]. The river bending <Star> Lard. This river is remarkably Clear and Crouded with Salmon in maney places, I observe in assending great numbers of Salmon dead on the Shores, floating on the water and in the Bottoms which can be seen at the debth of 20 feet. ...

The bottoms on the <West> South Side as high as the Tarcouche tesse is from 1 to 2 miles wide, back of the bottoms rises to hilly countrey, the Plain is low on the North & Easte for a great distance no wood to be Seen in any direction.

The Tarcouche tesse bears South of West, the Columbia N W above range of hills on the West [Horse Heaven Hills] Parrelel a range of mountains to the East which appears to run nearly North & South distance not more than 50 miles [Blue Mountains]     I returned to the point at Dusk followed by three canoes of Indians 20 in number ...

Clark, October 17, 1805 ...
I took two men in a Small Canoe and assended the Columbia river 10 miles to an Island [Bateman Island] near the Stard. Shore on which two large Mat Lodges of Indians were drying Salmon, ... there is no timber of any Sort except Small willow bushes in Sight in any direction - from this Island the natives showed me the enterance of a large Westerly fork which they Call Tpettt [Yakima River] at about 8 miles distant, the evening being late I deturmined to return to the forks [Snake River with the Columbia River, to their camp at today's Sacajawea State Park], at which place I reached at Dark.     from the point [Sacajawea State Park] up the Columbia River is N. 83 W. 6 miles to the lower point of an Island near the Lard. Side     passed a Island in the middle of the river at 5 miles [Clover Island] at the head of which is a rapid, not dangerous on the Lard Side opposite to this rapid is a fishing place 3 Mat Lodges, and great quants. of Salmon on Scaffolds drying. ...

[Today the Pasco-Kennewick "Blue Bridge" is located at the upsteam head of Clover Island and the "Cable Bridge" is located on the downstream side.]

The Waters of this river is Clear, and a Salmon may be Seen at the deabth of 15 or 20 feet. West 4 miles to the lower point of a large island [Bateman Island] near the Stard. Side at 2 Lodges, passed three large lodges on the Stard Side near which great number of Salmon was drying on Scaffolds ...

[Today Columbia Park is located on the south side of the Columbia between Clover Island and Bateman Island, and stretches from Kennewick to Richland, with Pasco on the other side. Today these three cities are known as the "Tri-Cities".]

I Set out & halted or came too on the Island at the two Lodges [Bateman Island]. Several fish was given to me, in return for Which I gave Small pieces of ribbond from those Lodges the natives Showed me the mouth of Tap teel River [Yakima River] about 8 miles above on the west Side this western fork appears to beare nearly West, The main Columbia river N W.- a range of high land to the S W [Horse Heaven Hills] and parralal to the river and at the distance of 2 miles on the Lard. Side, the countrey low on the Stard. Side, and all Coverd. with a weed or plant about 2 & three feet high and resembles the whins. I can proceive a range of mountains to the East which appears to bare N. & South distant about 50 or 60 miles [Blue Mountains]. no wood to be Seen in any derection ...

Clark, October 18, 1805 ...
The Great Chief and one of the Chim-n pum nation <gave> drew me a Sketch of the Columbia [Columbia River] above [the men are camping at the location of today's Sacajawea State Park, at the junction of the Snake River with the Columbia] and the tribes of his nation, living on the bank, and its waters, and the Tpe ttt river [Yakima River] which falls in 18 miles above on the westerly side ...

Snake River ConfluenceReturn 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

  • Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority website, 2005;
  • Hitchman, R., 1984, Place Names of Washington, Washington State Historical Society;
  • Norman, D.K, Busacca, A.J., and Teissere, R., 2004, Geology of the Yakima Valley Wine Country -- A Geologic Field Trip Guide from Stevenson to Zillah, Washington, Washington Division of Geology and Earth Resources Field Trip Guide 1, June 2004;
  • Ross, A., 1849, Adventures of the First Settlers on the Oregon or Columbia River: Smith, Elder and Co., London, found online at "Mountain Men and the Fur Trade" website, 2007;
  • U.S. Bureau of Land Management website, 2024, General Land Office Records;

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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May 2014