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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Yellepit, Washington"
Includes ... Yellepit ... Chief Yellepit ... Jefferson Peace Medal ... Campsite of April 27 and 28, 1806 ...
Image, 2005, Yellepit area, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Yellepit area, Washington. View from Washington Highway 730 near Twin Sisters. Image taken September 25, 2005.


Yellepit ...
Yellepit, Washington, is located on the north side of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 314.5, at the upstream end of the Wallula Gap and across from the mouth of the Walla Walla River.

Image, 2005, Wallula Gap as seen from Wallula Viewpoint, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Wallula Gap as seen from Wallula Viewpoint, Washington. The mouth of the Walla Walla River is visible on the left. The location of Yellepit is out of view on the right. Image taken September 25, 2005.


Campsite of April 27-28, 1806 ...
Lewis and Clark's camp of April 27 and 28, 1806, was on the north side of the Columbia River near Yellepit, Washington, across from the mouth of the Walla Walla River. While their journals make this clear, their route map [Moulton, vol.1, map#75] puts the camps of April 27, 28, and 29 together on the right bank of the Walla Walla.

"... the hills ... again approach the river and are rocky abrupt and 300 feet high.     we ascended the hill and marched through a high plain for 9 miles when we again returned to the river, I now thought it best to halt as the horses and men were much fatiegued altho had not reached the Wallah wollah village ... while here the principal Cheif of the Wallahwallahs joined us with six men of his nation.    this Cheif by name Yel-lept had visited us on the morning of the 19 of October at our encampment a little below this place ... after our scanty repast we continued our march accompanyed by Yellept and his party to the village which we found at the distance of six miles situated on the N. side of the river at the lower side of the low country about 12 ms. below the entrance of Lewis's river ... Yellept haranged his village in our favour intreated them to furnish us with fuel and provision ... we soon found ourselves in possession of an ample stock ... the indians informed us that there was a good road which passed from the S. side of Lewis's river ... we concluded to pass our horses over early in the morning -- ..." [Lewis, April 27, 1806]

"... after our Scanty repast we Continued our March accompanied by Yelleppit and his party to the Village which we found at the distance of Six miles, Situated on the North Side of the river.    about 16 miles below the enterance of Lewis's river. ..." [Clark, April 27, 1806]

"... after halting about 2 hours we continued our journey to sunset, when we came to a large village of mat-lodges, belonging to a band of the Wal-la-wal-las, who have encamped here on the north side of the river. Here we remained all night ..." [Gass, April 27, 1806]

Lewis and Clark's previous campsite was located on the Washington banks of the Columbia near Plymouth, Washington. Their campsite of April 29, 1806, and their last on the Columbia River, was on the north bank of the Walla Walla River, a location today under the waters of Lake Wallula, the reservoir behind the McNary Dam.


Image, 2005, Yellepit area, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Yellepit area, Washington. The location of Yellepit is just off to the left. The green square on the light is a river navigation light. View from Washington Highway 730 near mouth of the Walla Walla River. Image taken September 25, 2005.
Image, 2005, Windmills above Yellepit, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Windmills above Yellepit, Washington. View from Washington Highway 730 near the mouth of the Walla Walla River. Image taken September 25, 2005.


Chief Yellepit ...
The town of Yellepit was named after the Chief of the Walla Walla tribe whom Lewis and Clark met both on their journey downstream and again on their return.
"... The great chief Yel-lep-pet two other chiefs, and a Chief of Band below presented themselves to us verry early this morning. we Smoked with them, enformed them as we had all others above as well as we Could by Signs of our friendly intentions towards our red children Perticular those who opened their ears to our Councils. we gave a Medal, a Handkercheif & a string of Wompom to Yelleppit and a String of wompom to each of the others. Yelleppit is a bold handsom Indian, with a dignified countenance about 35 years of age, about 5 feet 8 inches high and well perpotiond. he requested us to delay untill the Middle of the day, that his people might Come down and See us, we excused our Selves and promised to Stay with him one or 2 days on our return which appeared to Satisfy him; great numbers of Indians Came down in Canoes to view us before we Set out which was not untill 9 oClock A M. ..." [Clark, October 19, 1805]

"... while here we were met by the principal Chief of the Wal lah wal lah Nation and Several of his nation. this chief by name Yel lep-pet had visited us on the morning of the 19th of Octr. at our encampment imedeately opposit to us; we gave him at that time a Small medal, and promised him a large one on our return. he appeared much gratified at Seeing us return. he envited us to remain at his village 3 or 4 days and assured us that we Should be furnished with a plenty of Such food as they had themselves, and Some horses to assist us on our journey ..." [Clark, April 27, 1806]

Yellepit in 1918 ...
The 1918 U.S. Geological Survey Topographic Map, "Wallula" Quadrangle, shows "Yellepit" on the right bank of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 311.5, three miles downstream of the current location. This drainage is on the downstream side of a huge basalt face in the Wallula Gap and is across from the Spring Gulch drainage. This area today is labeled "Yellepit Pond" and "Mound Pond", the result of the filling of Lake Wallula, the reservoir behind the McNary Dam.

Image, 2005, Wallula Gap from Juniper Canyon, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Basalt Cliff, Wallula Gap, as seen form Juniper Canyon, Oregon. View of the drainage across from Spring Gulch is visible on the left of the basalt cliff. Yellepit Pond is located within that drainage. Image taken September 25, 2005.


Jefferson Peace Medal ...

During the early times of the United States, "Peace Medals" were produced as a way the U.S. Government could express their good and peaceful intentions as early American explorers journeyed among the native tribes. Several variations of Peace Medals exist. The "Washington Season Medals" were made during the second administration of George Washington, and depicted raising cattle, the sowing of wheat, and a woman using a spinning wheel. The "Jefferson Peace Medal" was made during the Presidency of Thomas Jefferson. The face of the medal had a formal bust of President Jefferson in low relief, along with his name and the date he entered office. The reverse showed clasped hands and bore the motto "Peace and Friendship." The Jefferson medals were hollow as the sides were struck separately on thin planchets of silver and then joined by a silver band. Three sizes of peace medals were made, with diameters of 4", 3", and 2 1/4". Peace medals continued until 1849, with only the image of the President changing. Lewis and Clark took along three of the large Jefferson medals, 13 of the medium size, 16 small, and 55 of the "Washington Season Medals". They presented them to Native American chiefs along their route. One was presented to Chief Yellepit.
[More]

Image, 2007, Down the trodden path, St. Helens, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Copy, Jefferson Peace Medal, "down the trodden path", St. Helens, Oregon. Image taken February 17, 2007.


Burlington Northern Santa Fe ...

Image, 2005, Yellepit, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Train approaching Yellepit, Washington. View from Washington Highway 730 near mouth of the Walla Walla River. Image taken September 25, 2005.
Image, 2005, Basalts, downstream of Yellepit, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Basalts, downstream of Yellepit, Washington. View from Washington Highway 703, just downstream of the mouth of the Walla Walla River. Image taken September 25, 2005.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, October 18, 1805, first draft ...
S. E. 1 ½ miles to mo. of a <Creek> river 40 yds wide [Walla Walla River] under a high Clift. in the Lard. bend here the river enters the high countrey rising abt. 200 feet above the Water [Wallula Gap] large black rocks makeing out from Lard. half across the river and some distance from Stard. Side [Columbia River Basalt].

S. 12° W. 4 miles to a point of rocks in a Lard. Bend passed a Small Isd. passed a 2d at 2 miles, on its upr. Point 2 Lodges of Indians fishing at a rapid opsd. the lower point psd. 9 Lodges of Indians fishing on an Island on the Stard. Side below about 1 mile 5 Lodges on the Stard. Side, passed a Island in middle of river at 3 m.

we Encamped a little below & opsd. the lower point of the Island on the Lard. Side [Spring Gulch Creek] no wood to be found we were obliged to make use Small drid willows to Cook- our old Chief informed us that the great Chief of all the nations [Chief Yellepit] about lived at the 9 Lodges above and wished us to land &c. he Said he would go up and Call him over they went up and did not return untill late at night, about 20 came down & built a fire above and Stayed all night. The chief brought a basket of mashed berries.



Clark, October 18, 1805 ...
This morning Cool and fare wind from the S. E. ...     Took our leave of the Chiefs and all those about us [from their camp, the location of today's Sacajawea State Park] and proceeded on down the great Columbia river     passed a large Island at 8 miles about 3 miles in length, a Island on the Stard. Side the upper point of which is opposit the center of the last mentioned Island and reaches 3½ miles below the 1st. Island and opposit to this near the middle of the river nine Lodges are Situated on the upper point at a rapid which is between the lower point of the 1st Island and upper point of this; great numbers of Indians appeared to be on this Island, and emence quantites of fish Scaffold     we landed a few minits to view a rapid which Commenced at the lower point, passd this rapid which was verry bad between 2 Small Islands two Still Smaller near the Lard. Side, at this rapid on the Stard. Side is 2 Lodges of Indians Drying fish, at 2½ miles lower and 14½ below the point passed an Island Close under the Stard. Side on which was 2 Lodges of Indians drying fish on Scaffolds as above

[Today this reach has been inundated by the waters of Lake Wallula, the reservoir behind the McNary Dam. The Burbank Slough - part of the McNary National Wildlife Refuge - dominates the eastern bank of the Columbia and two islands which remain offshore of Wallula are Crescent Island and Badger Island.]    

at 16 miles from the point [junction of the Snake River with the Columbia, location of today's Sacajawea State Park] the river passes into the range of high Countrey at which place the rocks project into the river from the high clifts [Wallula Gap] which is on <both> the Lard. Side about 2/3 of the way across those of the Stard Side about the Same distance, the Countrey rises here about 200 feet above The water and is bordered wth black rugid rocks [Columbia River Basalt],     at the Commencement of this high Countrey [Wallula Gap] on Lard Side a Small riverlet falls in [Walla Walla River] which appears to passed under the high County in its whole cose     Saw a mountain bearing S. W. conocal form Covered with Snow [Mount Hood, Oregon].    passed 4 Islands, at the upper point of the <first> 3rd is a rapid, on this Island is two Lodges of Indians, drying fish, on the fourth Island Close under the Stard. Side is nine large Lodges of Indians Drying fish on Scaffolds as above [Yellepit area]; at this place we were called to land, as it was near night and no appearance of wood [Lewis and Clark are in the Port Kelley area, where today the islands offshore are under the waters of Lake Wallula.],     we proceeded on about 2 miles lower to Some willows, at which place we observed a drift log     formed a Camp on the Lard Side [Spring Gulch] under a high hill nearly opposit to five Lodges of Indians; Soon after we landed, our old Chiefs informed us that the large camp above "was the Camp of the 1st Chief of all the tribes in this quarter [Chief Yellepit], and that he had called to us to land and Stay all night with him, that he had plenty of wood for us &" This would have been agreeable to us if it had have been understood perticelarly as we were compelled to Use drid willows for fuel for the purpose of cooking, we requested the old Chiefs to walk up on the Side we had landed and call to the Chief to come down and Stay with us all night which they did;     ... we made 21 miles to day.






Clark, October 19, 1805 ...
The great chief Yel-lep-pet two other chiefs, and a Chief of Band below presented themselves to us verry early this morning. we Smoked with them, enformed them as we had all others above as well as we Could by Signs of our friendly intentions towards our red children Perticular those who opened their ears to our Councils. we gave a Medal, a Handkercheif & a string of Wompom to Yelleppit and a String of wompom to each of the others. Yelleppit is a bold handsom Indian, with a dignified countenance about 35 years of age, about 5 feet 8 inches high and well perpotiond. he requested us to delay untill the Middle of the day, that his people might Come down and See us, we excused our Selves and promised to Stay with him one or 2 days on our return which appeared to Satisfy him; great numbers of Indians Came down in Canoes to view us before we Set out which was not untill 9 oClock A M.





Clark, April 27, 1806 ...
This morning we were detained untill 9 A M in consequence of the absence of one of Shabono's horses. the horse being at length recovered we Set out and to the distance of 15 miles passed through a Country Similar to that of yesterday. (passed Muscle Shell rapid) [Umatilla Rapids at the location of today's McNary Dam] and at the experation of this distance again approached the river, and are rocky abrupt and 300 feet high [basalts of Wallula Gap].     we assended the hill [on the north and west sides of the Wallula Gap] and marched through a high plain 10 miles where we again returned to the river [Columbia River].     we halted altho we had not reached the Wal-lah-lal-lah village as we had been led to believe by our guide who informed us that the village was that the place we Should next return to the river, ...,     made a Small fire and boiled a Small quantity of our <boiled> jurked meat on which we dined; while here we were met by the principal Chief of the Wal lah wal lah Nation and Several of his nation. this chief by name Yel lep-pet had visited us on the morning of the 19th of Octr. at our encampment imedeately opposit to us [Spring Gulch Creek]; we gave him at that time a Small medal [Jefferson Peace Medal] , and promised him a large one on our return. he appeared much gratified at Seeing us return. he envited us to remain at his village 3 or 4 days and assured us that we Should be furnished with a plenty of Such food as they had themselves, and Some horses to assist us on our journey. after our Scanty repast we Continued our March accompanied by Yelleppit and his party to the Village which we found at the distance of Six miles, Situated on the North Side of the river [near the former Washington town of Yellepit]. about 16 miles below the enterance of Lewis's river [Snake River]. This Chief is a man of much influence not only in his own nation but also among the neignbouring tribes and nations.— the village Consists of 15 large mat Lodges. ...     the Indians informed us that there was a good road Which passed from the Columbia opposit to this Village to the enterance of Kooskooske [Clearwater River] on the S. Side of Lewis's river [Snake River], they also informed us, there were a plenty of Deer and Antilopes on the road with good water and grass. we knew that a road in that direction if the Country would permit it would Shorten the rout at least 80 miles. the Indians also inform us that the County was leavel and the road good, under those circumstances we did not hesitate in pursueing the rout recommended by our guide and Corroberated by Yetleppit and others. we Concluded to pass our horses over early in the morning.— made 31 miles to day—



Lewis, April 27, 1806 ...
This morning we were detained untill 9 A. M. in consequence of the absence of one of Charbono's horses. the horse at length being recovered we set out and at the distance of fifteen miles passed through a country similar to that of yesterday; the hills at the extremity of this distance again approach the river and are rocky abrupt and 300 feet high [Wallula Gap].     we ascended the hill and marched through a high plain for 9 miles when we again returned to the river [Columbia River],     I now thought it best to halt as the horses and men were much fatiegued altho had not reached the Wallah wollah village as we had been led to beleive by our guide who informed us that the village was at the place we should next return to the river, ...     while here the principal Cheif of the Wallahwallahs joined us with six men of his nation. this Cheif by name Yel-lept' had visited us on the morning of the 19 of October at our encampment a little below this place [Spring Gulch]; we gave him at that time a small medal, and promised him a larger one on our return.     he appeared much gratifyed at seeng us return, invited us to remain at his village three or four days and assured us that we should be furnished with a plenty of such food as they had themselves; and some horses to assist us on our journey. after our scanty repast we continued our march accompanyed by Yellept and his party to the village which we found at the distance of six miles situated on the N. side of the river at the lower side of the low country [near the former town of Yellepit] about 12 ms. below the entrance of Lewis's river [Snake River].     This Cheif is a man of much influence not only in his own nation but also among the neighbouring tribes and nations. --- This Village consists of 15 large mat lodges. ...     the indians informed us that there was a good road which passed from the columbia opposite to this village to the entrance of the Kooskooske [Clearwater River] on the S. side of Lewis's river [Snake River]; they also informed us, that there were a plenty of deer and Antelopes on the road, with good water and grass. we knew that a road in that direction if the country would permit would shorten our rout at least 80 miles. the indians also informed us that the country was level and the road good, under these circumstances we did not hesitate in pursuing the rout recommended by our guide whos information was corroberated by Yellept & others. we concluded to pass our horses over early in the morning.—



Gass, April 27, 1806 ...
The morning was cloudy with some light showers of rain; and about 9 o'clock we proceeded on through the plains, accompanied by a great many of the natives. Some light showers of rain fell at intervals during the day; and after halting about 2 hours we continued our journey to sunset, when we came to a large village of mat-lodges, belonging to a band of the Wal-la-wal-las, who have encamped here on the north side of the river. Here we remained all night, and the natives were good enough to supply us with some faggots of brush, they had gathered in the plains from the sage bushes, which grow in great abundance on some part of these plains and are very large.


Ordway, April 27, 1806 ...
a little rain fell the latter part of last night. we Set out as usal and proceed. on Soon passd. a Small village of 3 lodges then assended a high plain where we Saw an extensive country around us & not a tree to be Seen came about 20 miles before we halted & delayed a Short time eat a little dry meat & let our horses feed a Short time and proceed on about 5 miles further and arived at a large village of the wal-a-wal tribe, at the commencement of a low barron Smooth country where we Camped. bought a fat dog to each mess. these natives are numerous their is another village on the opposite Side of the river & a great number of horses. we get different kinds of roots and fresh Salmon trout & Suckers &C. all these Savages are glad to See us and appear verry friendly.—




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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: Hitchman, R., 1984, Place Names of Washington, Washington State Historical Society; University of Washington/Washington State University website, 2005, "Early Washington Maps: A Digital Collection"; U.S. National Park Service website, 2005, Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.

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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January 2006