Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Cottonwood Point, Washougal, Washington"
Includes ... Cottonwood Point ... "Pt. Broughton" ... Cottonwood Beach ...
Image, 2006, View downstream from Vista House, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
View downstream from Vista House, Crown Point, Oregon. View shows the Columbia River, Reed Island, and Cottonwood Point is behind Reed Island. Lighting fixtures are from the Historic Columbia River Highway. Image taken October 21, 2006.

Cottonwood Point ...
Cottonwood Point is the upstream tip of Cottonwood Beach and is located at Columbia River Mile (RM) 124.5. It marks the lower end of Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Reed Island lies just offshore and upstream three miles lies today's Point Vancouver, the upstream tip of the Steigerwald Refuge.

"Cottonwood Point" and "Point Vancouver" ...
In 1841 Charles Wilkes of the U.S. Exploring Expedition, called today's Cottonwood Point "Pt. Broughton, and today's Point Vancouver is shown but not labeled.

E.S. Meany in his 1923 "Origin of Washington Geographic Names" describes "Cottonwood Point" and "Point Vancouver" as being the same point, based on research in 1916 by T.C. Elliott.

Cottonwood Point:   "The Wilkes Expedition, 1841, gave this name to the eastern extremity of Puget Island in the Columbia River. The name does not appear on recent charts, but river-men have been using the name for a point southeast of Washougal and southwest of Cape Horn in the Columbia River, Clarke County. It has recently been shown that this is probably the true Point Vancouver named by Broughton in 1792. (T.C. Elliott, in "Oregon Historical Quarterly, Volume XVIII., pages 73-82")." ... [Meany, 1923]

Point Vancouver:   "on the Columbia River in the southeastern corner of Clarke County, named by Lieutenant W.R. Broughton, October 30, 1792, in honor of Captain George Vancouver, under whom he was then serving. (Vancouver's "Voyage of Discovery Round the World", second edition, Volume III, page 107.") Local confusion of locality was cleared up on October 30, 1916, by T.C. Elliott, who identified this point with the locally known Cottonwood Point. ("The Quarterly of the Oregon Historical Society", Volume XVIII, pages 73-82.)" ... [Meany, 1923]

Based on T.C. Elliott's research, in 1916 the U.S. Board of Geographic Names made "Vancouver Point" the official name for today's "Cottonwood Point". Then, in 1932, based on research done by J.Neilson Barry, the U.S. Board of Geographic Names made "Cottonwood Point" the official name for today's "Cottonwood Point", and made "Point Vancouver" the official name for the point three miles upriver.

Lieutenant Broughton, October 30, 1792 ...
Lieutenant Broughton viewed today's Cottonwood Point on October 30, 1792, and named it after Captain George Vancouver.

"The west point of Baring's River [Sandy River] is situated in latitude 45o 28', longitude 237o 41'; from whence the main branch takes rather an irregular course about N.82E.; it is nearly half a mile wide, and in crossing it the depth was from six to three fathoms. The southern shore [Oregon side] is low and woody and contacts the river by means of a low, sandy flat that extends from it, on which were ledged several large dead trees [Sandy River Delta]. The best passage is close to Johnstone's Island [Lady Island]; this has a rocky, bold shore, but Mr. Broughton pursued the channel on the opposite side [Oregon shore] where he met with some scattered rocks [Ough Reef, opposite Washougal, Washington]; these, however, admitted of a good passage between them and the main land; along which he continued until toward evening, making little progress against the stream. "Having now passed the sand bank," [mouth of the Sandy River] says Mr. Broughton, "I landed [today the high bluff above the eastern shore of the Sandy River is called Broughton Bluff] for the purpose of taking our last bearings; a sandy point on the opposite shore [Cottonwood Point, upstream of Washougal, Washington] bore S.80E., distant about 2 miles [Cottonwood Point, today's Point Vancouver is too far upriver]; this point terminating our view of the river [Columbia River], I named it after Captain Vancouver; it is situated in latitude 45o 27', longitude 237o 50'. [The name "Point Vancouver" has since moved to a point approximately 3 miles further upstream.]

Views ...

Image, 2015, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington, as seen from the Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. View from HCRH west of Vista House. Image taken March 30, 2015.
Image, 2015, Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Steigerwald Lake NWR, Washington, as seen from the Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Reed Island, Cottonwood Point, Steigerwald Lake NWR, and Point Vancouver. View from HCRH west of Vista House. Image taken March 30, 2015.

View from Airliner ...

Image, 2010, Reed Island, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Columbia River with Reed Island, as seen from airliner landing at PDX. Day overcast and drizzly. Cottonwood Point is directly behind the western (left) end of Reed Island. Image taken October 10, 2010.

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 3, 1805 ...

Clark, March 31, 1806 ...

Lewis, April 2, 1806 ...
Fir is the common growth of the uplands, as is the cottonwood, ash; large leafed ash and sweet willow that of the bottom lands. the huckleburry, shallon, and the several evergreen shrubs of that speceis which bear burries have seased to appear except that speceis which has the leaf with a prickly margin.     among the plants of this prarie in which we are encamped I observe the passhequo, Shannetahque, and compound firn the roots of which the natives eat; also the water cress, strawburry, flowering pea not yet in blume, the sinquefoil, narrow dock, sand rush which are luxuriant and abundant in the river bottoms; a speceis of the bearsclaw of which I preserved a specemine it is in blume.     the large leafed thorn has also disappeared. the red flowering currant is found here in considerable quantities of the uplands.    the hunters inform me that there are extensive praries on the highlands a few miles back from the river on this side.     the land is very fertile.

Vancouver PlainsReturn 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

  • City of Washougal website, 2004, 2005;
  • Meany, E.S., 1923, "Origin of Washington Geographic Names", University of Washington Press;
  • U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) database, 2006, 2019;

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.
April 2019