Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Eagle Cliff, Washington"
Includes ... Eagle Cliff ...
Image, 2005, Eagle Cliff from County Line Park, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Eagle Cliff, Washington (treed cliff, slightly rounded, center skyline), as seen from County Line Park. Image taken July 28, 2005.

Eagle Cliff ...
Eagle Cliff is located on the Washington side of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 51, just downstream from County Line Park and upstream of Cathlamet. Eagle Cliff was the site of the first salmon cannery in the Pacific Northwest, established in 1865 or 1866 (two different sources) by two brothers G.W. and William Hume, and Andrew Hapgood. The location was named "Eagle Cliff" by William Hume who found eagles nesting above the town.

Early Eagle Cliff ...
Robert Hitchman wrote in "Place Names of Washington" (1985, Washington State Historical Society):

"Eagle Cliff (T8N R5W, Section 13) ... A high cliff on the north bank of Columbia River, 15 miles west of Longview, east Wahkiakum County. It was the site of the first salmon cannery in the Pacific Northwest, established in 1865. It was named by William Hume, one of the cannery owners, when he found eagles nesting here above the town."

Eagle Cliff in 1941 ...

From "The New Washington: A Guide to the Evergreen State" (1941, Writers' Program, Work Projects Administration):

"EAGLE CLIFF, 60.2 m. (110 alt., 16 pop.) ... represented on the highway by only a shed, is a village lying L. beneath a cliff on the river bank. Here the world's first commercial salmon cannery was built in 1865. In the early days all the work was done by hand, and great losses were caused by the slowness of the process. Chinese were employed for the most part."

Eagle Cliff Cannery ...
In 1865 or 1866 (see below) the William Hume and his brother George, along with canning expert Andrew Hapgood, built the first cannery on the Columbia River at Eagle Cliff, Washington, and put up 4,000 cases of salmon (48 cans per case).

During the spring of 1867 the Eagle Cliff Cannery packed four thousand cases of forty-eight cans each.

By 1868 the cannery was producing over 6,200 cases, much of which would be exported to Australia.

By 1874 there were 12 canneries in business between Astoria and Portland, and by 1881 there were 35 canneries.
The 1878 U.S. Coast and Survey map "Columbia River Sheet No.3", shows the "Eureka Fishery", the "Eagle Cliff Fishery", and the "W. Hume's Fishery", all located in the area of today's Eagle Cliff. Interestingly, this 1878 map has the area of the basalt cliffs near today's Oak Point labeled "Eagle Cliff".

In 1883 there were 55 canneries operating on the Columbia. Salmon harvests peaked in the early 1880s, with canneries producing more than 600,000 cases in a season. Salmon were so abundant in the early years of the industry canneries were not able to pack the number that were caught. The salmon decline became noticable by 1887 and by 1950 the commercial salmon industry on the Columbia River was over. The last Columbia River cannery shut down in 1980.

The 1888 U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries's "Chart of the Columbia River from the Ocean to Portland, Oregon, Illustrating the Condition of the Salmon Fishery, Season of 1888-9" has "Eagle Cliff Cannery" located on the upstream side of the point and "Eureka Cannery" on the downstream side of the point.

By 1971 only pilings can be seen of the cannery location.

"Hapgood and the Humes started canning salmon on the Columbia River in 1866 at Eagle Cliff in Wahkiakum County, some nine miles east of Cathlamet, the county seat. In the beginning, two two-man boats, one crewed by William Hume and his brother John and the other by George Wilson and another man, were sufficient to supply all the fish that the small cannery, located on a scow, could process ... the cannery managed to produce 4,000 cases of canned salmon (a case holds 48 one-pound cans) in its first year of operation. ...

Columbia River salmon quickly became popular and profitable and the Humes and others built more canneries along Wahkiakum County's river shore. George Hume, with Isaac Smith, began a second cannery at Eagle Cliff in 1868. Frank Warren built at cannery at Cathlamet in 1869 and four years later another Hume, Robert, built one at Bayview, a mile downriver from Skamokawa. Also in 1873, Joseph Megler, who went on to a prominent political career, opened a cannery at Brookfield. In 1878, John Temple Mason Harrington built the Pillar Rock Cannery, named for a prominent basalt column rising high above the river's surface that featured prominently on the cannery's labels."

Source:    "historylink.org" website, 2011, the Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History.

Penny Postcard, Eagle Cliff Cannery, Washington
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Eagle Cliff Cannery location.
Penny Postcard, Real Photo, Divided Back, "Eagle Cliff Site of First Fish Cannery on Columbia River." Card #P-113. Copyright "PV". In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Image, Eagle Cliff Cannery, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Eagle Cliff Cannery, first salmon cannery on the Columbia River. Image from the "Pacific Fisherman: Year Book", 1920, p.69.

"The Golden Age of Postcards" ...

The early 1900s was the "Golden Age of Postcards". The "Penny Postcard" became a popular way to send greetings to friends and family. Today the Penny Postcard has become an snapshot of history.

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 6, 1805, first draft ...

Clark, November 6, 1805 ...

Journey to the PacificReturn 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

  • Hay, K.G., 2004, "The Lewis and Clark Columbia River Water Trail", Timber Press, Portland;
  • "historylink.org" website, 2011, the Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History
  • Hitchman, R., 1985, "Place Names of Washington", Washington State Historical Society;
  • Oregon History Project website, 2005;
  • U.S. Coast and Survey map "Columbia River Sheet No.3", 1878;
  • U.S. National Park Service website, 2005, "National Historic Landmarks";
  • Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation website, 2006;
  • Washington State University Library Archives website, 2005, "Early Washington Maps: A Digital Collection";
  • Writers' Program, Work Projects Administration (WPA), 1941, "The New Washington: A Guide to the Evergreen State", sponsored by the Washington State Historical Society;

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.
February 2013