Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Jolie Prairie, Washington"
Includes ... Jolie Prairie ... Belle Vue Point ... Campsite of March 30, 1806 ... Naming of Mount Jefferson ...
Image, 2006, Columbia River from Officers Row, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Columbia River and "Jolie Prairie", from Officers Row, Vancouver National Historic Reserve. Green grass in the foreground is the Vancouver Barracks Parade Ground. Image taken August 26, 2006.

"Jolie Prairie" ...
"Jolie Prairie" is the name of the flood plain on the north side of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 107. In 1829 it became home to the second Fort Vancouver.

"... In 1829, with no significant threat materializing from the Chinook, the initial palisade was abandoned and a new site for the palisade was selected on the river plain known as Jolie Prairie and later as Fort Plain. Driving the move was the decision by HBC Governor George Simpson to make Fort Vancouver the headquarters for the HBC Columbia Department. The Fort Plain site provided open land with rich soils suitable for cultivated fields and pasture, close to the river for access to fresh water and transportation, but above the flood zone. The dense conifer forest to the west and north provided a ready supply of timber, while the freshwater pond near the shore became the nexus for building and other industrial activities. Six miles to the east, streams provided a power source for the first grist and saw mills in the Pacific Northwest. ..." [U.S. National Park Service website, 2005, Fort Vancouver]

Today Jolie Prairie is home to the Vancouver National Historic Reserve, including Fort Vancouver, Pearson Airpark, Vancouver Barracks, Officer's Row, and the condominium/restaurant complex of Columbia Shores.

"Beautiful Prairie" ...
"Jolie Prairie" is French for "beautiful prairie". The prairie was one of many "Plains and Prairies" of the Hudson's Bay Company and was occasionally referred to as "Belle Vue Point". It should not be confused with Belle Vue Point located today on Sauvie Island.

Image, 2004, Jolie Prairie, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
"Jolie Prairie", Vancouver, Washington. Image taken March 8, 2004.
Image, 2004, Jolie Prairie, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Pearson Field, "Jolie Prairie", Vancouver, Washington. View of the Jack Murdock Aviation Center (left) and the Pearson Airpark (right). Mount Hood is in the background. Image taken March 8, 2004.

Lewis and Clark and "Jolie Prairie" ...
Lewis and Clark first passed through this area on November 4, 1805. Ponds, long since gone, once existed in the area.

"... a Small Prarie in which there is a pond opposit on the Stard.     here I landed and walked on Shore, about 3 miles a fine open Prarie for about 1 mile, back of which the countrey rises gradually and wood land comencies ...     a few Cottonwood trees & the Ash of this countrey grow Scattered on the river bank ..." [Clark, November 4, 1805]

On their return upstream on March 30, 1806, Lewis and Clark set up camp in this prairie.

"... we encamped a little before sunset in a beautifull prarie above a large pond ... " [Lewis, March 30, 1806]

"... We had a beautiful day throughout, and in the evening encamped on a handsome prairie in sight of a large pond on the north side of the river. ..." [Gass, March 30, 1806]

"... At sunset we encamp'd at a handsome place on the North side of the River, where the land was Priaries & Groves of White Oak & cotton timber, & the Country laying much lower than the Country below ..." [Whitehouse, March 30, 1806]

Campsite of March 30, 1806 ...
Columbia Shores is a condominium/restaurant/office complex located on the lowlands of the Columbia River once known as "Jolie Prairie". Lewis and Clark spent the night of March 30, 1906, on this "beautifull prarie above a large pond".

Image, 2004, Columbia Shores with Mount Hood, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
March 30, 1806 campsite, looking upstream. "Columbia Shores", Washington, with Mount Hood, Oregon. Image taken January 20, 2004.

Notes from Fort Vancouver National Historic Site website ...
From the U.S. National Park Service, on the history of Fort Vancouver:

"... In 1824, George Simpson, North American governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, ordered the abandonment of Ft. George and the search for a new post on the north side of the Columbia River, Criteria for locating the new post included the desire to strengthen British claims to the land north of the Columbia River, and for the HBC to render themselves '...independent of foreign aid in regard to Subsistence.' The search for suitable terrain -- land lacking steep banks or low, flood prone areas -- ended at Jolie Prairie, about one hundred miles from the mouth of the Columbia River. ..."

In Simpson's early correspondence regarding this site he referred to this prairie as "Belle Vue Point", apparently in the belief it was the same point of land named in 1792 by Lieutenant Broughton of the Captain George Vancouver Expedition. Today historian's believe Broughton's "Belle Vue Point" was located downstream either on the eastern tip of Sauvie Island, or it was the point today called Kelley Point.

"... The site of Fort Vancouver, called Jolie Prairie, was located near a Chinook Indian village named Ske-chew-twa that was located on the site of the W.W.I. Kaiser Shipyards. Jolie Prairie was later named Fort Plain by the Hudson's Bay Company, and became the core of Fort Vancouver. The first stockade, which operated between 1825 and 1828, was located about three quarters of a mile from the river on the edge of a terrace. This location, sixty feet above the low-lying river plain, offered protection from floods and served as a strategic defensive position from the undetermined threat of native Chinook Indians. The naturally occurring plain provided open land for agriculture, and grass for livestock pasture. The coniferous forests surrounding the plains provided a ready supply of timber for fuel and building materials. The streams on Mill Plain, six miles east of Fort Plain, provided a power source for both a grist mill and a saw mill. ..."

"... At its height, development at Fort Vancouver was located in three large prairies called Fort Plain, Lower Plain and Mill Plain, and five smaller prairies to the northeast called the Back Plains (First Plain, Second Plain, Third Plain, Fourth Plain, Fifth Plain and Camas Plain). ..."

[More Belle Vue Point]
[More Plains and Prairies]

Oregon White Oak at "Jolie Prairie" ...
Lewis and Clark's camp of March 30, 1806, near today's Vancouver, Washington, was in a beautiful prairie lined with groves of Oregon White Oak.

"... here we encamped a little before sunset in a beautifull prarie above a large pond having traveled 23 M. I took a walk of a few miles through the prarie and an open grove of oak timber which borders the prarie on the back part. ..." [Lewis, March 30, 1806]

"... about Sunset we Camped at a handsom prarie & Groves of oak timber &C the country is lower & more Smooth than below. ..." [Ordway, March 30, 1806]

"... At sunset we encamp'd at a handsome place on the North side of the River, where the land was Priaries & Groves of White Oak & cotton timber, & the Country laying much lower than the Country below ..." [Whitehouse, March 30, 1806]

A part of this "beautiful prairie" is today's Parade Grounds for the Vancouver Barracks. Oregon White Oak still exists on the Parade Grounds, including two large trees which may date from the 1850s.

"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 image of history.

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 4, 1805 ...

Clark, March 30, 1806 ...

Lewis, March 30, 1806 ...

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

  • U.S. National Park Service website, 2005, "Fort Vancouver National Historic Site";

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.
September 2008