Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Oregon White Oak ("Garry Oak")"
Includes ... Oregon White Oak ... Garry Oak ... Ridgefield NWR ...
Image, 2014, Cathlapotle Plankhouse click to enlarge
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Garry Oak sunset, Cathlapotle Unit, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Image taken April 18, 2014.

Oregon White Oak ("Garry Oak") ...
The Oregon White Oak ("Quercus garryana"), also known as the "Garry Oak", is a member of the beech family which exists along the Pacific Coast from British Columbia, Canada, all the way to Southern California.

"Oregon white oak (Quercus garryana), a broadleaved deciduous hardwood common inland along the Pacific Coast, has the longest north-south distribution among western oaks - from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, to southern California. It is the only native oak in British Columbia and Washington and the principal one in Oregon. Though commonly known as Garry oak in British Columbia, elsewhere it is usually called white oak, post oak, Oregon oak, Brewer oak, or shin oak. Its scientific name was chosen by David Douglas to honor Nicholas Garry, secretary and later deputy governor of the Hudson Bay Company. ..."

Source:    U.S. Forest Service website, 2007

Lewis and Clark and the Oregon White Oak ...
Lewis and Clark are given credit for "discovering" the Oregon White Oak. They brought a sample back with them in their botanical collection.

On October 20, 1805, Lewis and Clark first came saw the acorns of the Oregon White Oak in an Indian Lodge near Roosevelt, Washington, and were informed they were collected from the Celilo Falls area.

"... no timber of any kind on the river, we Saw in the last Lodges acorns of the white oake which the Inds. inform they precure above the falls ..." [Clark, October 20, 1805, first draft]

"... At 10, we came to the lodges of some of the natives, and halted with them about 2 hours. Here we got some bread, made of a small white root, which grows in this part of the country. We saw among them some small robes made of the skins of grey squirrels, some racoon skins, and acorns, which are signs of a timbered country not far distant. ..." [Gass, October 21, 1805]

While the men passed other groves of oak on their journey downstream, it wasn't until the return trip that Captain Lewis collected a sample of the oak to include in the expedition's botanical collection. Records show he collected the sample on March 26, 1806, at which time the men were below the mouth of the Cowlitz River.

"... after dinner we proceeded on and passed an Elegant and extensive bottom on the South side and an island near it's upper point which we call Fanny's Island and bottom, the greater part of the bottom is a high dry prarie. near the river towards the upper point we saw a fine grove of whiteoak trees; we saw some deer and Elk at a distance in the prarie, but did not delay for the purpose of hunting them. we continued our rout after dinner untill late in the evening and encamped on the next island above fanny's Island. ..." [Lewis, March 26, 1806]

Explorers and traveleres called the oak grove at "Fanny's Bottom" - today's Clatskanie River floodplain - "Oak Point" for many years until the name became associated with a spot on the north side of the Columbia River.

David Douglas, 1823-1827 ...

"... This is a handsome straight tree of considerable dimensions, 40 to 100 feet high, varying in thickness from 18 inches to 3 feet in diameter, widespreading and much divided by its branches at the top. Few trees have trunks exceeding 30 or 35 feet of clean wood or undivided by branches, much the greater number about 25. ...

For various domestic purposes the wood of the tree will be of great advantage, more especially in shipbuilding. Its hard, tough texture and durability, qualities of rare occurrence in the same species of oaks yet found in America, gives the present a decided superiority over every other native of that country; indeed, not one for general purposes can exceed it. ...

Common in alluvial deposits, on a substratum of clay, on the low banks of the Columbia, but never at any time exceeding two hundred miles from the sea. Plentiful on the north banks of that stream sixty miles from the ocean, and from that circumstance named by Capt. Vancouver "Oak Point," 1792.

It does not form thick woods as is the case with the Pine tribe, but is interspersed over the country in an open manner, forming belts or clumps along the tributaries of the larger streams, on which conveniently it could be floated down. Common from the 40 to the 50 North lat.

I have great pleasure in dedicating this species to N. Garry, Esq., Deputy Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, as a sincere though simple token of regard." ..."

Source:    Douglas, D., 1917, Journal Kept by David Douglas During His Travels in North America 1823-1827, Cambridge University Press.

Views ...

Image, 2005, Oregon White Oak, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, click to enlarge
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Oregon White Oak, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Washington. This oak is located on the basalt bluff above the Columbia, in the Carty Unit. Image taken, April 27, 2005.
Image, 2011, White Oak, Ridgefield NWR, Cathlapotle area, click to enlarge
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Oregon White Oak, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Carty Unit, Washington. Image taken September 23, 2011.
Image, 2008, White Oak, Ridgefield NWR, Cathlapotle area, click to enlarge
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Great Horned Owls feldglings sitting in an over 300-year-old Oregon White Oak, Carty Unit, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Washington. Image taken May 9, 2008.

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, March 26, 1805 ...

Lewis, March 26, 1805 ...

Vancouver LowlandsReturn 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

  • Douglas, D., 1917, Journal Kept by David Douglas During His Travels in North America 1823-1827, Cambridge University Press;
  • U.S. Forest Service website, 2007;

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.
May 2014