Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Pillars of Hercules, Oregon"
Includes ... Pillars of Hercules ... "Needle Rocks" ... "Speelyei's Children" ...
Image, 2005, Pillars of Hercules, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Pillars of Hercules, as seen from Bridal Veil, Oregon. View is looking west, with the one of the Pillars of Hercules on the left (mostly hidden in trees), train tracks and Interstate 84, and the Columbia River on the right. The southernmost pillar is out of the picture to the left. At one time this 120-foot-high column of basalt was a training site for mountain climbers. Image taken March 6, 2005.

Pillars of Hercules ...
The "Pillars of Hercules" were two towering basalt columns located on the Oregon side of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 131, just downstream of Bridal Veil Falls and just upstream of Crown Point and Rooster Rock. At one time the Union Pacific rail line went between two columns of basalt. Today the line is on the north side of the pillars. Photographs in the University of Washington Library by A.H. Barnes shows the tracks were moved sometime before or during 1913. The 120-foot-high column once served as a training site for mountain climbers. Good views of the Pillars of Hercules can be had from the Bridal Veil Overlook.

Early Pillars of Hercules ...
Early photographs of the Union Pacific trains and the "Pillars of Hercules" often label them as the "Needles".

Early newspaper articles used the name "Needle Rocks".

"... it will be possible for automobiles and other vehicles when the highway [Historic Columbia River Highway] is completed to spin down the slopes of a precipice from Chanticleer to the Columbia River, a drop of 900 feet; proceed eastward at the base of Rooster Rock, through the fields and farms about the village of Latourelle; past the Needle Rocks; along the base of Gordon, Latourelle, Multnomah, Bridal Veil and Horsetail Falls; through the grandeur of Oneonta Gorge; over the plateaus this side of Hood River; along the picturesque Tanner and Eagle creeks; over the old Dalles military road, and lastly around the now treacherous precipices of Shell Rock. ..." ["Sunday Oregonian", August 10, 1913]

Another name for the two rocks were "Speelyei's Children".

"... Two sharp rocks between which pass the tracks of the Union Pacific and known as the PILLARS OF HERCULES or SPEELYEI'S CHILDREN, the latter name commemorating the feats of the Indian coyote god ..." ["Oregon, End of the Trail", 1940, by the Works Projects Administration (WPA) of the State of Oregon]

Pillars of Hercules and the Railroad ...
The tracks of the railroad initially ran through the two Pillars of Hercules before being moved to the north of the rocks.

Early photographs and postcards of the Pillars of Hercules show the rail tracks running between the Pillars.

Photographs taken by A.H. Barnes (University of Washington Library) are dated 1913 and show the rail tracks on the north side of the Pillars. The former track between the Pillars is visible but grass covered.

Stereocard, Pillars of Hercules, Oregon, 1902, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Stereocard: Pillars of Hercules, Oregon, 1902. Stereocard, Copyright 1902, "Picturesque grandeur of the great Columbia River -- remarkable "Pillars of Hercules" (west) Oregon." Published by Underwood & Underwood. Card #52. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
"Stereocards" (also known as "stereoviews", "stereo pairs", or "stereographs") were popular in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Families spent evenings together sharing the 3-D views. The cards consisted of two slightly different images, taken simultaneously with a special camera, and then mounted side-by-side on a card for viewing. Specially designed "stereoscopes" were used to view the cards.

Views ...

Image, 2004, Pillars of Hercules, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Pillars of Hercules, as seen from Bridal Veil, Oregon. Image taken October 11, 2004.
Image, 2006, Bridal Veil Bluffs and one of the Pillars of Hercules, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Bridal Veil Bluffs (left) and one of the Pillars of Hercules (right). View from moving car on Interstate 84, Oregon. Image taken September 23, 2006.
Image, 2007, Bridal Veil Bluffs and one of the Pillars of Hercules, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Interstate 84 and Bridal Veil Bluffs (left) and one of the Pillars of Hercules (right). View from moving car on Interstate 84, Oregon. Image taken January 15, 2007.

"The Golden Age of Postcards" ...

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

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 2, 1805 ...
Examined the rapid below us [from their camp at Fort Rains, looking at the Cascade Rapids] more pertcelarly the danger appearing too great to Hazzard our Canoes loaded, dispatched all the men who could not Swim with loads to the end of the portage below, I also walked to the end of the portage with the carriers where I delayed untill everry articles was brought over and canoes arrived Safe. here we brackfast and took a Meridn. altitude 59 45' 45" about the time we were Setting out 7 Squars came over loaded with Dried fish, and bear grass neetly bundled up, Soon after 4 Indian men came down over the rapid in a large canoe.     passed a rapid at 2 miles & 1 at 4 miles opposite the lower point of a high Island on the Lard Side [Bradford Island], and a little below 4 Houses on the Stard. Bank, a Small Creek on the Lard Side [Tanner Creek] opposit Straw berry Island [Hamilton Island], which heads below the last rapid, opposit the lower point of this Island [Hamilton Island] passed three Islands covered with tall timber [today there are two, Ives and Pierce] opposit the Beatin rock [Beacon Rock]     Those Islands are nearest the Starboard Side, imediately below on the Stard. Side passed a village of nine houses [Skamania and Skamania Landing], which is Situated between 2 Small Creeks [Woodward Creek and Duncan Creek], and are of the Same construction of those above; here the river widens to near a mile, and the bottoms are more extensive and thickly timbered, as also the high mountains on each Side, with Pine, Spruce pine, Cotton wood, a Species of ash, and alder.     at 17 miles passed a rock near the middle of the river [Phoca Rock], about 100 feet high and 80 feet Diamuter,     proceed on down a Smoth gentle Stream of about 2 miles wide, in which the tide has its effect as high as the Beaten rock [Beacon Rock] or the Last rapids at Strawberry Island [Hamilton Island],- Saw great numbers of waterfowl of Different kinds, Such as Swan, Geese, white & grey brants, ducks of various kinds, Guls, & Pleaver [today just below Beacon Rock is Pierce National Wildlife Refuge and Franz National Wildlife Refuge]. ...     we encamped under a high projecting rock on the Lard. Side [Rooster Rock],     here the mountains leave the river on each Side, which from the great Shute to this place is high and rugid [Columbia River Gorge, including Bridal Veil, Cape Horn, Yeon Mountain and St. Peters Dome, Oneonta Bluffs, Basalts at Multnomah and Horsetail Falls]; thickly Covered with timber principalley of the Pine Species. The bottoms below appear extensive and thickly Covered with wood.     river here about 2 miles wide.     Seven Indians in a Canoe on their way down to trade with the nativs below, encamp with us, those we left at the portage passed us this evening and proceeded on down The ebb tide rose here about 9 Inches, the flood tide must rise here much higher- we made 29 miles to day from the Great Shute [Cascade Locks]-

Columbia River GorgeReturn 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

  • Burkhardt, D.C. Jesse, 2004, Railroads of the Columbia River Gorge, Arcadia Publishing, San Francisco;
  • Oregon Parks and Recreation website, 2005, "Bridal Veil Falls State Scenic Area";
  • "Rootsweb.com" website, 2005;

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