Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Saddle Mountain, Oregon"
Includes ... Saddle Mountain ... Saddle Mountain State Natural Area ... Saddle Mountain State Park ... "Swalalahos" ... "Saddle Hill" ... "Mont de la Selle" ...
Image, 2004, Saddle Mountain from Station Camp, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Saddle Mountain, Oregon, from Station Camp, Washington. Astoria, Oregon, is along the shoreline, with the Astoria-Megler bridge just visible on the left. Image taken April 9, 2004.

Saddle Mountain ...
Saddle Mountain is one of the highest peaks in Oregon's Coast Range with an elevation of 3,283 feet. A three-mile trail leads from the parking lot at the base of Saddle Mountain, to the forest fire lookout at the summit. Saddle Mountain can be reached from Youngs River Road, Astoria, or U.S. Highway 26 near the Necanicum Junction, 10 miles east of Seaside, Oregon (Sunset Highway). A narrow paved road runs eight miles from the highway to the parking lot. Good views of Saddle Mountain exist from both sides of the Columbia River. It is the high peak seen from U.S. Highway 101 (Highway 26) as it crosses Youngs Bay.

Lewis and Clark and Saddle Mountain ...
Lewis and Clark mention seeing Oregon's Saddle Mountain in 1805, but gave it no name. They spotted it from their camp near Pillar Rock near Grays Bay.

"... here the high mountainious Countrey approaches the river on the Lard Side, a high mountn. to the S W. about 20 miles ... " [Clark, November 7, 1805]

Legend ...
From: "Journal of Travels over the Rocky Mountains to the mouth of the Columbia River, made during the years 1845 and 1846, by Joel Palmer", IN: Thwaites, R.G., Early Western Travels, 1748-1846:

"... The country about Cape Lookout is inhabited by a tribe of Indians called the Kilamooks. ... They have a tradition among them that a long time ago the Great Spirit became angry with them, set the mountain on fire, destroyed their towns, turned their tiye (chief) and tilicums (people) into stone, and cast them in the ocean outside of Cape Lookout; that the Great Spirit becoming appeased, removed the fire to Saddle Mountain, and subsequently to the Sawhle Illahe (high mountain,) or Mount Regnier, as it is called by the whites, on the north side of the Columbia river.

In the ocean about a mile west of Cape Lookout, is to be seen at high water a solitary rock, which they call Kilamook's Head, after the chief of the tribe. Around this rock for half a mile in every direction may be seen at low water divers of other rocks, which are called the tilicums, (people) of the tribe. At low water is to be seen a cavity passing quite through the Kilamook's Head, giving the rock the appearance of a solid stone arch.

In support of this tradition, the appearance of the promontory of Cape Lookout indicates that it may be the remains of an extinct volcano; and on Saddle Mountain there is an ancient crater, several hundred feet deep; while Mount Regnier is still a volcano. ..."

Saddle Mountain Geology ...
Saddle Mountain is composed of volcanic breccia (a rock consisting of broken angular fragments cemented together in a fine-grained matrix)produced about 15 million years ago by thermal shock, when a great lava flow of Columbia River basalt came down an ancestral valley of the Columbia River (south of its present course) and entered the Astoria Sea. The still-hot rock, meeting cold water, caused steam explosions which broke it up into a great pile of basalt fragments. James Dana, of the 1841 Wilkes U.S. Exploring Expedition, climbed the peak and gave a detailed description.

Early Saddle Mountain ...
In 1805, Lewis and Clark mention seeing Oregon's Saddle Mountain but gave it no name. They spot it from their camp near Pillar Rock near Grays Bay.

"... here the high mountainious Countrey approaches the river on the Lard Side, a high mountn. to the S W. about 20 miles ... " [Clark, November 7, 1805]

In 1841, James Dana of the U.S. Exploring Expedition called the peak "Mount Swalalahos" and "Saddle Hill".

"The Coast Range is a region of hills, ridges, and peaks, mostly from a few hundred to three thousand feet in height, and rarely rising to twice this elevation. It lies directly along the coast, forming a border of ten to thirty miles, and presenting in general little that is striking in outline. Viewed from the mouth of the Columbia, there was one broken summit to the southeast, calculated to engage the attention; it is called by the Indians, Swalalahos, and has also been named Saddle Hill. ..." [Dana]

"... On the jaunt to Swalalahos, we ascended for ten miles Young's River, (a stream entering Young's Bay, on the south side of the Columbia,) and then struck through the forests to the south-southeast, twenty-five miles. When at the base of the Peak, we were already twelve or fifteen hundred feet above the sea. ..." [Dana]

Saddle Mountain in 1940 ...
From the Oregon State Archives "A 1940 Journey Across Oregon":

"... At 13 m. is the junction with a dirt road; R. for 12 m. to SADDLE MOUNTAIN STATE PARK. An Indian legend told of an old giantess who found Thunderbird's eggs at the top of the mountain. When she broke the eggs and threw them down the mountainside, each became an Indian. On the mountain (3,266 alt.) are trails, shelters, and picnic grounds. Much hunting for deer (and occasionally for elk) and fishing for trout is done in this area. ..."

Views ...

Image, 2005, Lewis and Clark River with Saddle Mountain, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Saddle Mountain as seen from the Lewis and Clark River. View from near Fort Clatsop. Image taken November 15, 2005.
Image, 2004, Saddle Mountain across Youngs Bay, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Saddle Mountain across Youngs Bay, Oregon. Image taken March 25, 2004.
Image, 2004, Saddle Mountain, Oregon, from Grays Bay, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Saddle Mountain, Oregon, as seen from Grays Bay, Washington. From road to Pillar Rock between Pigeon Bluff and Harrington Point. Image taken June 16, 2004.
Image, 2005, Saddle Mountain from Coxcomb Hill, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Saddle Mountain, Oregon, as seen from Coxcomb Hill, Astoria. Image taken April 19, 2005.

Saddle Mountain, etc.

  • 1788 John Meares ...
  • 1858 "Coast Pilot" ...
  • 1889 "Coast Pilot" ...
  • 1909 "Coast Pilot" ...
  • 1942 "Coast Pilot" ...
  • Saddle Mountain State Natural Area ...
  • Saddle Mountain State Park, 1965 ...

1788, John Meares ...
Explorer John Meares plotted "Mont de la Selle" south of "C. Shoal Water" (today's Willipa Bay, Washington) and north of "Baye de Deception" (today's mouth of the Columbia River), on his 1788 map of the coast of Alaska and western United States. According to the 1858 United States Coast Survey Report, in the section on Shoalwater Bay:

"Four miles off the entrance a depth of 10 fathoms is found, and when well off shore a high double peaked mountain shows to the eastward, well inland; Meares noticed it and placed it in latitude 46o30', quite close to the coast, designating it as Saddle Mountain, a name is stll retains although one of the same name is found SE. of Point Adams."

Where was Meares "Mont de la Selle" ? The 1889 United States Coast and Geodetic Survey's "Pacific Coast Coast Pilot" lists a "Saddle Hill" in the Gray's Harbor area.

"Gray's Harbor -- This is the second large bay on the coast between Cape Disappointment and Cape Flattery. ... As the bay is approached from seaward there is no high land that can be readily picked out as a landfall. The coast to the north and south is low, although covered with trees; and the high land lies well to the eastward of the bay. Saddle Hill is the only mark of reference near the bay. Saddle Hill lies at the head of the northern part of the bay, and two miles in from the coastline. It is seven and a half miles north by west half west (N. by W. 1/2 W.) from Point Brown. It is formed by two slightly rounding summits marked by straggling clumps of large trees, and when viewed from off the bar it shows only the western summit with a clump of trees on the northwest side. It does not whow very much over the Point Brown Peninsula line of forest trees, and is below the distant line of the Olympus Mountains. It is probably about four hundred feet high, and would inconspicuous but for the generally low and level character of all the country about Gray's Harbor. This is not the Saddle Hill of Meares. He saw a prominent hill of that character when he was in the vicinity of Destruction Island, although he erroneously places it in latitude 46o30'."

Destruction Island, however, is near the Hoh River on the Olympic Peninsula, and does not match the location Meares plotted on his 1788 map. The Saddle Hill of Gray's Harbor also does not match the map location. Unfortunately this web author does not have access to Meares written text.

1858 "Coast Pilot" ...
From the 1858 U.S Coast Survey "Coast Pilot":

"... Four miles off the entrance a depth of 10 fathoms is found, and when well off shore a high double peaked mountain shows to the eastward, well inland; Meares noticed it and placed it in latitude 46o30', quite close to the coast, designating it as Saddle Mountain, a name is stll retains although one of the same name is found SE. of Point Adams. ..."

1889 "Coast Pilot" ...
From the 1889 U.S. Coast Survey "Coast Pilot":

"... The Landfall of this region is Saddle Mountain, which from the southwest shows as a double-peaked mountain with the easterly summit the lower one. The slopes of either peak to the apparent south and apparent north are nearly the same. When off Cape Disappointment, and McKenzie's Head of that Cape is on with Point Adams, Saddle Mountain is in line with them, and then two subordinate peaks show out between the two main ones, and the higher peak begins to come more to the front. After entering the river, and when to the eastward of Tongue Point, the whole profile of the mountain is changed, and it would hardly be recognized, but the higher peak is to the westward, and the western face of the mountain shows a sheer precipice of four hundred feet. The summit area of this higher peak is very limited in extent, and it has no trees, but it is well wooded on its sloeps nearly to the top. The lower peak is similarly a bare summit with trees on the slopes. The two tops are about half a mile apart. ... The height of Saddle Mountain is thirty-three hundred feet, and it should be visible at a distance of sixty-five miles, or fifty miles from the coast. The geographical position of the western peak, as determined by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, is:

Latitude ... 45o58'04".0 north.
Longitude ... 123o41'11".1 west.

It lies north twent-four and a half degrees east (N.241/2oE.) seventeen and a half miles from Cape Falcon; north sixty and a half degrees east (N.601/2oE.) twenty-four miles from Cape Disappointment Light-house. Vancouver has a view of this landfall on his chart, but he does not refer to it in his narrative. We found the name in use among navigators in 1851, and in 1853 we located it approximately for the reconnaissance chart. ..."

Saddle Mountain represents the highest peak in the region of the Columbia River. ... In clear weather the landfalls we have already described are very marked. Cape Disappointment, Scarborough Hill, Saddle Mountain, and Tillamook Head are unmistakable landmards, and when these are seen, even a stranger can stand boldly in towars the entrance and heave his vessel to in the vicinity of the Whistling Buoy, and taking care to note the drift of his vessel by the ranges which Tongue Point, Coxcomb Hill, or Saddle Mountain offer with the low line of the shore south of Point Adams. ..."

1909 "Coast Pilot" ...
From the 1909 U.S. Coast Survey "Coast Pilot":

"... Saddle Mountain, double-headed and 3,300 feet high, is the landfall for this section of the coast and in approaching the Columbia River. It lies 14 miles 82o true (NE by E 1/4 E mag.) from Tillamook Rock lighthouse, and is visible 50 miles offshore. ..."

1942 "Coast Pilot" ...
From the 1942 U.S. Coast Survey "Coast Pilot":

"... Saddle Mountain, double-headed and 3,266 feet high, is the landfall for this section of the coast and in approaching the Columbia River. It lies 14 miles 82o from Tillamook Rock Light and is visible 50 miles offshore. From the northwestward, this mountain appears to be a triple-headed peak. The apparent northeastern peak, cone-shaped and sharp, is the lowest. The middle peak is irredularly cone-shaped, while the southern and highest peak is a flat-topped cone. ..."

Saddle Mountain State Natural Area ...
Trails, shelters, and picnic grounds ...

Saddle Mountain State Park, 1965 ...

"Saddle Mountain State Park is located at the end of Saddle Mountain Road in central Clatsop County, approximately seven miles north from a point on Sunset Highway 26 near Necanicum Junction. The park contains the high peak known as Saddle Mountain.

The first land acquired for this park was a gift of 1,280 acres from O. W. and Nellie Taylor on November 21, 1928. Another gift of 1,401.96 acres was received from the State Land Board on December 5, 1935. Five purchases were made, amounting to 372.05 acres, increasing the park land to a total of 3,054.01 acres at the close of 1963.

The land received from the State Land Board was a gift to the state from the U. S. Government. It had been set aside by the government on August 11, 1916, to be preserved as a park area. The State Land Board believed that the Highway Commission, through its Parks Division, was in a much better position to care for the area.

The state leased 15 acres of land near the junction of Saddle Mountain Road and Sunset Highway for use as a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in June, 1935, at a cost of $250 per year for a two year period. The CCC's did considerable work in the park during their stay, including the 7.25-mile entrance road and a trail to the top of Saddle Mountain.

Several applications to haul logs over the park entrance road have been rejected as the road is not suitable for that purpose.

The principal attraction of this park, one from which the area derived its name, is Saddle Mountain, an unusually descriptive name for the 3,283-foot double peak. Splendid views can be had in all directions from the mountain top. Several snow-capped mountains in Washington and Oregon are plainly visible on clear days, as well as miles of shore line along the Pacific and the broad mouth of the Columbia River with its boat traffic moving in and out to sea. Approximately 100 feet below the highest peak of Saddle Mountain is a spring from which a forest lookout station atop the mountain gets its water. The spring flows very steadily all year, while other springs and creeks down the gulches of the mountain dry up soon after the end of the rainy season.

After a visit to the park and a climb to the top of Saddle Mountain Peak on June 19, 1947, (the leisurely trail climbing time was two hours and fifteen minutes), W. A. Langille wrote the following about the flora on the mountain: "The broken slopes of Saddle Mountain are reputed to be a favorite hunting ground for botanists. It is alleged that some 2,000 specimens of flora have been classified. Many growing there are not found elsewhere in this region. Most notable among these is the highly prized, exceedingly rare Crucifer, Cardamine pattersonii, which scientists declare grows nowhere else but on this mountain, where it was first found by the indefatigable Professor Henderson."

Logging activities in the vicinity of the park and to the very base of the mountain, during the years 1920 to 1930, greatly reduced the splendid forests of spruce, hemlock, fir and cedar which once covered the land. State laws required the burning of debris. Reproduction was making a good showing when several fires in the area, one in particular which occurred on Thanksgiving Day 1936 and another in 1939, caused considerable damage to the young trees and the few remaining stands of older trees. Reforestation has since been very good.

As many as 70 elk in one herd have been counted as recently as 1950 as they roamed the mountain slopes. Even the Albino elk, now a rarity, have been seen in the herd. This number, however, may have been reduced through natural causes or hunting.

Improvements at the park include the entrance road, car parking area, trail to the top of the mountain, sanitary facilities and a small picnic area with tables, benches and stoves, all constructed by the CCC. The state forces constructed a Quonset hut in 1948, a water storage reservoir and a small overnight camp with six tent sites, and developed a water source.

Attendance during 1963 totaled 26,492 day visitors and 463 overnight stays."

Source:    Chester H. Armstrong (compiler), 1965, "History of the Oregon State Parks: 1917-1963, published by Oregon State Parks.

"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 have become a snapshot of history.

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 7, 1805 ...

Clark, November 7, 1805, in distances, November 15, 1805 ...
S. 70 W. 3 Miles to a point on the Stard Side [Jim Crow Point] passg. under a high mountanious Countrey and Encamped on the rocks Stard. Side opposit a rock [Pillar Rock] Situated a mile in the river 50 feet high & 20 Diamuter Some high mountains to the S W. on the top of one [Saddle Mountain] is Snow. Ocian in view! O! the joy.

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

  • Allen, J.E., 1987, Time Travel Two in Oregon, a scrapbook of geological articles published in 'The Oregonian' from November 7, 1985 to November 6, 1987; Oregon State Archives website, 2004;
  • Armstrong, C.H., (compiler), 1965, "History of the Oregon State Parks: 1917-1963, published by Oregon State Parks;
  • NOAA Office of Coast Survey website, 2004, Historical Map and Chart Collection;
  • Oregon State Archives website, 2005, "1940 Oregon Coast Tour";
  • Oregon State Parks and Recreation website, 2004;

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.
March 2011