Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Waterfront Park, Vancouver, Washington"
Includes ... Waterfront Park ... Waterfront Renaissance Trail ...
Image, 2007, Waterfront Park, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Waterfront Park, Vancouver, Washington. Columbia River and the Oregon shore. Image taken April 5, 2007.

Waterfront Park ...
Vancouver, Washington's Waterfront Park is located at the east end of the Interstate 5 Bridge and is along Vancouver's Waterfront Renaissance Trail. The park is a part of the Fort Vancouver Historic Site and is approximately five acres with park benches and viewing platforms and provides excellent views of the Columbia River and the Oregon shore. Upstream of Waterfront Park is Columbia Shores, the location of Lewis and Clark's Campsite of March 30, 1806. Downstream is the Interstate 5 Bridge and Vancouver Landing. The "Old Apple Tree" is across from the west end of Waterfront Park. A "Land Bridge" connects the Waterfront Park with Fort Vancouver, Pearson Field, and other areas of the Vancouver National Historic Reserve.

Cadboro, William Broughton, and Columbia Landing ...
"Cadboro Park", "William Broughton Park", and "Columbia Landing" all have been names for parks in the area of today's Waterfront Park.

The Hudsons Bay Company, Fort Vancouver, and the Waterfront ...
"By 1845, at least 27 principal buildings (stores, warehouses, offices, and officer residences) and a variety of small-scale buildings and structures were located inside the walls of the Fort. Northeast of the Fort was a cluster of barns and farm structures located at a road junciton that provided access to all of the outlying agricultural fields. West of the Fort, the HBC Village was developed and comprised of forty to sixty residences. South of the HBC Village was a cluster of utilitarian structures arranged around a pond connected to the Columbia River. The southern edge of this cluster included a salmon house, wharf, warehouse, hospital, and salt house.

All of these building clusters were removed as time progressed; however, archeological excavations have uncovered evidence of their original locations and some details about their character. The cluster of buildings related to the HBC Fort has been under reconstruction by the NPS since the 1960s."

Source:    Vancouver National Historic Reserve National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, 2006.

Early History ...
The area of today's Fort Vancouver Waterfront Park has been in use since 1825.

"The Hudson's Bay Company's Fort Vancouver, which stood from 1825 to 1860, was the regional headquarters and supply depot for the Company's operations in the Pacific Northwest. The Hudson's Bay Company Waterfront Complex included a wharf, boat works, salmon "store" or salting structure, a hospital, dwellings, and other buildings that supported the Company's agricultural and commercial enterprises in the area. Later in the 19th century, the U.S. Army used the site for its wharf and quartermaster's depot, and in the 20th century, it served as a U.S. Coast Guard station." [U.S. National Park Service, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site website, 2016]

Views ...

Image, 2007, Waterfront Park, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Waterfront Park, Vancouver, Washington. Columbia River and the Oregon shore. Image taken April 5, 2007.
Image, 2007, Waterfront Park, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Waterfront Park, Vancouver, Washington. Columbia River and the Oregon shore. Image taken April 5, 2007.
Image, 2017, Waterfront Park, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Snow, Waterfront Park, Vancouver, Washington. Snowstorm of January 2017, with 10-12 inches in Vancouver and temperatures in the high teens to low 30s. Image taken January 14, 2017.
Image, 2017, Waterfront Park, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Burlington Northern Santa Fe 4054, as seen from Waterfront Park, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken January 14, 2017.
Image, 2017, Waterfront Park, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Columbia River looking downstream, Waterfront Park, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken January 31, 2017.
Image, 2017, Waterfront Park, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Columbia River looking upstream, Waterfront Park, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken January 31, 2017.

More ...


  • Fort Vancouver, 1972, National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form ...
  • Fort Vancouver NHS, 1992, Cultural Landscape Report ...
  • Fort Vancouver NHS, 2000 (updated), Administrative History: The Waterfront Property ...

Fort Vancouver, 1972, National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form ...
"The lesser employees at Fort Vancouver -- the tradesmen, artisans, boatmen, and laborers -- lived mainly in what was known as "the village," on the plain west and southwest of the stockade. This settlement consisted of from 30 to 50 wooden dwellings, some ranged along lanes and other dotted "all over the plain for a mile." Near the village and extending to the river was a lagoon, around which were a number of other Company buildings, with a wharf on the riverbank. The buildings included a large salmon storehouse, boatsheds, and a hospital. Between the lagoon and the village were barns and shelters for pigs, oxen, and horses."

"The principal sites which the park was designed to protect -- the fort location and the parade grounds -- having been acquired, the Secretary of the Interior, by a Departmental Order of June 30, 1954, officially established Fort Vancouver National Monument.

Several years later the General Services Administration desired to dispose of the very narrow riverfront section of the former military reservation lying between the City of Vancouver's Kaiser Access Road (Columbia Way) and the Columbia River. The City of Vancouver wished to obtain this property, but it could not give assurance that structures would not be built on it which would interfere with the historic scene as viewed from the fort site and the monument visitor center. Therefore the Service exercised its prior rights, as a Federal agency, to the surplus property and acquired this river tract of about 6.5 acres by transfer from GSA on December 4, 1957 (accepted by the Department, January 15, 1958). The National Park Service, in turn, issued a permit to the City for use of the property as a public park and boat launching ramp. As extended, this waterfront use permit will continue until 1973.

Along with the river tract, the General Services Administration asked the Service to take over administration of the 100-foot-wide Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway right-of-way which runs across the old military reservation directly north of the Kaiser Access Road. ..."

There are over 50 State, county, or commercial boat launching ramps on the Columbia and Willamette rivers, suppliemented by marinas, commercial moorages, and private yacht clubs.

One launching ramp, located on a 6.5-acre tract of Fort Vancouver land, was developed and is managed by the City of Vancouver or Cadboro Park under a special use permit from the Service.

Clark County itself has relatively few non-urban developed recreation facilities. It has one State park, a county park, a botanical area, a privately-owned park, and some of the boating facilities on the shore of the Columbia described above. ...

Cadboro Park, mentioned above as being administered by the City under special use permit from the Service, consists of a concrete boat launching ramp, parking, and minor picnicking facilities.

The only other city-administered park or open space near Fort Vancouver is the William Broughton Park -- the 6.5 acre tract of waterfront land the city has under lease permit from the Service, terminating in 1973. The city has developed a parking area and minor picnicking facilities in conjunction with the boat ramp mentioned earlier."

Source:    U.S. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, 1972, Fort Vancouver National Monument.

Fort Vancouver NHS, 1992, Cultural Landscape Report ...
River Front, 1829-1846:

"In this report, the river front complex includes the area bounded by the extension of Lower Mill Road on the north, the "river road" on the east, the forest on the west, and the Columbia to the south. The land in this vicinity generally sloped gently down to the river bank. A pond extended north from a narrow mouth at the river. From various maps, beginning with Covington in 1846, it appears its size and configuration changed somewhat with the rise and fall of the Columbia. It is not shown on the 1844 Peers map, nor on the 1845 Vavasour map, even though Vavasour was careful to point out areas of inundation on the rest of Fort Plain. By 1846, the mouth of the pond was bridged, according to Covington's map. ...

By 1846 the river front area was the scene of considerable industrial activity, including tanning, shipping, shipbuilding and repair, warehousing, coopering, and, for a time at least, distilling. In addition, some horses--probably cart and wagon horses, working oxen, and pigs were housed in sheds and stables within the complex. There were also some employee dwellings, for the most part, by 1846 within enclosures, and the Company's hospital. Generally speaking, by 1846, the industrial activities were nearest the river; the stables were located along the west or northwest edge of the pond, and the dwellings along the east edge of the pond. The evolution of the site, at present is known only in general terms. ...

It is assumed that the jetty or wharf, which projected into the water, according to the Covington map, probably dated from the time of the construction of the new stockade, in 1828-29. Dugald MacTavish, at the post off and on, beginning in the late 1830s, later stated that "There were two or three landings on the river as connecting with the fort, at the lower one of which there was a jetty or wharf, with a large warehouse known as the salmon store," Dr. Henry Tuzo, a Company employee at the post in the 1850s, later referred to the wharf as a "landing jetty." ...

The date of construction of the salmon store or "fish house" is not known; it was listed in the 1846-47 inventory as measuring 100 by 40 feet, and was located west of the pond, at the edge of the river. The building was used to store cured salmon. ..."

River Front, 1847-1860:

"The river front complex, for the purposes of this study, is the area west of the "river road" and south and east of the road extending from the intersection of Lower Mill Road and "river road" to the river. At present, no known illustrations or photographs of this area exist for this period; only maps. A few illustrations show the site at a distance, but details are hard to discern. As with the Kanaka Village site, the Hudson's Bay Company structures extant in 1846 were largely gone by May of 1860. Historic documents indicate the army was largely responsible for clearing the site of Company structures, a process which began in 1857-58, and terminated in a demolition frenzy in March of 1860.

The most significant natural feature of the site was the pond which extended inland from the river. Its size must have fluctuated significantly with the periodic floods and freshets. Maps in this period show it of varying relative size and proportions, but most show it was spanned by a bridge of unknown length and width. The Company certainly had a bridge spanning it; the structure is shown on the 1846 1846 Covington stockade area map. The army or the Company may have built a second bridge by 1854; one of the maps executed in this year shows the road along the river crossing the pond's mouth below, and not at, a pair of lines which may represent the earlier Company bridge. ...

In 1849 Honore-Timothee Lempfrit observed that sailing ships could come close to the river bank, apparently near the Company wharf. Dr. Tuzo noted that the Company's landing jetty was removed, and "a large warehouse and wharf erected by the Govt. on its site." This occurred in the late summer and fall of 1857. However, the army continued to rent the schoolhouse for ordnance storage through March of 1860, and the rental rolls show that the salmon store was also rented for two months in 1859. An 1859 map shows the new wharf and the quartermaster's storehouse. By mid-August of 1860, the army had pulled down and burned the salmon store. ..."

U.S. Army Structures:

In April of 1856 Rufus Ingalls wrote to the chief quartermaster of the army's Department of the Pacific in Benicia, California, and told him the building he was renting as a storehouse--the schoolhouse--was "not fit for any use if another and proper one could be put up." He went on to say that one should be put up on the bank of the river "to avoid the great expense of transporting supplies to and from the storehouse now under rent," and noted that the individuals serving as quartermasters during his absence from Fort Vancouver had submitted plans for a new storehouse. "One building," he said, "will answer." In December he wrote the Quartermaster General in Washington, D.C., reiterating his opinion of the Company's schoolhouse, which was "now old and greatly dilapidated...We have quarters in abundance and a commodious hospital and a strong guardhouse& c. but we need store rooms."

By June of 1857 Ingalls had apparently received permission from the army, but his request to tear down the Company wharf was denied by Dugald Mactavish, in charge of Fort Vancouver at that time. Ingalls proceeded to build a new wharf anyway, not "foreseeing any possible obstacle to a fair understanding and settlement between the military authorities and your Company," as he later wrote to William Tolmie, who was on the Company's Board of Management. By August 6 he reported a "...capacious, convenient, and expensive wharf nearly completed, right in front of the 'Salmon House.' It is one of the most thorough works of the kind on the Coast, and is prepared already for any steamer or other vessel that can come to this point. It has been constructed with a view of having a permanent storehouse attached to it on the shore line, and, to do this, it will be necessary to take down, or remove the Salmon House."

River Front Area, 1861-1918:

"By 1869 the old Hudson's Bay Company wharf had been rebuilt by the army, and a road extended west from it along the river towards Vancouver. A sentry box was situated at the end of the 1850s army road, which was to become the lower half of McLoughlin Road, by 1869. As noted above, the east-west road along the river to the east was probably still in existence; maps show a portion of it extending to the east from the wharf area, but do not indicate that it continued beyond the pasture fence line. There was little change in the wharf area in the 1880s, with the exception of the previously-mentioned ordnance depot, which was built just north of the quartermaster's storehouse in the early 1880s, and enclosed with a fence in 1889. In the mid-'90s, the 1850s quartermaster's and subsistence depots on the wharf were demolished, and a new dock, a dock house, wharf and a breakwater were built on the site of the old wharf. In 1905 the ordnance storehouse was moved from its original site, further north and west by the S. P. & S. railway."

Historic River Front Area, 1919-1947:

"By the late 1920s, the government dock had been dismantled, and a coast guard dock, depot and pier was situated near its location during World War II. During the war years, a road along the river's edge (now Columbia Way), south of the railroad embankment, was built from the Kaiser Shipyards to the Pacific Highway; it connected to McLoughlin Road via an underpass beneath the railroad."

Historic River Front Area, 1948-Present (1992):

"In 1957-8, the National Park Service acquired about six-and-one-half acres from the General Services Administration a long, narrow strip between the Columbia River and Columbia Way. The City of Vancouver was issued a permit which enabled it to use the property as a public park, and a boat-launching ramp was installed. In 1958, the railroad right-of-way was transferred to the park, along with a narrow strip of land to its immediate south. In 1974-5 the park service acquired two acres of land adjacent to the west edge of its river front property, which included the land on a U.S. Coast Guard station had been built and later abandoned in 1972. The City of Vancouver continues to operate a park on these properties."

Source:    U.S. National Park Service, 1992, Fort Vancouver Cultural Landscape Report.

Fort Vancouver NHS, 2000 (updated), Administrative History: The Waterfront Property ...
The Waterfront Property:

"Historically, the waterfront was an important part of the Hudson's Bay Company complex. Boatsheds, a salmon house, and a wharf for docking company vessels helped supply Fort Vancouver with fresh food and other items of trade. In 1857, the Army removed the company's wharf and salmon house to make room for its own activities. Only in the early 1940s did the U.S. Coast Guard acquire several acres for a riverfront station. An additional 14 or 15 acres of adjacent waterfront propery between the Coast Guard station on the west and the Buffalo Electro-Chemical plant on the east remained part of the Army's Vancouver Barracks.

With the post-World War II restructuring of Vancouver Barracks, the parcel of land adjacent to the Coast Guard station became surplus. In the fall of 1954, Fort Vancouver Superintendent Frank Hjort told the General Service Administration that the Park Service decided it would not be feasible to accept the waterfront property as part of Fort Vancouver National Monument. The City of Vancouver, however, expressed interest in the land to develop a public park and the City Council approved a proposal to try to acquire the land. Just as the Park Service had assisted the city in preparing an application for surplus property north of Evergreen Boulevard, in September 1955, Park Service landscape architect James N. Gibson prepared a justification for the transfer of 14 acres of waterfront property to the City of Vancouver. The city's initial plans consisted of clearing the property, then planting grass and constructing drinking fountains and other picnic facilities.

However, a year later, the city had not completed the transaction though the Fort Vancovuer Restoration and Historical Society urged it to acquire the waterfront land. ...

In November 1956, the City of Vancouver officially withdrew its application for the waterfront property in favor of letting the Park Service receive it. The city could then least the property from the National Park Service, "using the property as a moorage.".

In 1958, the strip of waterfront property between the Coast Guard station on the west and a boat moorage by the Buffalo Electro-Chemical plant on the eastern boundary was transferred to the National Park Service under the provisions of Fort Vancouver's 1948 enabling legislation. ... the Park Service gave the city permission to use the property as a park. ...

In 1959, the City of Vancouver requested permission to construct a small boat launching ramp, which was permitted under a special use permit. ...

The Park Service continued to issue special use permits to the City of Vancouver "for the purpose of prividing a public small boat launching ramp, maintaining the public access, and landscaping the area between the launching area and the Coast Guard station for parking and observation purposes, and to adequately police and maintain the area." ...

When Donald Gillespie became superintendent in 1972, the condition of the waterfront once more came to the forefront. Gillespie develped plans for possible ways of improving the waterfront property. ... The new mayor of Vancouver, Lloyd Stromgren, seemed very supportive of the idea. Anything would be an improvement over the "pock-marked gravel parking area, a boat ramp, and a small picnic area" the city called William Broughton Park." ...

The Park Service plan for waterfront improvements required the use of the Coast Guard property. According to the local media, the plans included "dredging out a small bay and removing three of five buildings at the base. A fourth existing structure would be converted into a museum, while the remaining structure would become a maintenance facility. The rest of the site would be landscaped." And in early spring 1975, the National Park Service resubmitted its request for transfer of the Coast Guard property for the General Services Administration to be part of the waterfront beautification plan. ... On July 1, 1975, 2.1 acres of Coast Guard property was transferred to Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

In 1975, the Army and city collaborated with the Park Service on a "Bicentennial project" to clean up and landscape the waterfront area. ... The Army's 104th and 308th Reserve Battalions donated their labor and a city landscape engineer from the Parks and Recreation Department provided his design skills for the beautification project. By the spring of 1975, they promised to "remove [the] launch ramp and redistribute shoreline rip-rap" with general landscaping as their primary objective. ...

The Park Service and the city continued to improve the waterfront property, including "removing concrete spills and an old unused boat ramp at the waterfront and providing general landscaping treatment." Though the park improvement had been planned, instigated, and supervised by the Park Service, there was still a sense that it was a city project. The park's name, "Columbia Landing," was reminiscent of the old Hudson's Bay Company fort, but by June 1977, the nearby commercial development and the park's isolation from the stockade at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site led to a distinctly separate character about the waterfront.

In 1977, another cooperative shoreline beautification project began. First, the Corps of Engineers removed blackberry bushes and small cottonwoods, cleaned up debris, and repaired the roadway dike with fill material. The City of Vancouver and local service organizations assisted with landscaping, installing park benches, and creating a parking area. By the end of the year, the Park Service contracted for the demolition of the old Coast Guard buildings and the wharf structure on the Columbia River at a cost of $31,000.

The 1978 Master Plan for Fort Vancouver National Historic Site included plans to integrate the waterfront with the fort and "strive for a physical access connection with the main fort unit." ...

[In 1981] The city donated services of its landscape architect, Kelly Punteney. The project, which covered both the old Coast Guard property and "Columbia Landing," would provide connecting walkways between two new restaurants to the west of the Coast Guard property and the Columbia Landing Park. They would also install benches at "view overlook sites" and plant more "deciduous trees, conifers, and shrubs." ...

[In March 1982] The Park Service granted the city "the right and privilege of using" the waterfront strip "together with the right to construct, operate, and maintain a public park for a period of 25 years." ... The memorandum of understanding between the Park Service and the city for use of the waterfront park expires in 2007. ..."

Source:    U.S. National Park Service, 2000 (updated), "Fort Vancouver NHS, The Administravie History of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site", Chapter Seven, "The Waterfront Property".

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 4, 1805 ...

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

  • Fort Vancouver, 1972, National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form;
  • Vancouver National Historic Reserve, 2006, National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form;
  • Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation website, 2007;
  • U.S. National Park Service, 2000, "Fort Vancouver NHS, The Administravie History of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site", Chapter Seven, "The Waterfront Property";
  • U.S. National Park Service, 1992, "Fort Vancouver Cultural Landscape Report";

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 2017