Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Ashes Lake and Little Ashes Lake, Washington"
Includes ... Ashes Lake ... Big Ashes Lake ... Little Ashes Lake ... "Upper Landing" ... Fort Gilliam ... Fort Lugenbeel ... Campsite of October 30-31, 1805 ... Campsite of April 12, 1806 ...
Image, 2005, Ashes Lake, looking south towards the Columbia River, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Ashes Lake, Washington. View from Ashes Lake Road, looking south towards the Columbia River. Image taken February 26, 2005.


Fort Gilliam, an 1848 supply depot, and Fort Lugenbeel, an 1856 military blockhouse, were located above Ashes Lake. This area was known as the "Upper Landing".


Ashes Lake and Little Ashes Lake ...
Ashes Lake and nearby Little Ashes Lake are located on the Washington side of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 148. Upstream is Rock Cove, Rock Creek, and Stevenson. Downstream is North Bonneville, Fort Cascades, and the Bonneville Dam. Across the Columbia is Cascade Locks, Oregon. Fort Gilliam, an 1848 supply depot, and Fort Lugenbeel, a military blockhouse at the upper end of the Cascade Rapids, were located above Ashes Lake. This area was known as the "Upper Cascades" or "Upper Landing".

The U.S. Geological Survey's Geographic Names Information System (2014) has "Ashes Lake" and "Little Ashes Lake" as the official names for the two Skamania County lakes. Common names often used are "Big Ash Lake" and "Little Ash Lake".

According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (2014):

"Ashes Lake, also known as Big Ash Lake, is a 54 acre lake approximately 25' deep. It is a backwater impoundment of the Columbia River. This lake is connected to the Columbia River by a series of culverts. While this lake is not stocked by WDFW, there are numerous species of fish. Access is difficult with minimal shore access and car top boat/raft/float tube opportunities only."

"Little Ash has been stocked with trout since the early 1950s. Currently it is stocked with cutthroat and rainbow trout. The lake is located about two miles west of Stevenson, along the north side of Highway SR-14. Open year-round, this lake is stocked with several thousand catchable-size rainbow trout, plus excess broodstock rainbows. Daily limit is five trout, with no more than two over 20 inches. A few bass are also present to add to this fisheries option during the warmer months. Limited shoreline access, car top/raft/float tubes only. The lake has issues with excessive vegetation and algae which can make fishing difficult at times. "

Image, 2005, Columbia River as seen from Ashes Lake, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Columbia River as seen from Ashes Lake, Washington. View from Ashes Lake Road, looking south towards the Columbia River. Image taken February 26, 2005.


Lewis and Clark and Ashes Lake ...
Lewis and Clark camped on an island (now under the waters of the Bonneville Reservoir) near today's Ashes Lake both on their way downstream in October 1805 and on their return trip in April 1806.

Campsite of October 30-31, 1805 ...
Lewis and Clark's campsite of October 30 and October 31, 1805, was on an island off the Washington side of the Columbia, across from Cascade Locks, Oregon and upstream from the Bridge of the Gods. They spent two nights at this spot as they portaged across the trecherous "Lower Falls of the Columbia". This island is now under the waters of the Bonneville Reservoir, the waters behind the Bonneville Dam.

"... a wet disagreeable evening, the only wood we could get to burn on this little Island on which we have encamped is the newly discovered Ash, which makes a tolerable fire. we made fifteen miles to daye. ..."
[Clark, October 30, 1805]

"... towards evening we heared a great roaring a Short distance a head which we expect is another falls. we passed the mouth of a River which came in on the Stard. Side about 40 yards wide we passed a large Indian village on the Stard. Side a Short distance above the big Shoote. we Camped close above the Shoote. ..." [Ordway, October 30, 1805]

Lewis and Clark's previous campsite was near the Little White Salmon River, and their campsite of November 1, 1805, was at Fort Rains.


Campsite of April 12, 1806 ...
On the return, Lewis and Clark camped in the same location as they did on October 30.

"... I had all the baggage taken across the portage & we formed a Camp at the place we had encamped on our way down. ..." [Clark, April 12, 1806]

"... We encamped, all excessively fatigued, at the upper end of the portage ..." [Gass, April 12, 1806]

Their previous campsite was near Fort Rains, and their campsite of April 13, 1806, was at the base of Dog Mountain, near the right bank of Dog Creek.


Image, 2004, Table Mountain from Bonneville Dam, North Bonneville, Washington click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Table Mountain and the Bonneville Landslide, Washington, as seen from Cascade Locks, Oregon. View towards the location of Lewis and Clark's campsites of October 30 and 31, 1805 and April 12, 1806, near Ashes Lake, Washington, at the upper end of the Bonneville Landslide. View from Thunder Island, Cascade Locks, Oregon. Image taken November 4, 2004.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, October 30, 1805 ...
A cool morning, a moderate rain all the last night, after eating a partial brackfast of venison we Set out [from their camp near Drano Lake and the Little White Salmon River]     passed Several places where the rocks projected into the river & have the appearance of haveing Seperated from the mountains and fallen promiscuisly into the river, Small nitches are formed in the banks below those projecting rocks which is comon in this part of the river, Saw 4 Cascades caused by Small Streams falling from the mountains on the Lard. Side,

[The possiblities in a two-mile area are - upstream to downstream - Starvation Creek and Falls, the seasonal Cabin Creek and Falls, Warren Creek and Falls, Wonder Creek and Lancaster Falls, Lindsey Creek and Falls, and Summit Creek and Falls.]

a remarkable circumstance in this part of the river is, the Stumps of pine trees [Submerged Forest]

[The Submerged Forest existed along the reach from above Dog Mountain/Viento Creek on the upstream edge and Wind Mountain/Shellrock Mountain on the downstream edge.]

are in maney places are at Some distance in the river, and gives every appearance of the rivers being damed up below from Some cause which I am not at this time acquainted with [Bonneville Landslide],     the Current of the river is also verry jentle not exceeding 1 1/2 mile pr. hour and about 3/4 of a mile in width. Some rain, we landed above the mouth of a Small river on the Stard. Side [Wind River] and Dined ...   :  here the river widens to about one mile large Sand bar in the middle, a Great [rock] both in and out of the water, large <round> Stones, or rocks are also permiscuisly Scattered about in the river, ...     this day we Saw Some fiew of the large Buzzard    Capt. Lewis Shot at one, those Buzzards are much larger than any other of ther Spece or the largest Eagle white under part of their wings &c. [California Condor] ...     The bottoms above the mouth of this little river [Wind River] <which we Call> is rich covered with grass & firn & is about 3/4 of a mile wide rich and rises gradually, below the river (which is 60 yards wide above its mouth) the Countery rises with Steep assent. we call this little river <fr Ash> New Timbered river from a Speces of Ash <that wood> which grows on its banks of a verry large and different from any we had before Seen, and a timber resembling the beech in bark <& groth> but different in its leaf which is Smaller and the tree smaller. passed maney large rocks in the river and a large creek on the Stard. Side in the mouth of which is an Island [Rock Creek near Stevenson, Washington], passed on the right of 3 Islands <on> near the Stard. Side, and landed on an Island close under the Stard. Side at the head of the great Shute [head of the Cascades Rapids], and a little below a village of 8 large houses on a Deep bend on the Stard. Side, and opposit 2 Small Islands imediately in the head of the Shute, which Islands are covered with Pine, maney large rocks also, in the head of the Shute. Ponds back of the houses, and Countrey low for a Short distance. The day proved Cloudy dark and disagreeable with Some rain all day which kept us wet. The Countary a high mountain on each Side thickly Covered with timber, Such as Spruc, Pine, Cedar, Oake Cotton &c. &c.     I took two men and walked down three miles to examine the Shute and river below proceeded along an old Indian path, passd. an old village at 1 mile [vicinity of Ice House Lake] ...     I found by examonation that we must make a portage of the greater perpotion of our Stores 2 1/2 miles, and the Canoes we Could haul over the rocks, I returned at Dark ...     a wet disagreeable evening, the only wood we could get to burn on this little Island on which we have encamped [near Ashes Lake, the island is now under the waters of the Bonneville Reservoir. Ashes Lake was near the head of the Cascade Rapids. Across from Ashes Lake is Cascade Locks, Oregon.] is the newly discovered Ash, which makes a tolerable fire. we made fifteen miles to daye






Clark, October 31, 1805 ...
A Cloudy rainey disagreeable morning I proceeded down the river to view with more attention [Cascade Locks area] we had to pass on the river below, the two men with me Jo. Fields & Peter Crusat proceeded down to examine the rapids the Great Shute [Cascade Rapids] which commenced at the Island on which we encamped [Ashes Lake, now under the waters of the Bonneville Reservoir] Continud with great rapidity and force thro a narrow chanel much compressd. and interspersed with large rocks for a mile, at a mile lower is a verry Considerable rapid at which place the waves are remarkably high, and proceeded on in a old Indian parth 2 miles by land thro a thick wood & hill Side, to the river where the Indians make a portage, from this place I dispatched Peter Crusat (our principal waterman) back to follow the river and examine the practibility of the Canoes passing, as the rapids appeared to continue down below as far as I could See, I with Jo. Fields proceeded on, at a mile below the end of the portage [Fort Rains] ...     at 2 miles lower & 5 below our Camp I passed a village of 4 large houses abandend by the nativs, with their dores bared up, ...     from a Short distance below the vaults the mountain which is but low on the Stard. Side leave the river, and a leavel Stoney open bottom Suckceeds on the Said Std. Side for a great Distance down, the mountains high and rugid on the Lard Side this open bottom is about 2 miles a Short distance below this village is a bad Stoney rapid and appears to be the last in view I observed at this lower rapid the remains of a large and antient Village which I could plainly trace by the Sinks in which they had formed their houses, as also those in which they had buried their fish- from this rapid to the lower end of the portage [vicinity of Fort Cascades at the lower end of Hamilton Island] the river is Crouded with rocks of various Sizes between which the water passes with great velociety createing in many places large Waves, an Island which is Situated near the Lard. Side [Bradford Island] occupies about half the distance the lower point of which is at this rapid. immediately below this rapid the high water passes through a narrow Chanel through the Stard. Bottom forming an Island of 3 miles <wide> Long & one wide, I walked through this Island [Hamilton Island] which I found to be verry rich land, and had every appearance of haveing been at Some distant period Cultivated. at this time it is Covered with grass intersperced with Strawberry vines. I observed Several places on this Island where the nativs had dug for roots and from its lower point I observed 5 Indians in a Canoe below the upper point of an Island near the middle of the river Covered with tall timber [???],    which indued me to believe that a village was at no great distanc below, I could not See any rapids below <for> in the extent of my view which was for a long distance down the river, which from the last rapids [Middle Cascades] widened and had everry appearance of being effected by the tide,- I deturmind to return to Camp 10 miles distant [on an island by Ashes Lake, across from Cascade Locks, Oregon], a remarkable high detached rock Stands in a bottom on the Stard Side [Beacon Rock] near the lower point of this Island on the Stard. Side about 800 feet high and 400 paces around, we call the Beaten rock.     a Brook [Hamilton Creek] falls into the narrow Chanel [Hamilton Slough, today's Greenleaf Slough] which forms the Strawberry Island [Hamilton Island], which at this time has no running water, but has every appearance of dischargeing emence torrents &c. &c. Jo. Fields Shot a Sand hill Crane. I returned by the Same rout on an Indian parth passing up on the N W. Side of the river to our Camp at the Great Shute [an island near Ashes Lake, across from Cascade Locks, now under the waters of Bonneville Reservoir]. found Several Indians from the village, I Smoked with them; Soon after my return two Canoes loaded with fish & Bear grass for the trade below, came down from the village at the mouth of the Catterack River [Klickitat River], they unloaded and turned their Canoes up Side down on the beech, & camped under a Shelveing rock below our Camp ...

This Great Shute or falls [Upper Cascade Rapids] is about a mile with the water of this great river Compressed within the Space of 150 paces in which there is great numbers of both large and Small rocks, water passing with great velocity forming & boiling in a most horriable manner, with a fall of about 20 feet, below it widens to about 200 paces and current gentle for a Short distance. a Short distance above is three Small rockey Islands, and at the head of those falls, three Small rockey Islands are Situated Crosswise the river, Several rocks above in the river & 4 large rocks in the head of the Shute; those obstructions together with the high Stones which are continually brakeing loose from the mountain on the Stard Side and roleing down into the Shute aded to those which brake loose from those Islands above and lodge in the Shute, must be the Cause of the rivers daming up to Such a distance above, <and Show> where it Shows Such evidant marks of the Common current of the river being much lower than at the present day






Clark, April 12, 1806 ...
rained the greater part of the last night and this morning untile 10 A. M. [their camp is at the lower end of the Portage, near Fort Rains]     we employed all hands in attempting to take up the lost Canoe. in attempting to pass by a rock against which the Current run with emence force, the bow unfortunately took the Current at too great a distance from the rock, She turned broad Side to the Stream, and the exertions of every man was not Sufficient to hold her. the men were Compelled to let go the rope and both the Canoe and rope went with the Stream. the loss of this Canoe will I fear Compell us to purchase another at an extravigent price. after brakfast all hands who were employed in Carrying the baggage over the portage 1 miles which they performed by 4 P. M. ...     The rain Continued at intervales all day. in the evening after everry thing was taken from the lower Camp I Set out myself accompanied by the Cheif of the Clah-clal lars to the head of the portage. as we passed the remains of an old Village about half way the portage [vicinity of Ice House Lake], this Cheif informed me that this old Village had been the residence of his Tribe dureing the last Salmon Season. this village I mentiond in decending this river, but did not know the Tribes that had inhabited it that time. Capt. Lewis took a vocabulary of the languge of those people whilst I had all the baggage taken across the portage & we formed a Camp at the place we had encamped on our way down [on an island near Ashes Lake, today under the waters of the Bonneville Reservoir].



at my arival at the head of the portage [Cascade Rapids] found about 20 of the natives of the Wy ach hich tribe who reside above the rapids, with Capt Lewis. ...     as the evening was rainey and ourselves and party wet we Concluded to delay untill the morning and dry our selves. The Indians left us about 6 P M and returned to their Village on the opposit Side. mountains are high on each Side and Covered with Snow for about ? of the way down. the growth is principally fir and White Cedar. the bottoms and low Situations is Covered with a variety Such as Cotton, large leafed ash, Sweet willow a Species of beech, alder, white thorn, cherry of a Small Speces, Servis berry bushes, Huckleberries bushes, a Speces of Lorel &c. &c. I saw a turkey buzzard which is the 3rd which I have Seen west of the rocky mountains. the 1st was on the 7 inst. above quick Sand river [Sandy River]. for the three last days this inclusive we have made 7 miles only.





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*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

Sources:    see Cascade Rapids;   

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.
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March 2014