Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Camas, Washington"
Includes ... Camas ... Camas Slough ... "La Camas" ... Lacamas Lake ...
Image, 2015, Camas, click to enlarge
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"Camas Pride" banner, Camas, Washington. Image taken October 3, 2015.

Camas ...
The small community of Camas lies on the Washington side of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 121, just west of Washougal, and situated behind Lady Island. The Washougal River joins the Columbia River at Camas. The Crown-Zellerback pulp and paper mill is the major industry in Camas. A Boring Lava cone, Prune Hill, rises to the north of Camas. The name "Camas" refers to a local edible root, the Camassari quamash, a staple food item native inhabitants along the Columbia River.

Image, 2007, Camas
, click to enlarge
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Camas flowers -- "resembles a lake of fine clear water". Taken from moving car while on highway. View from north of Camas, Washington. Image taken April 28, 2007.

"... the quawmash is now in blume at a Short distance it resemhles a lake of fine clear water, So complete is this deseption that on first Sight I could have Sworn it was water. ..."
[Clark, June 12, 1806, at Weippe Prairie, Idaho]
Image, 2007, Camas, click to enlarge
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Camas fields near Round Lake, Camas, Washington. Image taken April 28, 2007.

Early Camas ...
An early name for the Camas Post Office was "La Camas", a name given to the local camas plant by the French-Canadians employed by the Hudson's Bay Company. In 1894 the Post Office switched to "Camas" to avoid confusion with "La Center" and "La Conner", two other Pacific Northwest towns.
"... Residents continued to use La Camas as the town's name, except on mail, until 1909, when the present name was adoped, by petition, as official. ..." [Hitchman, 1985, Place Names of Washington]

Camas in 1941 ...
From "Washington: A Guide to the Evergreen State", 1941, by the Washington State Historical Society, Federal Works Agency, Works Projects Administration (WPA):

"... CAMAS, 90.3 m. ... in a semicircle of evergreen hills dropping to cultiveated prairie land bordering the Columbia River on the south, is a "City of Paper." Wide, concrete-paved streets and modern brick business and residential buildings give a pleasant, lively appearance to the town. The mill buildings and the ever-present odor of sulphite suggest the industrial background of the city.

Construction of a sawmill by Jacob Hunsacker in 1846 on Lake Lackamas brought the first industrial activity to the district. First settlement was in 1860 near a sand bar where the camas, a blue-flowered, sweet-flavored bulb, grew prolifically; the village retained the name of this favorite food of the Indians.

The growth of Camas was the direct result of paper manufacture. The uncertainty of paper delivery from eastern mills, because of slow sailing around Cape Horn and oxteam transportation across the coutnry, long handicapped the newspapers of the Northwest. In 1884 constuction of a paper mill began on Lake Lackamas; after 18 months of operation, it was completely destroyed by at $150,000 fire. The mill was rebuilt the following year, with provision for new methods of pulp production and additional machinery. With its unlimited pulpwood resources, Camas grew as the factory expanded. ...

Docks on the river fron handle shipments of materials and products for the paper mill. Fruit from near-by prune orchards is packed and prepared for shipment by water and rail. Smelt fishing during the spring and salmon fishing during the summer also contribute to Camas' revenue. Pails, basin, and washboilers are used during the smelt run to scoop the tiny, oily fish from the streams. ..."

Street Scenes ...

Image, 2015, Camas, Washington, click to enlarge
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Street scene, Camas mill, Camas, Washington. Image taken October 3, 2015.
Image, 2015, Camas, Washington, click to enlarge
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Street scene, Camas mill, Camas, Washington. Image taken October 3, 2015.
Image, 2015, Camas, Washington, click to enlarge
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Street scene, Flutes and Rocks Lounge, Camas, Washington. Image taken October 3, 2015.

Camas, etc.

  • Camas Moose Lodge 1042 (and Lacamas Lake Lodge) ...
  • Camas Slough ...
  • Flood of 1894 ...
  • Heritage Park ...
  • Lacamas Creek, Lacamas Lake, and Round Lake ...
  • Lacamas Lake Regional Park ...

Camas Moose Lodge 1042 (and Lacamas Lake Lodge) ...
The Camas Moose Lodge 1042 use to occupy a building on the shore of Lacamas Lake. The building was built in the 1940s as a boat repair shop. The Lodge purchased the property and then sold it to the city of Camas in 2000 with the Lodge remaining as renters until 2012 when they made the move to a new home in Washougal. The lakeside property has since been developed into a Camas community center called "Lacamas Lake Lodge". Improvements include the property, building, dock replacement, walkways, and trail connections to next door Heritage Park.

Image, 2007, Camas Moose Lodge, Washington, click to enlarge
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Camas Moose Lodge 1042, at Lacamas Lake, Camas, Washington. This location is now a community center, with the Moose Lodge moving into Washougal in 2012. Image taken April 28, 2007.

Camas Slough ...
The "Camas Slough" separates the Washington shore and the community of Camas from nearby Lady Island. Washington State Highway 14 crosses the Camas Slough.

Image, 2006, Camas Slough, Washington, click to enlarge
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Camas Slough, Washington. The Camas Slough separates Camas, Washington (left) from Lady Island (right). View from moving car on Washington State Highway 14. Image taken July 2, 2006.

Flood of 1894 ...
At La Camas.

"The little town of La Camas, on the Washington side, above Vancovuer, is having its full share of high water trouble. Work has been suspended at the paper mill, the flat north of town is many feet under water, and the boundary of the flood is now on a line of McMaster's store, which the water just reaches. From the steps in front of Cowan's store, opposite the mill, crizens now put in their spare hours fishing, and make good hauls of trout and other fish. The first floor of the residence of Supt. West, of the paper mill, is under five feet of water, and the family has been obliged to seek safer and more comfortable quarters. Another loss to Mr. and Mrs. West was the destruction of their handsome garden of flowers, the pride of all La Camas. The steamer Ione now makes its landings immediately in front of the La Camas hotel.

Lady's island, in front of the town, is completely submerged, and steamers cross and recross the water over the island. The buildings on the island have all been securely anchored, and residents have deserted their homes for safer quarters."

Source:    "The Daily Astorian", June 12, 1894, courtesy Historic Oregon Newspapers Archives, Unviversity of Oregon Libraries, 2016.


Heritage Park ...
Camas's Heritage Park is a 5 1/2 acre developed park at Lacamas Lake and is located next to the Lacamas Lake Lodge (old Moose Lodge). The park has a two-lane boat launch, floating dock, boat and vehicle parking, picnic tables, open grass area, walking path, and restroom facilities.

"Lacamas Heritage Trail along Lacamas Lake is a long continuous nature corridor that receives considerable use. Paved and unpaved trails in Lacamas Park and Lacamas Creek Park provide a good outdoor experience that is easily accessible to the public.

Source:    Camas-Washougal Chamber of Commerce website, 2016.


Lacamas Creek, Lacamas Lake, and Round Lake ...
Lacamas Lake is a narrow 2-mile-long lake located one mile north of Camas, Washington, and Round Lake joins Lacamas Lake on its southeast side. Lacamas Lake was formed by building two dams along Lacamas Creek at Round Lake. Lacamas Lake is used as a fresh-water supply for the Crown-Zellerback pulp and papermills at Camas.

Image, 2007, Lacamas Creek, Washington, click to enlarge
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Lacamas Creek, Washington. View from moving car on highway. Image taken April 28, 2007.
Image, 2007, Lacamas Lake, Washington, click to enlarge
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Lacamas Lake, Camas, Washington. Image taken April 28, 2007.
Image, 2008, Round Lake, Washington, click to enlarge
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Autumn, Round Lake, Washington. Image taken November 3, 2008.

Lacamas Lake Regional Park ...
The 312-acre Lacamas Lake Regional Park surrounds Round Lake, and features a picnic shelter, barbecue grills, picnic tables, a playground, and 6 miles of scenic hiking trails. This park is popular in the spring when the Camas is in bloom.

Image, 2012, Lacamas Park Map, Washington, click to enlarge
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Map, Lacamas Park, Camas, Washington. Image taken February 5, 2012.

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 3, 1805 ...
The Fog So thick [typical of the Pacific Northwest in the fall and spring] this morning that we could not See a man 50 Steps off, this fog detained us untill 10 oClock at which time we Set out [from their camp at Rooster Rock], ...    I walked on the Sand beech Lard. Side, opposit the canoes as they passed allong. The under groth rushes, vines &c. in the bottoms too thick to pass through, at 3 miles I arrived at the enterance of a river [Sandy River] which appeared to Scatter over a Sand bar, the bottom of which I could See quite across and did not appear to be 4 Inches deep in any part; I attempted to wade this Stream and to my astonishment found the bottom a quick Sand, and impassable- I called to the Canoes to put to Shore, I got into the Canoe and landed below the mouth, & Capt Lewis and my Self walked up this river about 1½ miles to examine this river which we found to be a verry Considerable Stream Dischargeing its waters through 2 Chanels which forms an Island [Sandy River Delta, which has had various names throughout history] of about 3 miles in length on the river and 1½ miles wide, composed of Corse Sand which is thrown out of this quick Sand river Compressing the waters of the Columbia and throwing the whole Current of its waters against its Northern banks, within a Chanel of ½ a mile wide, Several Small Islands 1 mile up this river, This Stream has much the appearance of the River Platt: roleing its quick Sands into the bottoms with great velocity after which it is divided into 2 Chanels by a large Sand bar before mentioned, the narrowest part of this River is 120 yards-on the Opposit Side of the Columbia a <large Creek> falls in [Washougal River]     above this Creek on the Same Side is a Small prarie [location of Washougal, Washington, Cottonwood Beach, now the home of Captain William Clark Park, and the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge]. extensive low country on each Side thickly timbered [low area upstream of Cottonwood Beach and Captain William Clark Park is the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge].

The Quick Sand river [Sandy River] appears to pass through the low countrey at the foot of those high range of mountains in a Southerly direction,- The large Creeks which fall into the Columbia on the Stard. Side [Washougal River] rise in the Same range of mountains to the N. N. E. and pass through Some ridgey land- A Mountain which we Suppose to be Mt. Hood [Mount Hood, Oregon] is S. 85° E about 47 miles distant from the mouth of quick sand river [Sandy River]     This mtn. is Covered with Snow and in the range of mountains which we have passed through and is of a Conical form but rugid- after takeing dinner at the mouth of this river [Sandy River]  we proceeded on passed the head of a Island [Lady Island] near the lard Side [???] back of which on the Same Side and near the head a large Creek falls in [Washougal River, today the town of Camas, Washington, lies between Lady Island and the Washougal River], and nearly opposit & 3 miles below the upper mouth of quick Sand river is the lower mouth, [for?] This Island [Lady Island] is 3 1/2 miles long, has rocks at the upper point, Some timber on the borders of this Island in the middle open and ponney. Some rugid rocks in the middle of the Stream opposit this Island.   <proceeded in> to Center of a large Island in the middle of the river which we call Dimond Isld. [Government Island] from its appearance, here we met 15 Indn men in 2 canoes from below, they informed us they Saw 3 vestles below &c. &c. we landed on the North Side of this Dimond Island and Encamped [on the north side of Government Island, perhaps opposite Fishers Landing],     Capt. L walked out with his gun on the Island, Sent out hunters & fowlers- below quick Sand River [Sandy River] the Countrey is low rich and thickly timbered on each Side of the river  [on the Oregon side this area is the eastern end of the Columbia Slough, located on the floodplain of the Willamette River with the Columbia River],   the Islands open & Some ponds river wide and emence numbers of fowls flying in every direction Such as Swan, geese, Brants, Cranes, Stalks, white guls, comerants & plevers &c. also great numbers of Sea Otter in the river [Harbor Seals] -     a Canoe arrived from the village below the last rapid ...     Capt Lewis borrowed a Small Canoe of those Indians & 4 men took her across to a Small lake in the Isld. [Government Island] ...    ...  :  note the mountain we Saw from near the forks proves to be Mount Hood [Mount Hood, Oregon]

Clark, March 31, 1806 ...
we Set out this morning [from their camp at "Jolie Prairie", today the location of Fort Vancouver and Pearson Airpark ... also in this area are Wintler Park and Ryan Point] and proceeded untill 8 oClock when we landed on the N. Side opposit one large House of the Shah-ha-la Nation near this house at the time we passed on the 4th of November last was Situated 25 houses, 24 of them were built of Straw & Covered with bark as before mentioned. those [of] that description are all distroyed, the one built of wood only remains and is inhabited [vicinity of today's Portland International Airport]. ...     at 10 A. M we proceeded on accompanied by one Canoe and three men, one of them appeared to be a man of Some note, ...     passed up on the N. Side of White brant Island [Lady Island] near the upper point of Which a Small river falls in about 80 yards wide and at this time discharges a great quantity of water [Washougal River]. the nativs inform us that this river is very Short and heads in the range of mountains to the N E of its enterance into the Columbia the nativs haveing no name which we could learn for this little river we Call it Seal river [Washougal River] from the great number of those Animals which frequents its mouth. this river forks into two nearly equal branches about 1 mile up and each branch is crouded with rapids & falls. we proceeded on about 2 miles above the enterance of this Seacalf river [Washougal River] and imedeately opposit the upper mouth of the quick Sand river [Sandy River] we formed a Camp in a Small Prarie on the North Side of the Columbia [Cottonwood Beach] where we intend to delay one or two days to make Some Selestial observations, to examine quick sand river [Sandy River], and kill Some meat to last us through the Western Mountains which Commences a fiew miles above us [Cascade Mountain Range] and runs in a N. N. W. & S. S. E. derection. The three Indians encamped near us and visited our fire we entered into a kind of a Conversation by signs, of the Country and Situation of the rivers. they informed us that Seal river [Washougal River] headed in the mountains at no great distance. quick Sand river [Sandy River] was Short only headed in Mt. Hood [Mount Hood, Oregon] which is in view and to which he pointed. this is a circumstance we did not expect as we had heretofore deemed a comsiderable river. Mount Hood bears East from this place and is distant from this place about 40 miles. this information if true will render it necessary to examine the river below on the South Side behind the image canoe [Hayden Island] and Wappato islands [Sauvie Island] for some river which must water the Country [Willamette River] weste of the western mountains to the Waters of California. The Columbia is at present on a Stand and we with dificuelty made 25 miles to day—.

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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

  • Camas-Washougal Post Register online newspaper, June 12, 2012;
  • City of Camas website, 2015;
  • Clark County Parks and Trails website, 2015;
  • Hitchman, R., 1985, Place Names of Washington, Washington Historical Society;
  • "Washington: A Guide to the Evergreen State", 1941, by the Washington State Historical Society, Federal Works Agency, Works Projects Administration (WPA);

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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April 2007