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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Cathlapotle Village, Ridgefield NWR, Washington"
Includes ... Cathlapotle Village ... Cathlapotle Plankhouse ... Carty Unit ... Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge ... Wapato Portage ... Carty Lake ... Campsite of March 29, 1806 ...
Image, 2003, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Cathlapotle area, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Plankhouse construction sign, Carty Unit, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Duck Lake is in the background. Image taken, September 13, 2003.


Cathlapotle Village ...
Lewis and Clark, on their voyage down the Columbia River in 1805, identified a large Chinook village ("Cathlapotle") located at the confluence of the Columbia River, Lake River and the Lewis River. When they stopped to visit on their return in 1806, they estimated that 900 inhabitants lived at the village.

The site of this village is located on the Carty Unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, just downstream of the Wapato Portage, the location of Lewis and Clark's campsite of March 29, 1806. It is one of the few archaeological sites on the Columbia River that has not been lost to looting, development, or flooding. During the late 1990s a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland State University, and the Chinook Nation resulted in six field seasons which located the remains of six plankhouses and thousands of artifacts were recovered and catalogued.

The Cathlapotle Village is also known as the Cathlapotle Indian Town site, 45-CL-1. During the late 1990s a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland State University, and the Chinook Nation resulted in six field seasons which located the remains of six plankhouses and thousands of artifacts were recovered and catalogued.

"The site occurs in forested riparian habitat of the Carty Unit, 15-20 feet above mean sea level. Covered by stands of cottonwood, willow, alder, and ash trees, with a tangled understory of elderberry and stinging nettle, the site is bounded on the west by Lake River and on the east by Long Meadow. Radiocarbon dates indicate that the town was occuppied at its current location around 1450 A.D. ... Seriation of ceramic trade goods indicates that the Cathlapotle site was abandoned circa 1834 A.D. ...

Archaeologists located 11 house depressions on the surface, laid out in two rows on a ridge running parallel to Lake River. The largest of the house depressions measurs 200 feet by 45 feet, while the smallest is 60 feet by 30 feet. At least four are divided into compartments, as Lewis and Clark described when they visited the town in 1806. Other features described at the site include storage pits, cobble ovens, postholes marking temporary structures such as sheds and drying racks, middens, and debris fields. Although the site was periodically flooded, it was high enough not to be subject to annual flooding, and the archaeological record indicates that it was continuousely occupied."

Source:   Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan, September 2010.


Image, 2009, Ridgefield NWR, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Cathlapotle Village plankhouse location, looking north, Ridgefield NWR, Washington. Portland State University professor talking about Village history. Flagged tree shows the location of the northeast corner of the early plankhouse. Image taken, October 10, 2009.
Image, 2009, Ridgefield NWR, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Cathlapotle Village plankhouse location, looking south, Ridgefield NWR, Washington. Image taken, October 10, 2009.


Lewis and Clark and the Cathlapotle Village ...
Lewis and Clark, on their voyage down the Columbia River in 1805, identified a large Chinook village ("Cathlapotle") located at the confluence of the Columbia River, Lake River and the Lewis River.

"... a Canoe came from the upper house, with 3 men in its mearly to view us, passed an Isld. Covered with tall trees & green briers Seperated from the Stard. Shore by a narrow Chanel at 9 [8?] miles I observed on the Chanel which passes on the Stard Side of this Island a Short distance above its lower point is Situated a large village, the front of which occupies nearly 1/4 of a mile fronting the Chanel, and closely Connected, I counted 14 houses in front here the river widens to about 1 1/2 miles. ..." [Clark, November 5, 1805]

On March 29, 1806, they returned to trade and visit with this village, where they estimated that 900 individuals lived there. That evening the men camped in a meadow upstream of the village, today an area refered to as "Wapato Portage". This area is within the Carty Unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.

"... at the distance of three miles above the entrance of the inlet on the N. side behind the lower point of an island we arrived at the village of the Cath-lah-poh-tle wich consists of 14 large wooden house ..." [Lewis, March 29, 1806]

"... 3 oClock P. M. we arived at the Quath lah pah tle Village of 14 Houses on main Shore to the N E. Side of a large island. those people in their habits manners Customs and language differ but little from those of the Clatsops and others below. ..." [Clark, March 29, 1806]

Being late in the day, the men moved upstream from the Cathlapotle village and spent the night in a large meadow, now known as the "Wapato Portage".

"... after remaining at this place 2 hours we set out & continued our rout between this island, which we now call Cath-lah-poh-tle after the nation, and the Lard shore. at the distance of 2 miles we encamped in a small prarie on the main shore, having traveled 19 miles by estimate.     the river rising fast ..." [Lewis, March 29, 1806]


How many inhabitants ???
While wintering at Fort Clatsop Lewis and Clark wrote up an estimate of how many Indians lived west of the Continental Divide, and especially in the Columbia River drainage. Some of their information came from their own accounts, and some information came from informants and guides. Information on the Cathlapotle Village was written in Captain Clark's hand. The Captains first wrote the list in Codex I, then the list was placed in Voorhis No.4, often with adjustments in tribal populations.

"... Quath-lah-poh-tle Nation reside on the N. Side of the Columbia above the enterance of Cah-wah-na-hi-oos river and opposit the lower point of the Wappatoe Island.    14 Lodges    300 Probable No. of Souls. ..." [Clark, Codex No.1]

The number "300" which appeared in Codex I, appears as "900" in Voorhis No.4.


Plankhouse Replica ...
Today a 37 by 78-foot replica of a Chinook plankhouse has been built near the site of the original townsite. Two hundred and fifty-six logs split into 305 planks went into building the house. The plankhouse foundation was prepared during Summer 2003 and the house was completed with opening ceremony on March 29, 2005, the 199th anniversary of Lewis and Clark's visit.
[More]

Image, 2005, Cathlapotle Plankhouse click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Finished Cathlapotle Plankhouse, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Image taken, April 27, 2005
Image, 2005, Cathlapotle Plankhouse click to enlarge
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Front, Cathlapotle Plankhouse, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Image taken, April 27, 2005
Image, 2011, Cathlapotle Plankhouse click to enlarge
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Interior, Cathlapotle Plankhouse, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Image taken, October 8, 2011


Ridgefield Mural ...
South of the Carty Unit of the Ridgefield Refuge lies the community of Ridgefield, which has many murals around town, including one of the Cathlapotle Village, showing the plankhouses.

Image, 2007, Ridgefield, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Mural, Cathlapotle Village, Ridgefield, Washington. Image taken, March 25, 2007.
Image, 2007, Ridgefield, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Mural detail, Lewis and Clark, Cathlapotle Village, Ridgefield, Washington. Image taken, March 25, 2007.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 5, 1805 ...
Rained all the after part of last night, rain continues this morning, I [s]lept but verry little last night [Post Office Lake, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge] for the noise Kept dureing the whole of the night by the Swans, Geese, white & Grey Brant Ducks &c. on a Small Sand Island [one of the islands of the Ridgefield Refuge] close under the Lard. Side; they were emensely noumerous, and their noise horid- we Set out <at about Sun rise> early here the river is not more than 3/4 of a mile in width, passed a Small Prarie on the Stard. Side [quite possibly the location of today's Campbell Lake] passed 2 houses about 1/2 a mile from each other on the Lard. Side a Canoe came from the upper house, with 3 men in its mearly to view us, passed an Isld. Covered with tall trees & green briers [Bachelor Island] Seperated from the Stard. Shore by a narrow Chanel [Lake River or Bachelor Island Slough] at 9 [8?] miles I observed on the Chanel [Lake River or Bachelor Island Slough] which passes on the Stard Side of this Island [Bachelor Island] a Short distance above its lower point is Situated a large village [Cathlapotle Village, near where Lewis and Clark camped on March 29, 1806, a place now known as Wapato Portage], the front of which occupies nearly 1/4 of a mile fronting the Chanel, and closely Connected, I counted 14 houses in front here the river widens to about 1 1/2 miles. ...    about 1 1/2 miles below this village on the Lard Side behind a rockey Sharp point [Warrior Point, Sauvie Island], we passed a Chanel 1/4 of a mile wide [Multnomah Channel] which I take to be the one the Indian Canoe entered yesterday from the lower point of Immage Canoe Island [Hayden Island, at this point Lewis and Clark had not discovered Hayden Island and Sauvie Island were two separate islands]     a Some low clifts of rocks below this Chanel [St. Helens, Oregon], a large Island Close under the Stard Side opposit [Lewis River floodplain, home of Woodland, Washington, possibly more of an "island" in 1805 ???], and 2 Small Islands, below [today's Burke and Martin Islands], here we met 2 canoes from below,- below those Islands a range of high hills form the Stard. Bank of the river [Martin Bluff], the Shore bold and rockey, Covered with a thick groth of Pine     an extensive low Island [Deer Island], Seperated from the Lard side by a narrow Chanel, on this Island we Stoped to Dine I walked out found it open & covered with <Small> grass interspersed with Small ponds, in which was great numbr. of foul, the remains of an old village on the lower part of this Island, I saw Several deer ...     below the lower point of this Island [Deer Island] a range of high hills which runs S. E. forms the Lard. bank of the river the Shores bold and rockey & hills Covered with pine, [Lewis and Clark are passing Goble, Oregon, and the area around the Trojan Nuclear Power Facility     The high hills leave the river on the Stard. Side a high bottom between the hill & river [Kalama, Washington]. We met 4 Canoes of Indians from below, in which there is 26 Indians, one of those Canoes is large, and ornimented with Images on the bow & Stern. That in the Bow the likeness of a Bear, and in Stern the picture of a man- we landed on the Lard. Side & camped [near Prescott Beach, Oregon] a little below the mouth of a creek [Kalama River] on the Stard. Side a little below the mouth of which is an Old Village which is now abandaned-;     here the river is about one and a half miles wide. and deep, The high Hills which run in a N W. & S E. derection form both banks of the river the Shore boald and rockey, the hills rise gradually & are Covered with a thick groth of pine &c. The valley [Columbian Valley] which is from above the mouth of Quick Sand River [Sandy River] to this place may be computed at 60 miles wide on a Derect line, & extends a great Distanc to the right & left rich thickly Covered with tall timber, with a fiew Small Praries bordering on the river and on the Islands; Some fiew Standing Ponds & Several Small Streams of running water on either Side of the river; This is certainly a fertill and a handsom valley, at this time Crouded with Indians. The day proved Cloudy with rain the greater part of it, we are all wet cold and disagreeable- I saw but little appearance of frost in this valley which we call <Wap-pa-too Columbia> from the root or plants growing Spontaniously in this valley only ...     We made 32 miles to day by estimation-






Clark, March 29, 1806 ...
we Set out very early this morning [from their camp on Deer Island] and proceeded to the head of deer island [Deer Island, Oregon] and took brackfast. the morning was very cold wind Sharp and keen off the rainge of Mountains to the East Covered with snow [Cascade Mountain Range]. the river is now riseing very fast and retards our progress very much as we are compelled to keep out at Some distance in the Curent to clear the bushes, and fallin trees and drift logs makeing out from the Shore. dureing the time we were at Brackfast a Canoe with three Indians of the Clan-nar-min-na-mon Nation came down, ...     they reside on Wappato Inlet [Multnomah Channel] which is on the S W. side about 12 miles above our encampment of the last night [Deer Island] and is about 2 miles from the lower point, four other Tribes also reside on the inlet and Sluce which passes on the South W. Side of the Island [Sauvie Island], ...    we proceeded on to the lower point of the Said island [Sauvie Island] accompanied by the 3 Indians, & were met by 2 canoes of nativs of the quath-lah-pah-tal who informed us that the chanel to the N E of the Island [Sauvie Island, the other channel being today's Multnomah Channel] was the proper one. we prosued their advice and Crossed into the mouth of the Chah-wah-na-hi-ooks River [Lewis River] which is about 200 yards wide and a great portion of water into the columbia at this time it being high. The indians inform us that this river is crouded with rapids after Some distance up it. Several tribes of the Hul-lu-et-tell Nation reside on this river. at 3 oClock P. M. we arived at the Quath lah pah tle Village [Cathlapotle Village, today within the Ridgefield NWR, Carty Unit] of 14 Houses on main Shore to the N E. Side of a large island [Bachelor Island]. ...     we purchased wappatoe and Some pashaquar roots.     gave a Medal of the Small Size [Jefferson Peace Medal] to the principal Chief, and at 5 oClock reembarked and proceeded up [on Lake River] on the N E. of an Island [Bachelor Island] to an inlet [??? perhaps drainage from Carty Lake] about 1 mile [Lewis says 2 miles] above the village and encamped on a butifull grassy plac [Wapato Portage], where the nativs make a portage of their Canoes and Wappato roots to and from a large pond at a Short distance [Carty Lake]. in this pond [Carty Lake] the nativs inform us they Collect great quantities of pappato, which the womin collect by getting into the water, Sometimes to their necks holding by a Small canoe and with their feet loosen the wappato or bulb of the root from the bottom from the Fibers, and it imedeately rises to the top of the water, they Collect & throw them into the Canoe, those deep roots are the largest and best roots. Great numbers of the whistling Swan, Gees and Ducks in the Ponds. ...     we made 15 miles to day only.



Lewis, March 29, 1806 ...
We set out early this morning and proceeded along the side of Deer Island [Deer Island]; halted at 10 A. M. near its upper point and breakfasted. here we were joined by three men of the Clan-nah-min-na-mun nation. the upper point of this Island [Deer Island] may be esteemed the lower side or commencement of the Columbian valley. after breakfast we proceeded on and at the distance of 14 miles from our encampment of the last evening [on Deer Island] we passed a large inlet 300 yds in width [Multnomah Channel] this inlet or arm of the river extends itself to the South 10 or 12 M. to the hills on that side of the river and receives the waters of a small creek [Moulton suggest McCarty Creek] which heads with killamucks river [Tillamook River], and that of a bayau which passes out of the Columbia about 20 miles above, the large Island thus formed we call wappetoe island [Sauvie Island] ...     on the North side of the columbia a little above the entrance of this inlet [Multnomah Channel] a considerable river [Lewis River] discharges itself. this stream the natives call the Cah-wh-na-hi-ooks. it is 150 yards wide and at present discharges a large body of water, tho' from the information of the same people it is not navigable but a short distance in consequence of falls and rappids a tribe called the Hul-lu-et-tell reside on this river above it's entr. at the distance of three miles above the entrance of the inlet [Multnomah Channel] on the N. side behind the lower point of an island [Bachelor Island] we arrived at the village of the Cath-lah-poh-tle wich consists of 14 large wooden houses [Cathlapotle Village, located on the Carty Unit, Ridgefield NWR].   here we arrived at 3 P. M. ...    after remaining at this place 2 hours we set out & continued our rout between this island [Bachelor Island] , which we now call Cath-lah-poh-tle after the nation, and the Lard shore. at the distance of 2 miles we encamped in a small prarie on the main shore [Wapato Portage], having traveled 19 miles by estimate.     the river rising fast ..."




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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:    "Plankhouse.org" website, 2005;    U.S. Bureau of Land Management website, 2007;    U.S. Bureau of Land Management website, 2007, "General Land Office Records (GLO)";    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Comprehensive Conservation Plan, September 2010;    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website, 2005, "Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge";   

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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January 2012