Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Irrigon, Oregon"
Includes ... Irrigon ... Umatilla Fish Hatchery ... Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge ... "Grande Ronde Landing" ... "Stokes" ... Campsite of October 19, 1805 ... Potlatch Plantation ...
Image, 2005, Blalock Islands towards Grain Elevator, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Blalock Islands toward Grain Elevator, downstream of Irrigon, Oregon. Image taken May 24, 2005.


Irrigon ...
Irrigon, Oregon, is located at Columbia River Mile (RM) 282, between Boardman and Umatilla. The Blalock Islands are located downstream, as well as the location of the old Paterson Ferry. Surrounding Irrigon is the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge. Lewis and Clark passed through this area on October 19, 1805, and camped just upstream of today's town. On their return the men camped across the river near Plymouth, Washington.

Image, 2005, Irrigon Marine Park, Irrigon, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Irrigon Marine Park, Irrigon, Oregon. Image taken September 24, 2005.
Image, 2005, Boat Dock, Irrigon, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Boat Dock, Irrigon, Oregon. View from Irrigon Marine Park. Image taken September 24, 2005.


Campsite of October 19, 1805 ...
Lewis and Clark's campsite of October 19, 1805, was located in today's Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge, near Irrigon, Oregon. The campsite is depicted on Lewis and Clark's route map (Moulton, vol.1, map#75) just upsteam of an Indian Village. While this area has changed due to the flooding behind the John Day Dam, plotting against a modern map puts this location just upstream today's town of Irrigon.

"... 3 miles to a few willow Trees on the Lard. Side below the lower pt. of an Isd. Ld. opposit 24 Lodges of Indians Indiands fishing.     here we came too and camped, 19 of them on the Stard. Side & 5 on an Island in the middle of the river, about 100 Inds. come over ..." [Clark, October 19, 1805, first draft]

"... Encamped below an Island Close under the Lard Side, nearly opposit to 24 Lodges on an Island near the middle of the river, and the Main Stard Shor     Soon after we landed which was at a fiew willow trees ..." [Clark, October 19, 1805]

"... In the whole country around there are only level plains, except a few hills on some parts of the river. We went 36 miles and halted opposite a large Indian camp; ..." [Gass, October 19, 1805]

"... we came 36 miles this day and Camped on the South Side an Indian village on the opposite Shore ..." [Ordway, October 19, 1805]

Lewis and Clark's previous campsite was located at Spring Gulch Creek and their camp of October 20, 1805, was near Roosevelt, Washington.


Image, 2005, Columbia River looking upstream of Irrigon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Columbia River looking upstream from Irrigon, Oregon. Plymouth, Washington, is just visible in the distance, left. Image taken September 24, 2005.


Early Irrigon ...
Irrigon is located near the site of the "Grande Ronde Landing", a former rival of Umatilla, Oregon. Later, the place was called "Stokes". The Stokes Post Office was in operation from May 1897 until April 1899. The Irrigon Post Office was established in November 1903.

According to Oregon Geographic Names (McArthur and McArthur, 2003):

"... Addison Bennett made up the name of the place from the words Oregon and Irrigation. Irrigon was the scene of a promising irrigation enterprise, hence Bennett's style of name. He was editor of the first newpaper in the place, called the oregon Irrigation, later the Irrigon Irrigator. ..."

Irrigon and the Oregon Trail ...
During the heyday of the Oregon Trail, both Umatilla and Irrigon had portions of the Oregon Trail turning north and reaching the Columbia River.
[More]

"... Starting in the 1840s emigrants opened up trails from the western boundary of the United States at Missouri and Iowa to the frontier territories in California, Oregon, Washington, and Utah. About 300,000 of those emigrants made their way over what was to become known as the Oregon Trail, from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon City, Oregon. In 1843, one group of nearly 1000 oxen-drawn wagons set out for the fabled green and fertile lands of the Willamette Valley. This “Oregon Fever” was further fueled by the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850, which allowed married couples to claim up to one square mile of this virgin land. ...

None of these trails were static or fixed in finite locations. Emigrants were always seeking alternative routes for reasons to suit their own purposes. Such was the case with the Oregon Trail. The main route generally followed the Snake River across much of southern Idaho. At the place called Farewell Bend, near Ontario, Oregon, the pioneers veered away from the Snake River, bidding it farewell as the name implies, and struck out overland across the Blue Mountains. Arriving at what is now the City of Echo, Oregon, the trail took several branches. The main trail proceeded westward through a stage stop called Well Springs and then onward to the Columbia River near The Dalles.

Another branch of the trail followed the Umatilla River from Echo down to its confluence with the Columbia River at what is now the City of Umatilla. A third branch traversed down through present-day Umatilla Army Depot and joined with a Columbia River shoreline trail here at Irrigon. This trail segment intersects almost exactly at the campsite of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery, thus the city logo “Where Lewis and Clark & the Oregon Trail meet”.

According to a Historic Resource Assessment published by the Bureau of Land Management in October, 2000, the Irrigon spur of the Oregon Trail was mapped by the General Land Office in 1861. Use of this alternate route enabled emigrants to gain access much sooner to the banks of the Columbia River where at one time a steamboat landing was situated near Irrigon.

Irrigon became a railroad siding in the 1880s. Completion of the first transcontinental railroad in May of 1869 obviated much of the need for pioneers to migrate west via covered wagon, but [a] BLM report indicates that the Irrigon spur of the Oregon Trail continued to be used as a local connecting road until it was closed off by construction of the Umatilla Army Depot.

Today all that can be seen of his old segment of the Oregon Trail is a couple of faint depressions, or swales, in the sand and sagebrush along Highway 730 on the eastern outskirts of the city."

Source:    City of Irrigon website, 2014, "Irrigon History"


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

"... IRRIGON, 8 m. (297 alt., 65 pop.), on the site of old Grande Ronde Landing, a former stopping place for travelers, derives its name and sustenance from the irrigation district of which it is the center. An experiment farm nearby demonstrates the agricultural possibilities of the rich soil.

At 11.2 m. is a junction with a side road.

Right on this road to PATTERSON FERRY, 1 m. (toll for cars and five persons, $1; round trip, $1.50) connecting with US 410 at Prosser, Washington.

On a slight knoll (R) at 19.7 m. is a mounted specimen of Indian picture writing. The engraved boulder was found on the bank of the Columbia River a few miles east of its present location...."



Irrigon, etc.

  • Irrigon-Coolidge Ferry ...
  • Paterson Ferry ...
  • Potlatch Plantation ...
  • Umatilla Fish Hatchery ...
  • Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge ...


Irrigon-Coolidge Ferry ...

The 1908 U.S. Geological Survey's Topographic Map "Umatilla" (1:125,000) shows the community of Irrigon, plus the ferry line across the Columbia connecting Irrigon, Oregon, to Coolidge, Washington. This ferry line is at the approximate location of today's Irrigon park and boat ramp. Coolidge, a community no longer in existence, was located approximately 7 miles downstream of Plymouth, Washington.

The 1942 U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor Coast and Geodetic Survey's "United States Coast Pilot, Pacific Coast", Serial No.649:

"Four ferries cross the Columbia River above The Dalles as follows: Biggs-Merryhill, 16 statute miles; Arlington-Roosevelt, 50 statute miles; Boulder-Alderdale, 65 statute miles; and Irrigon-Coolidge, 88 statute miles."

Paterson Ferry ...
The end of Oregon's Paterson Ferry Road reaches the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 278.5, three miles downstream of Irrigon, Oregon (RM 282). The Paterson Ferry Road was once the Oregon side of the Paterson Ferry to Paterson, Washington. This privately-owned ferry went out of business in 1955 with the construction of the Interstate 82/395 Bridge located 13 miles upstream. The Interstate 82/395 bridge connects Umatilla, Oregon to Plymouth, Washington. Today the Paterson Ferry Road ends upstream the prominent grain elevator (RM 278). Across the Columbia are views of the Paterson Unit of the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge.
[More]

Image, 2005, Grain elevator, downstream of Irrigon, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Grain Elevator, downstream of Irrigon, Oregon. View from end of Paterson Ferry Road. Image taken September 24, 2005.
Image, 2005, Grain elevator, downstream of Irrigon, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Grain Elevator, downstream of Irrigon, Oregon. View from end of Paterson Ferry Road. Image taken September 24, 2005.


Potlatch Plantation ...
South of Irrigon and east of Boardman and bordering Interstate 84 lies the 17,000-acre Potlatch Plantation.
[More]

Image, 2005, Hybrid Poplars, Potlatch Plantation, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Old and new growth, Hybrid Poplars, Potlatch Plantation, Oregon. View from driving Interstate 84 near Irrigon, Oregon. Image taken September 25, 2005.


Umatilla Fish Hatchery ...
The Umatilla Fish Hatchery is located off the Paterson Ferry Road, downstream of Irrigon, Oregon, at Columbia River Mile (RM) 279.

Image, 2005, Umatilla Fish Hatchery, downstream of Irrigon, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Umatilla Fish Hatchery, downstream of Irrigon, Oregon. Image taken September 24, 2005.


Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge ...
Irrigon, Oregon, is surrounded by units of the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge was established in 1969 for wildlife habitat lost to flooding caused by the construction of the John Day Dam. It is located along both sides of the Columbia River from Boardman, Oregon, upstream to Umatilla, Oregon.
[More]

Image, 2003, Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge, McCormack Unit, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon,: McCormack Slough, Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge, McCormack Unit, near Irrigon, Oregon. Image taken September 24, 2005.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, October 19, 1805 ...
we Set out which was not untill 9 oClock A M. [from their camp at Spring Gulch]    we proceeded on passed a Island, close under the Lard Side about Six miles in length [islands near Juniper Canyon, now under the waters of Lake Wallula] opposit to the lower point of which two Isds. are situated on one of which five Lodges <of Indians> vacent & Saffolds drying fish    at the upper point of this Island Swift water.     a Short distance below passed two Islands; one near the middle of the river on which is Seven lodges of Indians drying fish [across from Boat Rock and Hat Rock],     at our approach they hid themselves in their Lodges and not one was to be seen untill we passed, they then Came out in greater numbers than is common in Lodges of their Size, it is probable that, the inhabitants of the 5 Lodges above had in a fright left their lodges and decended to this place to defend them Selves if attackted there being a bad rapid opposit the Island thro which we had to pass prevented our landing on this Island and passifying those people, about four miles below this fritened Island we arrived at the head of a verry bad rapid [Umatilla Rapids, today the location of the McNary Dam]

[The islands and rapids in this area between Spring Gulch and the Umatilla Rapids are now under the waters of Lake Wallula, the reservoir behind the McNary Dam. Today's locations passed by Lewis and Clark include Sand Station, Warehouse Beach, and McNary Beach, all U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Areas, and Hat Rock State Park and nearby Boat Rock. Hat Rock was mentioned by Captain Clark in his first draft but not in his final draft.]

we came too on the Lard Side to view the rapid [Umatilla Rapids] before we would venter to run it, as the Chanel appeared to be close under the oppd. Shore, and it would be necessary to liten our canoe, I deturmined to walk down on the Lard Side, with the 2 Chiefs the interpreter & his woman, and derected the Small canoe to prcede down on the Lard Side to the foot of the rapid which was about 2 miles in length     I Sent on the Indian Chiefs &c. down and I assended a high clift about 200 feet above the water [upstream of Umatilla. Today there is an overlook above the McNary Dam] from the top of which is a leavel plain extending up the river and off for a great extent, at this place the Countrey becoms low on each Side of the river, and affords a pros of the river and countrey below for great extent both to the right and left; from this place I descovered a high mountain of emence hight covered with Snow, this must be one of the mountains laid down by Vancouver, as Seen from the mouth of the Columbia River, from the Course which it bears which is West I take it to be Mt. St. Helens, destant <about 120> 156 miles [actually Mount Adams, Washington, visible on a clear day]     a range of mountains in the Derection crossing [Cascade Mountains], a conacal mountain S. W. toped with Snow [Mount Hood, Oregon]     This rapid I observed [Umatilla Rapids] as I passed opposit to it to be verry bad interseped with high rock and Small rockey Islands [today these islands are under the waters of Lake Wallula, the reservoir behind the McNary Dam], here I observed banks of Muscle Shells banked up in the river in Several places, I Delayed at the foot of the rapid about 2 hours for the Canoes which I could See met with much dificuelty in passing down the rapid on the oposit Side maney places the men were obliged to get into the water and haul the canoes over Sholes- while Setting on a rock wateing for Capt Lewis I Shot a Crain which was flying over of the common kind. I observed a great number of Lodges on the opposit Side at Some distance below [Lewis and Clark's map show 44 lodges lining the Washington shore from Plymouth, Washington, downstream to across from Irrigon, Oregon.] and Several Indians on the opposit bank passing up to where Capt. Lewis was with the Canoes, others I Saw on a knob [Sillusi Butte] nearly opposit to me at which place they delayed but a Short time before they returned to their Lodges as fast as they could run, ...

[This area today is the location of Umatilla, Oregon, and Plymouth, Washington, and is spanned not only by McNary Dam but also my the Interstate 82/395 Bridge. The Umatilla Rapids are below the waters of Lake Wallula, the waters behind McNary Dam.]

proceeded on passed a Small rapid and 15 Lodges below the five,

[Lewis and Clark have missed spotting or commenting on the Umatilla River, located 3 miles downstream of the town of Umatilla.]

and Encamped below an Island Close under the Lard Side [near Irrigon, Oregon] nearly opposit to 24 Lodges on an Island near the middle of the river [the majority of the islands in this area are now under the waters of Lake Umatilla, the reservoir behind the John Day Dam.], and the Main Stard Shor     Soon after we landed which was at a fiew willow trees [today much of the shoreline on both sides of the Columbia is within the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge] about 100 Indians Came from the different Lodges, and a number of them brought wood which they gave us, we Smoked with all of them, and two of our Party Peter Crusat & Gibson played on the violin which delighted them greatly ...     This day we made 36 miles



Ordway, October 19, 1805 ...
a clear cold morning. the natives brought us Some pounded Sammon. about 7 oC A M we Set out proceeded on passd high clifts of rocks on each Side of the River [Wallula Gap].    the natives are verry numrous. our officers gave one a meddle and Some other small articles. this morning passd. Several Small villages the Savages all hid themselves in their flag loges untill we passed them. the Indians are numerous along the River. the villages near each other and great quantitys of Sammon drying. we passed over Several rapids which are common in this River. we discovred a verry high round mountain a long distance down the River which appears to have Snow on the top of it [Mount Adams, Washington].     we came 36 miles this day and Camped on the South Side an Indian village on the opposite Shore [near Irrigon, Oregon]     a nomber of the natives came over the River in their Small canoes to see us. when any of these Savages dye they bury them and all their property with them and picket in their grave yard. even their canoes are put around them.—




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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:

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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September 2008