Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Kalama River, Washington"
Includes ... Kalama ... Kalama River ... "Cath-la-haws Creek" ... "Mitlait Creek" ...
Image, 2003, Kalama River towards mouth, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Kalama River looking towards its confluence with the Columbia. Image taken November 9, 2003.


Kalama River ...
The Kalama River begins on the southwest slope of Mount St. Helens and flows nearly 45 miles west-southwest and enters the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 73, just downstream of the town of Kalama. The Lewis River is located 14 miles upstream and the Cowlitz River is located 7 miles downstream. Across from the mouth of the Kalama River on the Oregon shore is located the Trojan Nuclear Facility, and Prescott Beach, the location of Lewis and Clark's campsite of November 5, 1805.

Image, 2003, Kalama River looking upstream, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Kalama River looking upstream from near mouth. Image taken November 9, 2003.


Kalama River Drainage ...
According to the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority website (2004), the head of the Kalama River begins on the flanks of Mount St. Helens and drains an area of 205 square miles before entering the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 73. Much of the landscape of the Kalama River drainage was formed during the last 20,000 years as a result of volcanic activity of Mount St. Helens. Lahars (mudflows) from the volcano traveled down many of the Kalama Basin drainages, leaving unconsolidated volcanic deposits that have a tendency to erode on steep slopes. The lower 8 miles of the Kalama River is flat to moderate. A shallow bar exists at the river's mouth and extends well into the Columbia River. Tidal influences extend up to approximately Modrow Bridge at RM 2.8. At RM 10, the lower Kalama Falls blocked most anadromous fish passage other than summer steelhead. The Falls was laddered in 1936 and then improved in the 1950s. At RM 35 an impassable falls blocks all anadromous passage. Many of the tributaries to the Kalama have steep gradients, with only the lower portions of the streams accessible to anadromous fish.

Views of the Kalama River near its mouth ...

Image, 2006, Trojan Nuclear Facility, Oregon, from Kalama, Washington click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Kalama River with the Trojan Cooling Tower. View from bridge crossing the Kalama River, Kalama, Washington. Image taken April 19, 2006.
Image, 2006, Kalama River, Kalama, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Kalama River looking downstream at fishermen. Image taken April 19, 2006
Image, 2006, Kalama River, Kalama, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Kalama River looking upstream at fishermen. Image taken April 19, 2006


Columbia River at Mouth of the Kalama River ...

Image, 2015, Columbia River at mouth Kalama River, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Columbia River looking towards mouth of the Kalama River (on right), Kalama, Washington. Sandbar at the mouth of the Kalama has waiting gulls. Smelt run is going on. Image taken March 6, 2015.


Kalama, Washington ...
The town of Kalama, Washington, is located at Columbia River Mile (RM) 75, and lies just upstream of the mouth of the Kalama River. Kalama was built by the Northern Pacific Railroad in 1870 during the construction of a rail line from Tacoma, Washington, to Portland, Oregon.
[More]

Image, 2006, Kalama, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Kalama City Hall, Kalama, Washington. Image taken May 30, 2006


The Name ...
[More]

Lewis and Clark and the Kalama River ...
Lewis and Clark did not give a name to the Kalama River when they passed by it on November 5, 1805.

"... we landed on the Lard. Side & camped a little below the mouth of a creek on the Stard. Side a little below the mouth of which is an Old Village which is now abandaned ..." [Clark, November 5, 1805]

Captain Clark's winter of 1805-1806 "Estimated Distances in Miles ..." chart however has the name "Cath-la-haws", the name of the Kalama River, on a river which was the Lewis River.

"... to the Mouth of Cath-la-haws V Creek Std ... 9 miles ... I thought was a Id. ..." [Clark, winter 1805-06]

According to Moulton (1990, vol.6), the Voorhis No.4 publication has this entry as "To the enterance of Chah wah na hiook river on the Stard Side.", correcting the entry location to the Lewis River. To back this up, the next entry below Clark's "Mouth of Cath-la-haws V Creek" mentions the lower point of Deer Island which makes the Lewis River fit the geography.

"... to the lower point of E-lar-lar or Deer Island near the Lard. ... 6 miles ... Indian names I saw 16 snakes ..." [Clark, winter 1805-06]

On the draft map [Moulton, vol.1, map#89], the Kalama drainage is not named. The Village slightly inland and on the left bank is labeled "Village of Cath-la-haws Indians", and the abandoned village at the mouth and just downstream of the Kalama is labeled "Old Village". On the route map [Moulton, vol.1, map#80], the Kalama River is labeled simply "20 yards". The village on the Kalama's left bank is labeled "Cath-la-haws Village".

Lewis and Clark once again passed the "creek" on March 27, 1806, on their return. However, in their respective journals they make no mention of the river itself.

"... late in the evening we passed the place we Camped the 5th of Novr. and Encamped about 4 miles above at the Commencement of the Columbian Vally on the Stard. Side below Deer Island ..." [Clark, March 27, 1806]

Ordway and Whitehouse mention the Kalama River however and Ordway calls it "Calams" and Whitehouse calls it "Calamas" in their respective journals.

"... we proceed on to the mo of a River named Calams River and Camped on the South Side little above Said River ..." [Ordway, March 27, 1806]

"... We continued on & passed the Mouth of a River called by the Natives Calamus, & encamped on the South side of the River a small distance above the said River. Our officers sent 6 of our hunters in Canoes to go on a head, to an Island called Deer Island, in order to hunt, untill we came up with them ..." [Whitehouse, March 27, 1806]

Early Kalama River ...
In the Lewis and Clark journals Lewis and Clark refer to the river as "Cath la haws Creek", while Ordway calls the river "Calams" and Whitehouse calls the river "Calamus".

Wilkes, in 1841 called the Kalama River "Mitlait Creek".

"... On the north shore there is a fine salmon fishery, near the Mitlait Creek, which is just opposite to Coffin Rock, where the Columbia is 30 fathoms deep. ..." [Wilkes, 1841, Chapter XVII]

Kalama River in 1942 ...
From the 1942 NOAA "Coast Pilot":

"Carroll (formerly Charlton) Channel, between Cottonwood Island and the Washington shore, is used for log storage and fishing boats. In 1938, 13 feet could be carried through the channel. Kalama River is used chiefly at its mouth by smelt fishermen. Kalama, on the eastern bank, is an occasional stop for ocean-going vessels to pick up lumber. There is a ferry between Kalama, and Goble on the western bank. Thie channel on the western and southern sides of Sandy Island was good for 14-foot draft in 1938, and was used by tow boats with log rafts and barges."


Smelt run past the Kalama River ...
In the spring, gulls follow the Smelt run up the Columbia River. The sandbar at the mouth of the Kalama River provides a resting place.

Image, 2015, Columbia at Kalama River, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Columbia River at the mouth of the Kalama River, view downstream. Nice spring day. Gulls follow the smelt run upstream. Approximately 1,000 gulls in view. Image taken March 6, 2015.
Image, 2015, Columbia at Kalama River, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Gulls following the smelt run, resting on sandbar in the Columbia River at the mouth of the Kalama River. Nice spring day. Gulls follow the smelt run upstream. Approximately 1,000 gulls in view. Image taken March 6, 2015.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 5, 1805, first draft ...
N. 40° W. 5 miles to a point of high piney land on the Lard Side [near Prescott Beach, Oregon]     the Stard. Shore bold and rockey     passed a Creek at 2 miles [Kalama River] on the Stard Side, below which is an old village.     rained all the evening and Some fine rain at intervals all day     river wide & Deep ...     we Came too and Encamped on the Lard. Side under a high ridgey land, [near Prescott Beach, Oregon] the high land come to the river on each Side.     the river about 1½ mile wide.     those high lands rise gradually from the river & bottoms


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-






Ordway, March 27, 1806 ...
rain commenced this morning and continued thro the day. we halted at a village of the Chilutes nation they treated us in a friendly manner Gave us Some wapa toes & anchoves to eat. Several Indians followed after us with Small canoes. our officers purchased a large Sturgeon from them we proceed on to the mo of a River named Calams River and Camped on the South Side little above Said River — Six of our hunters Sent on this afternoon to deer Island [Deer Island] with the Small canoes in order to hunt.


Whitehouse, March 27, 1806 ...
This morning early it commenced raining, which continued during the whole of this day. At 7 o'clock A. M. we proceeded on, & crossed over to an Island, which lay on the North side of the River, where we halted. We found on this Island, an Indian Village of the Chilutes Tribe it contained 7 Houses.— These Indians treated us in a friendly manner. At 10 o'Clock A. M. we left this Island and continued on & passed several Indian fishing Camps. A number of Indians followed us with small Canoes. Our Officers purchased from these Indians a large Sturgeon. We continued on & passed the Mouth of a River called by the Natives Calamus, & encamped on the South side of the River a small distance above the said River. Our officers sent 6 of our hunters in Canoes to go on a head, to an Island called Deer Island, in order to hunt, untill we came up with them— These hunters left us this afternoon. We have still hard rain this evening. We encamped on the South side of the River, where we found plenty of Oak & Ash wood to make our fires with.—




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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:    City of Kalama website, 2005;    Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority website, 2004;    Hitchman, R., 1985, Place Names of Washington, Washington State Historical Society;    NOAA Office of Coast Survey website, 2006;    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website, 2005;    Washington State Historical Society website, 2005, "Lasting Legacy";    Washington Secretary of State website, 2004;   

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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June 2015