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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Klickitat River, Washington"
Includes ... Klickitat River ... "Cataract River" ... "Rascals River" ... Klickitat River Bridge ... Lyle ... National Register of Historic Places ... The Golden Age of Postcards ...
Image, 2004, Klickitat River, Washington, click to enlarge
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Klickitat River, Washington, looking upstream. Klickitat River, Washington, looking upstream, as seen from Washington State Highway 14 bridge at its confluence with the Columbia. Image taken November 11, 2004.


Klickitat River ...
The Klickitat River is located on the east slope of the Cascade Range in south-central Washington and drains 1,350 square miles. The Klickitat is one of the longest undammed rivers in the northwest, entering the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 180.5. The Washington community of Lyle sits on the Klickitat's left bank at its junction with the Columbia. Upstream are the basalts of the Rowena Gap and downstream are Chamberlain Lake, Catherine Creek, Major Creek, Rowland Lake, and the basalts of the Bingen Gap. The White Salmon River lies 12 miles downstream. Across from the Klickitat River is Oregon's Mayer State Park. In 1986 the lower 10 miles of the Klickitat River were designated recreational under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, an Act created to preserve in a free-flowing condition selected rivers of the nation which "with their immediate environments, possess outstandingly remarkable scenic, recreational, geologic, fish and wildlife, historic, cultural, or other similar values".

Image, 2015, Klickitat River, Washington, click to enlarge
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Klickitat River, Washington, looking upstream. View from trailhead, left bank, upstream from mouth. Image taken September 26, 2015.
Image, 2015, Klickitat River, Washington, click to enlarge
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Klickitat River, Washington, looking downstream. View from trailhead, left bank, upstream from mouth, showing the "Twin Bridges". Image taken September 26, 2015.


Lyle, Washington ...
Lyle, Washington, is located on the north bank of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 181, where the Klickitat River merges with the Columbia. Immediately across from Lyle is Mayer State Park and Rowena Crest, Oregon.
[More]

Klickitat River Basin ...
According to the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority website (2004), the mainstem Klickitat River arises from the Cascades below Cispus Pass at approximately 5,000 feet elevation and flows 95 miles to its confluence with the Columbia River and the reservoir behind the Bonneville Dam. Major tributaries to the mainstem Klickitat include Swale Creek, Little Klickitat River, Outlet Creek, Big Muddy Creek, West Fork Klickitat River, and Diamond Fork. The geology of the Klickitat drainage is dominated by extensive basalt strata having a total thickness of several thousand feet. Volcanic rocks of four distinct age groups underlie the basin. The Cascade crest is dominated by Mount Adams, a 12,000-foot dormant volcano with an extensive glacier system that drains into the Klickitat River. At the northwest corner of the basin lie the Goat Rocks, the deeply eroded remnants of an extinct volcano, that reach to about 8,000 feet. The northern boundary is the Klickton Divide, a 7,000-foot ridge of Columbia River Basalt that separates the Klickitat from the watershed of the Tieton River, a tributary to the Yakima. The Lost Horse and Lincoln plateaus, 5,000 to 6,000-foot-high plateaus underlain by Columbia River basalts, separate the Klickitat from the Ahtanum and Toppenish basins, which drain east to the Yakima River. In the southeast part of the basin, younger volcanic rocks, including many cinder cones, cover the older basalts on the divide separating the Klickitat from the Satus Basin.

Image, 2008, Klickitat River, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Klickitat River drainage, as seen from Rowena Crest, Oregon. The Washington community of Lyle is located on the Klickitat's left bank. Image taken August 23, 2008.


Lewis and Clark and the Klickitat River ...

Lewis and Clark passed the mouth of the Klickitat River on October 29, 1805, and named it "Cataract River".

"... after brackfast we proceeded on, the mountains are high on each Side, containing Scattering pine white oake & under groth, hill Sides Steep and rockey;   at 4 miles lower we observed a Small river falling in with great rapidity on the Stard. Side below which is a village of 11 houses, here we landed to Smoke a pipe with the nativs and examine the mouth of the river, which I found to be 60 yards wide rapid and deep,   The inhabitants of the village are friendly and Chearfull; those people inform us also those at the last village that this little river is long and full of falls, no Salmon pass up it, it runs from N. N. E.   that ten nations live on this river and its waters, on buries, and what game that Can kill with their Bow & arrows ...   The last river we passed we Shall Call the Cataract River from the number of falls which the Indians say is on it ..." [Clark, October 29, 1805]

On their return, the men passed the Klickitat on April 15, 1806.

"... a little below the entrance of Cataract river we halted at another village of the same people, at which we were equally unsuccessfull in the purchase of horses. ..." [Lewis, April 15, 1806]

Early Klickitat River ...

On the Columbia River inset to the "Map of the Oregon Territory", 1841, by Charles Wilkes of the U.S. Exploring Expedition, the Klickitat River was labeled the "Rascals R.". Across from it was "Upper Cape Horn", the location which matches the impressive basalt lava flow of the Rowena Gap.

In 1843 Captain J.C. Fremont called today's Klickitat River "Tinanens creek". The Indian village is near the location of today's Lyle, Washington.

"... on Monday Mr. Perkins assisted me in procuring from the Indians a large canoe, in which I designed to complete our journey to Vancouver ...   The village from which were were to take the canoe was on the right bank of the river, about ten miles below, at the mouth of the Tinanens creek ..." [Fremont, November 6, 1843]

For some reason McArthur and McArthur in "Oregon Geographic Names" (2003, Oregon Historical Society), says "Tinanens Creek" is Fifteenmile Creek, Oregon. However, Fifteenmile Creek is ABOVE the location of mission at The Dalles, where Fremont was camped, and not BELOW as Fremont writes. Plus, Fremont says the village is AT THE MOUTH of the village, thereby putting Tinanens creek in Washington State, and Fifteenmile Creek is in Oregon. Ten miles below The Dalles on the Washington side of the Columbia lies the Klickitat River.

The 1855 "Map of a part of the Territory of Washington : to accompany report of Surveyor General" had the river labeled "Klick-a-tat R."



Along the Klickitat River

  • RM 0.0 ... "Twin Bridges" ...
  • RM 0.0 - 11 ... Wild and Scenic River ...
  • RM 18 ... Klickitat River Bridge 142/9 ...


RM 0.0 ... "Twin Bridges" ...
Two bridges, locally known as the "Twin Bridges", cross the mouth of the Klickitat River at Lyle, Washington. The lower railroad bridge was built in 1908 and the upper Highway 14 bridge was built in 1933. Both are concrete open-spandrel arch bridges.

Klickitat River Railroad Bridge:   The Klickitat River Railroad Bridge crossing the Klickitat River just west of Lyle was built in 1908 by the Contracting and Engineering Company of Tacoma as part of the Spokane, Portland, and Seattle Railway. The bridge is 200-feet long and has a 160-foot-long concrete arch. It was listed on the Washington Heritage Register in March 1981.

Klickitat River Washington State Highway 14 Bridge:   The 265-foot-long concrete arch bridge carries Washington State Highway 14 traffic across the Klickitat River. The arch span is 160 feet. The bridge was built in 1933.


Image, 2008, Klickitat River, Washington, click to enlarge
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Klickitat River and the "twin bridges", as seen from Rowena Crest, Oregon. Image taken August 23, 2008.
Image, 2010, Klickitat River, Washington, click to enlarge
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Klickitat River and the "twin bridges", as seen from Rowena Crest, Oregon. Image taken March 6, 2010.
Image, 2004, Klickitat River, Washington, railroad bridge, click to enlarge
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Klickitat River, Washington, looking downstream at railroad bridge. Klickitat River, Washington, looking downstream, as seen from Washington State Highway 14 bridge at its confluence with the Columbia. Image taken November 11, 2004.
Image, 2015, Klickitat River, Washington, click to enlarge
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North side, Highway 14 bridge, Klickitat River, Washington, looking west. View left bank, upstream from mouth. Image taken September 26, 2015.
Image, 2015, Klickitat River, Washington, click to enlarge
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South side, Highway 14 bridge, Klickitat River, Washington, looking west. View left bank, upstream from mouth. Image taken September 26, 2015.
Image, 2015, Klickitat River, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Railroad bridge, Klickitat River, Washington, looking west. View left bank, upstream from mouth. Image taken September 26, 2015.


RM 0.0 - 11 ... Wild and Scenic River ...
Designated Reach (November 1986): From the confluence with Wheeler Creek, near the town of Pitt, to the confuence with the Columbia River, total 10.8 miles (U.S. Forest Service website, 2015).

Image, 2004, Klickitat River Valley, Washington, looking upstream, click to enlarge
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RM 1.0 ... Klickitat River Valley, looking upstream. Klickitat River Valley, Washington, as seen from the right bank, approximately one mile upstream from its confluence with the Columbia. Image taken November 11, 2004.
Image, 2004, Klickitat River, Washington, upstream one mile, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
RM 1.0 ... Klickitat River, Washington, upstream one mile. Klickitat River, Washington, looking downstream, as seen from the left bank, upstream one mile from the mouth of the river. Image taken November 11, 2004.


RM 18 ... Klickitat River Bridge 142/9 ...
The Washington State Highway 142 Klickitat River Bridge (also known as Bridge Number 142/9) is located near Klickitat River Mile (RM) 18, approximately five miles upstream of the town of Klickitat and two miles downstream from the junction of the Little Klickitat River with the Klickitat. Highway 142 connects the two Washington communities of Lyle and Goldendale.

According to the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation website (2006) the Klickitat River Bridge was designed in part by Harry R. Powell and Leonard K. Narod and was completed in 1954.

The Klickitat River Bridge replaced an old timber truss bridge that had crossed the river at the same location. The new bridge, a pre-stressed concrete structure, was 141 feet and 8 inches long and used the concrete supports of the old bridge. Pre-stressed concrete bridges were developed in France and had been in use in Europe since the mid 1940s. They came into use in the United States in 1950 due to the steel shortages after World War II. The Klickitat River Bridge became the first of its kind in the State of Washington.

In 2002 the Klickitat River Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places (Structure, #02000242), for its "association with and contribution to the beginning and growth of a vigorous precast pre-stressed concrete industry in the state".



"The Golden Age of Postcards" ...

The early 1900s was the "Golden Age of Postcards". The "Penny Postcard" became a popular way to send greetings to friends and family. The Penny Postcard today has become a snapshot of history.

Penny Postcard, ca.1910, Klickitat River, Washington, with Mount Hood, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Klickitat River, Washington, with Mount Hood, Oregon, in the background. Penny Postcard, ca.1910. Caption reads "Klickitat River. Mt. Hood in the distance". #6094, The Portland Post Card Col., Portland, Oregon. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, October 29, 1805 ...
A cloudy morning wind from the West but not hard, we Set out at day light [from their camp on Rocky Island at Crates Point], and proceeded on about five miles Came too on the Stard. Side at a village of 7 houses built in the Same form and materials of those above, here we found the Chief we had Seen at the long narrows [The Dalles] ...     they are hospitable and good humered Speak the Same language of the inhabitants of the last village, we call this the friendly village [vicinity of Dougs Beach]. ...     after brackfast we proceeded on, the mountains are high on each Side [high basalt cliffs of the Rowena Gap, with Rowena Crest on the south and the Chamberlain Lake area on the north], containing Scattering pine white oake & under groth, hill Sides Steep and rockey; at 4 miles lower we observed a Small river falling in with great rapidity on the Stard. Side [Klickitat River] below which is a village of 11 houses [today the town of Lyle is on the upstream side of the Klickitat], here we landed to Smoke a pipe with the nativs and examine the mouth of the river, which I found to be 60 yards wide rapid and deep, The inhabitants of the village are friendly and Chearfull; those people inform us also those at the last village that this little river is long and full of falls, no Salmon pass up it, it runs from N. N. E. that ten nations live on this river and its waters, on buries, and what game that Can kill with their Bow & arrows

we purchased 4 dogs and Set out- (this village is the of the Same nation of the one we last passed) and proceeded on The Countrey on each side begin to be thicker timbered with Pine and low white Oake; verry rockey and broken [passing Mayer State Park on the Oregon side]. passed three large rocks in The river the middle rock is large long and has Several Squar vaults on it. we call this rockey Island the Sepulchar [Memaloose Island] - The last river we passed we Shall Call the Cataract River [Klickitat River] from the number of falls which the Indians say is on it- passed 2 Lodges of Indians a Short distance below the Sepulchar Island [Memaloose Island] on the Stard. Side river wide, at 4 mile passed 2 houses on the Stard. Side, Six miles lower passed 4 houses above the mouth of a Small river 40 yards wide on the Lard. Side [Hood River]    a thick timbered bottom above & back of those houses; those are the first houses which we have Seen on the South Side of the Columbia River, (and the axess to those dificuelt) for fear of the approach of their common enemies the Snake Indians, passed 14 houses on the Std. Side Scattered on the bank- from the mouth of this little river which we shall Call Labeasche River [Hood River], the falls mountain [Mount Hood] is South and the top is covered with Snow.    one mile below pass the mouth of a large rapid Stream on the Stard. Side [White Salmon River], opposit to a large Sand bar [from Hood River], in this creek the Indians above take their fish, here we Saw Several canoes, which induced us to call this Canoe Creek [White Salmon River] it is 28 yards wide, about 4 miles lower and below the Sand bar [Hood River sandbar] is a butifull cascade falling over a rock of about 100 feet [Wah Gwin Gwin Falls, location of the Columbia Gorge Hotel],

[On the route map (Moulton, vol.1, map#78) a "C___ Spring" is shown on the north side of the river, today the location of Spring Creek and Spring Creek Fish Hatchery, with no mention of it in any text. On the south side, at the location of Wah Gwin Gwin Falls, only "Cascade" is labeled and "4 Houses of Indians".]

a Short distance lower passed 4 Indian houses on the Lard. Side in a timbered bottom, a fiew miles further we came too at 3 houses on Stard. Side, back of which is a pond [today the location of Drano Lake. The Little White Salmon River empties into Drano Lake.] in which I Saw Great numbers of Small Swan, Capt. Lewis and went into the houses of those people ...     Here the mountains are high on each Side, those to the Lard. Side has Some Snow on them at this time, more timber than above and of greater variety.





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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:    "bridgehunter.com" website, 2015;    Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority website, 2004;    Lyle Community website, 2004;    National Register of Historic Places website, 2004;    NOAA Office of Chart Surveys website, 2005;    U.S. National Park Service website, 2004;    Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation website, 2006;    Washington State Department of Transportation website, 2006;    Washington State University Digital Archives website, 2006, "Early Washington Maps: A Digital Collection";   

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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Images are NOT to be downloaded from this website.
November 2011