Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Home Regions Campsites Penny Postcards My Corps of Discovery Image Index Links About This Site Main Menu
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Lake Wallula"
Includes ... Lake Wallula ... McNary Dam ... Wallula Gap ...
Image, 2005, Looking downstream from McNary Beach, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
McNary Dam, McNary Beach, and Lake Wallula, Oregon. Lake Wallula is the reservoir behind the McNary Dam. Sillusi Butte is in the background. Image taken September 25, 2005.

Lake Wallula ...
Lake Wallula is the reservoir which lies behind McNary Lock and Dam and came into existence in 1957. The U.S. Board of Geographic Names made "Lake Wallula" official in 1958. Lake Wallula begins at Columbia River Mile (RM) 292.5 and extends 64 miles upstream. The lake shoreline extends past McNary Beach, Hat Rock State Park, and Warehouse Beach, through the Wallula Gap, past the confluence of the Walla Walla River and Sacajawea State Park and the confluence of the Snake River, through the Tri-Cities of Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland, and to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hanford Site, located approximately 27 miles upstream of Pasco. Lake Wallula also extends ten miles up the Snake River to Ice Harbor Lock and Dam. Lake Wallula has a water surface area of 38,800 acres, with 242 miles of shoreline, and a normal operating range between 340 and 335 feet above sea level.

Reservoirs along the Columbia River ...
There are 4 dams and 4 reservoirs on the Columbia River within the scope of this photographic journey. Bonneville Dam and Bonneville Reservoir are the furthest downstream and located the closest to Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington. Bonneville Dam is located at Columbia River Mile (RM) 146, and Bonneville Reservoir extends 46 miles upstream. At RM 192 is The Dalles Dam and Lake Celilo. Lake Celilo extends for 24 miles. Next in line, beginning at RM 216, is the John Day Dam and Lake Umatilla. Lake Umatilla extends for 76 miles. Furthest upstream is McNary Dam and Lake Wallula which begins at RM 292 and extends 64 miles upstream and includes the Tri-Cities of Richland, Pasco, and Kenneweick.

Around the Lake ...
Lake Wallula is a diverse area. The 16,908 acres surrounding the lake are public lands used for recreational, wildlife habitat, wildlife mitigation, and water-connected industrial development. At the present time (2005), approximately 2,400 acres are licensed either to State or local park agencies, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service leases approximately 3,500 acres of public lands as part of the McNary National Wildlife Refuge. Port districts own approximately 1,500 acres within the boundary for industrial development. Facilities operated by commercial concessionaires or boat clubs are available at eight locations. Public boat launching facilities are available at 17 locations along the shoreline.

Views ...

Image, 2004, McNary Dam from overlook, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
McNary Dam and Lake Wallula. McNary Dam spans the Columbia River from just upstream Umatilla, Oregon to upstream Plymouth, Washington. Lake Wallula is the reservoir behind the dam. Image taken from Dam overlook, Oregon, off of Highway 730. Sillusi Butte is the high point visible on the Washington State side of the dam. Image taken September 24, 2004.
Image, 2005, McNary Beach, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Lake Wallula from McNary Beach, Oregon. Image taken September 25, 2005.
Image, 2005, Lake Wallula, downstream of Wallula Gap, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Lake Wallula, as seen downstream of Wallula Gap. Lake Wallula extends 64 miles behind the McNary Dam. Image taken September 24, 2005.
Image, 2005, Sailing, Wallula Gap, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Sailing, Lake Wallula at the Wallula Gap. Image taken September 24, 2005.
Image, 2005, Wallula Gap, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Lake Wallula and the Wallula Gap from the east. Image taken September 25, 2005.

View from Columbia Park ...

Image, 2006, Sunset, water skiing, from Columbia Park, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Sunset, water skiing. View from Columbia Park. Image taken September 30, 2006.
Image, 2006, Sunset, water skiing, from Columbia Park, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Sunset, water skiing. View from Columbia Park. Image taken September 30, 2006.
Image, 2006, Pasco-Kennewick 'Blue Bridge
Click image to enlarge
Sunset, water skiing, with the Pasco-Kennewick "Blue Bridge". View from Columbia Park. Image taken September 30, 2006.

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, October 18, 1805 ...
This morning Cool and fare wind from the S. E. ...     Took our leave of the Chiefs and all those about us [from their camp, the location of today's Sacajawea State Park] and proceeded on down the great Columbia river     passed a large Island at 8 miles about 3 miles in length, a Island on the Stard. Side the upper point of which is opposit the center of the last mentioned Island and reaches 3˝ miles below the 1st. Island and opposit to this near the middle of the river nine Lodges are Situated on the upper point at a rapid which is between the lower point of the 1st Island and upper point of this; great numbers of Indians appeared to be on this Island, and emence quantites of fish Scaffold     we landed a few minits to view a rapid which Commenced at the lower point, passd this rapid which was verry bad between 2 Small Islands two Still Smaller near the Lard. Side, at this rapid on the Stard. Side is 2 Lodges of Indians Drying fish, at 2˝ miles lower and 14˝ below the point passed an Island Close under the Stard. Side on which was 2 Lodges of Indians drying fish on Scaffolds as above

[Today this reach has been inundated by the waters of Lake Wallula, the reservoir behind the McNary Dam. The Burbank Slough - part of the McNary National Wildlife Refuge - dominates the eastern bank of the Columbia and two islands which remain offshore of Wallula are Crescent Island and Badger Island.]    

at 16 miles from the point [junction of the Snake River with the Columbia, location of today's Sacajawea State Park] the river passes into the range of high Countrey at which place the rocks project into the river from the high clifts [Wallula Gap] which is on <both> the Lard. Side about 2/3 of the way across those of the Stard Side about the Same distance, the Countrey rises here about 200 feet above The water and is bordered wth black rugid rocks [Columbia River Basalt],     at the Commencement of this high Countrey [Wallula Gap] on Lard Side a Small riverlet falls in [Walla Walla River] which appears to passed under the high County in its whole cose     Saw a mountain bearing S. W. conocal form Covered with Snow [Mount Hood, Oregon].    passed 4 Islands, at the upper point of the <first> 3rd is a rapid, on this Island is two Lodges of Indians, drying fish, on the fourth Island Close under the Stard. Side is nine large Lodges of Indians Drying fish on Scaffolds as above [Yellepit area]; at this place we were called to land, as it was near night and no appearance of wood [Lewis and Clark are in the Port Kelley area, where today the islands offshore are under the waters of Lake Wallula.],     we proceeded on about 2 miles lower to Some willows, at which place we observed a drift log     formed a Camp on the Lard Side [Spring Gulch] under a high hill nearly opposit to five Lodges of Indians; Soon after we landed, our old Chiefs informed us that the large camp above "was the Camp of the 1st Chief of all the tribes in this quarter [Chief Yellepit], and that he had called to us to land and Stay all night with him, that he had plenty of wood for us &" This would have been agreeable to us if it had have been understood perticelarly as we were compelled to Use drid willows for fuel for the purpose of cooking, we requested the old Chiefs to walk up on the Side we had landed and call to the Chief to come down and Stay with us all night which they did;     ... we made 21 miles to day.

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

Snake River ConfluenceReturn to




*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, 2004.

  • Center for Columbia River History website, 2004;
  • University of Washington Library Archives website, 2004;
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Walla Walla District website, 2004;
  • U.S. Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) website, 2006;

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.
© 2019, Lyn Topinka, "ColumbiaRiverImages.com", All rights reserved.
Images are NOT to be downloaded from this website.
September 2008