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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Memaloose Island"
Includes ... Memaloose Island ... Memaloose State Park ... "Sepulchar Rock" ... Victor Trevitt ... The Golden Age of Postcards ...
Image, 2008, Memaloose Island, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Memaloose Island from Memaloose State Park Overlook, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken August 23, 2008.


Memaloose Island ...
On October 29, 1805, Lewis and Clark called Memaloose Island "Sepulchar Island". It was one of several islands commented on by Lewis and Clark as containing burial vaults for the Indian tribes that lived along the Columbia River.

"... 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 ..." [Clark, October 29, 1805]

Several islands in the Columbia River are named "Memaloose", the accepted spelling adopted by the United States Board of Geographic Names (USBGN). The name is derived from "Memaloose Ilahee", Chinook jargon for "land of the dead". Lower Memaloose Island, the one called "Sepulchar" by Captain Clark, is downstream from the mouth of the Klickitat River and upstream of Major Creek. Major Creek was the location of Lewis and Clark's campsite of April 14, 1806. Good views of Memaloose Island are from the Historic Columbia River Highway on the Oregon side of the Columbia, or from the Memaloose Rest Stop on Interstate 84. This "Lower" Memaloose Island is overlooked by Memaloose State Park on the Oregon side of the Columbia, and Chamberlain Park on the Washington side of the Columbia. The island is located at Columbia River Mile (RM) 178.


Historic Columbia River Highway ...
[More Historic Columbia River Highway]
[More HCRH Route]

  • HMP 76.3 ... Memaloose Overlook (1920)

  • Memaloose Overlook (1920):   "This scenic overlook is north of the CRH and contains a basalt rubble masonry wall and graveled paths. It gives visitors a view of Memaloose Island, one of several islands in this stretch of the Columbia where local Indians buried their dead. The plaque there replaces one with an unknown origin." [National Historic Landmark Nomination Form, 1996]

    "This scenic overlook is on the north side of the highway and contains a masonry wall and gravel overlook area. The overlook commands a view of Memaloose Island in the Columbia River, a Native American burial ground. This sacred burial area was partially inundated when the Bonneville Dam was completed in the late 1930s, impounding water upstream." [National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, 1983]


Memaloose State Park ...
Memaloose State Park is located off Interstate 84, eleven miles west of The Dalles, Oregon, and offers good views of Memaloose Island. Views of Washington's Rowena Gap basalts can also be seen as well as the drainage valley of Major Creek, the location of Lewis and Clark's campsite of April 14, 1806.

Image, 2008, Memaloose State Park, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Memaloose State Park Overlook, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken August 23, 2008.


Victor Trevitt ...
The granite obelisk on the island is the grave of Victor Trevitt, a pioneer who wished to be buried with his Indian friends.

Image, 2005, Memaloose Island grave marker, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Victor Trevitt grave marker, Memaloose Island. View from Memaloose Rest Area, Interstate 84, Oregon. Image taken September 25, 2005.
Image, 2013, Memaloose Island grave marker, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Victor Trevitt grave marker, Memaloose Island. View from Memaloose Rest Area, Interstate 84, Oregon. Image taken April 3, 2013.


Memaloose -- Island of the Dead ...
OREGON HISTORY
Memaloose -- Island of the Dead

"Until very recent times, the Indian peoples of the Columbia River did not bury their dead. Instead, bodies were wrapped in robes or tule mats and deposited in canoes that were placed in the woods, on rocky points, or in cedar vaults on islands like Memaloose. The name Memaloose is derived from the Chinook word memalust, which means "to die".

The Corps of Discovery, under the command of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, passed this island in their quest to reach the Pacific Ocean on 29 October 1805 -- they called it "Sepulcher Island" (burial island). On their homeward journey, the explorers visited the island on 15 April 1806, and Lewis noted, "thirteen sepulchers on this rock which stands near the center of the river and has a surface of about 2 acres above high water mark."

Memaloose Island is one of several "islands of the dead" once found in the Columbia River. Many of these islands are today covered by the backwaters of Columbia's dams -- only one-third of this island seen by Lewis and Clark is visible above the river today.

The lone monument visible on Memaloose Island marks the grave of Victor Trevitt, a pioneer printer, businessman, state legislator, and friend of the Indians. Trevitt requested burial here among the people he loved. Ironically, water rising behind the Bonneville Dam proompted relocation of Indian graves during the 1930s, but Victor Trevitt's grave remains."


Source:   Oregon History Sign, Memaloose Rest Stop, Interstate 84, Oregon.


Image, 2013, Memaloose Island, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Oregon History sign, Memaloose Island. View from Memaloose Rest Area, Interstate 84, Oregon. Image taken April 3, 2013.


"The Golden Age of Postcards" ...

The early 1900s was the "Golden Age of Postcards", with the "Penny Postcard" being a popular way to send greetings to family and friends. The postcards now have become a image of history.

Penny Postcard, Memaloose Island, 1908
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Memaloose Island, 1908.
Penny Postcard, Copyright 1908, Postmarked 1909, "Memaloose Island". Gifford Photograph. Published by Benj. A. Gifford, The Dalles, Oregon. Made in Germany. Card #208. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Memaloose Island, ca.1905
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Memaloose Island, Trevitt Obolisk, ca.1905.
Penny Postcard, ca.1905, "Indian Buring Ground on a Columbia River Island, Oregon". Published by E.P. Charleton & Co., Portland, Oregon. Undivided back. 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

Source:    Memaloose Island information courtesy Washington State Historical Society website, 2004, "Lasting Legacy";   

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.
September 2008