Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Phoca Rock, Washington"
Includes ... Phoca Rock ... "Seal Rock" ... "Lone Rock" ... "Sentinel Rock" ... "Hermit Islet" ... The Golden Age of Postcards ... Phoca ...
Image, 2004, Phoca Rock as seen from Bridal Veil Overlook, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Phoca Rock as seen from Bridal Veil Overlook, Oregon. Image taken October 10, 2004.


"... at 17 miles passed a rock near the middle of the river about 100 feet high and 80 feet Diamuter ..." [Clark, November 2, 1805]


Phoca Rock ...
Phoca Rock lies along the Washington shore of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 132, just offshore from large basalt feature of Cape Horn and Cape Horn Landing. Across the Columbia is Dalton Point, Oregon.

Lewis and Clark and Phoca Rock ...
Phoca Rock was named by Lewis and Clark, after the Latin (Greek?) word for "seal", as presumably they saw many seals in the area. However in their journals for November 2, 1805, the day they passed Phoca Rock, they make no mention of spotting "seals" of any kind.

"... at 17 miles passed a rock near the middle of the river about 100 feet high and 80 feet Diamuter ..." [Clark, November 2, 1805]

The name "Pho ca rock" does appear in their writings during the winter while in their camp at Fort Clatsop.

"... 11 miles to the Pho ca rock in midl. Rivr. 100 foot high, Saw Seal's; ..." [Clark, winter 1805-1806]

"Lone Rock" and "Sentinal Rock" ...
Throughout history the Phoca Rock has also been called "Lone Rock" and "Sentinel Rock". In 1841 Charles Wilkes of the U.S. Exploring Expedition called it "Hermit Islet".

Penny Postcard, Phoca Rock and Steamer, ca.1920
Click image to enlarge
"Lone Rock" and Steamer, ca.1920 Penny Postcard, ca.1920, "Columbia River Showing Lone Rock Near Cape Horn, Oregon". Pacific Novelty Co., San Francisco and Los Angeles. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Phoca Rock, ca.1910
Click image to enlarge
"Sentinel Rock", Columbia River, ca.1910 Penny Postcard, ca.1910, "Sentinel Rock, Columbia River.". Card #4046, Published by M. Rieder, Los Angeles. Postmarked August 1913. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


"Phoca" ...
According to Moulton, the "seal" which Lewis and Clark spotted was the Harbor Seal, "Phoca vitulina richardii". Today the Pacific Harbor Seal, California Sea Lion, and the Steller Sea Lion frequent the waters of the lower Columbia River, from its mouth at Clatsop Spit all the way up past the Bonneville Dam.
[More]

Lewis and Clark and the "Phoca" ...
"... The Seal or Phoca are found here in great numbers, and as far up the Columbia as the great Falls, above which there are none. I have reasons to believe from the information of the men that there are Several Species of the Phoca on this Coast and in the river, but what the difference is I am unable to State not haveing Seen them myself Sufficiently near for manute inspection nor obtain the different kinds to make a comparison. the Skins of Such as I have Seen are covered with a Short thick Coarse Glossy hair of a redish bey brown Colour. tho' the animal while in the water, or as we saw them frequently in the river appear to be black and Spoted with white sometimes. I am not much acquainted with the Seal, but Suppose that they are the Same common also to the atlantic Ocian in the Same parrelal of Latitude. the Skins, or those which I have Seen are presisely Such as trunks are frequently Covered with. the flesh of this animal is highly prised by the nativs who Swinge the hair off and then roste the flesh on Sticks before the fire. ..."

[Clark, February 23, 1806, while at Fort Clatsop]

Views ...

Image, 2005, Phoca Rock in front of Cape Horn, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Windy Weather, Phoca Rock, as seen from Dalton Point, Oregon. According to the evening news, winds were sustaining at 30-40 with gusts of 60-70. Image taken December 10, 2005.
Image, 2015, Columbia River looking upstream from Cape Horn, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Phoca Rock, as seen from Cape Horn, Washington. Image taken October 3, 2015.


"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. Today the Penny Postcard has become a snapshot of history.

Penny Postcard, Phoca Rock and Steamer, ca.1920
Click image to enlarge
Phoca Rock ("Lone Rock") and Steamer, ca.1920 Penny Postcard, ca.1920, "Columbia River Showing Lone Rock Near Cape Horn, Oregon". Pacific Novelty Co., San Francisco and Los Angeles. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Phoca Rock, ca.1910
Click image to enlarge
Phoca Rock ("Sentinel Rock"), ca.1910 Penny Postcard, ca.1910, "Sentinel Rock, Columbia River.". Card #4046, Published by M. Rieder, Los Angeles. Postmarked August 1913. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 2, 1805, first draft ...
Meridian altitude 59 45' 45" made a portage of about 1 miles with half of the Baggage, and run the rapid with the Canoes without much damage ... we Set out Passed 2 bad rapids one at 2 & the other at 4 mile below the Isd on Lard. [Bradford Island] and upper end of Strawberry Island [Hamilton Island] on the Stard. Side from the Creek end of last Course

S. 50 W. 5 miles to a timbered bottom on the Lard. Side, passed the Lowr. point of Strawbery Isd. at 3 miles [Hamilton Island], a Isd Covd with wood below on Stard. Side a remarkable high rock on Stard. [Beacon Rock] Side about 800 feet high & 400 yds round, the Beaten Rock. The mountains and bottoms thickly timbered with Pine Spruce Cotton and a kind of maple Passed 2 Small wooded Islands on Std. Side [today Ives and Pierce Island], <opsd> below the lower Island on the Stard. Side at 4 miles an Indian village of 9 Houses. The river wider and bottoms more extencive.

S. 47 W. 12 miles to a <Lard.> Stard. point of rocks of a high clift of black rocks [Cape Horn]. passed a Stard. Point at 4 miles. here the mountains are low on each Side & thickly timbered with pine. river about 2 miles wide, passed a rock at 10 miles in the middle of the river [Phoca Rock] this rock is 100 feet high & 80 feet Diameter, a deep bend to the Stard. Side, ...

S. 58 W. 4 miles <to a> Stard. point of a large bottom. Encamped on the 21 Lard Side river about 2 miles wid Country thickly timbered we Encamped behind a large rock [Rooster Rock] in the Lard. Bend, a Canoe with 7 Inds. came down & Encamped with us



Clark, November 2, 1805 ...
Examined the rapid below us [from their camp at Fort Rains, looking at the Cascade Rapids] more pertcelarly the danger appearing too great to Hazzard our Canoes loaded, dispatched all the men who could not Swim with loads to the end of the portage below, I also walked to the end of the portage with the carriers where I delayed untill everry articles was brought over and canoes arrived Safe. here we brackfast and took a Meridn. altitude 59 45' 45" about the time we were Setting out 7 Squars came over loaded with Dried fish, and bear grass neetly bundled up, Soon after 4 Indian men came down over the rapid in a large canoe.     passed a rapid at 2 miles & 1 at 4 miles opposite the lower point of a high Island on the Lard Side [Bradford Island], and a little below 4 Houses on the Stard. Bank, a Small Creek on the Lard Side [Tanner Creek] opposit Straw berry Island [Hamilton Island], which heads below the last rapid, opposit the lower point of this Island [Hamilton Island] passed three Islands covered with tall timber [today there are two, Ives and Pierce] opposit the Beatin rock [Beacon Rock]    Those Islands are nearest the Starboard Side, imediately below on the Stard. Side passed a village of nine houses [indentified on Atlas map#79 as the "Wah-clallah Tribe of Shahala Nation", location near today's Skamania and Skamania Landing], which is Situated between 2 Small Creeks [Woodard Creek and Duncan Creek], and are of the Same construction of those above; here the river widens to near a mile, and the bottoms are more extensive and thickly timbered, as also the high mountains on each Side, with Pine, Spruce pine, Cotton wood, a Species of ash, and alder.     at 17 miles passed a rock near the middle of the river [Phoca Rock], about 100 feet high and 80 feet Diamuter,     proceed on down a Smoth gentle Stream of about 2 miles wide, in which the tide has its effect as high as the Beaten rock [Beacon Rock] or the Last rapids at Strawberry Island [Hamilton Island],- Saw great numbers of waterfowl of Different kinds, Such as Swan, Geese, white & grey brants, ducks of various kinds, Guls, & Pleaver [today just below Beacon Rock is Franz National Wildlife Refuge]. ...     we encamped under a high projecting rock on the Lard. Side [Rooster Rock, with Crown Point rising above it],     here the mountains leave the river on each Side [leaving the Columbia River Gorge, Steigerwald Land NWR is on the north and the Sandy River delta is on the south], which from the great Shute to this place is high and rugid [Columbia River Gorge]; thickly Covered with timber principalley of the Pine Species. The bottoms below appear extensive and thickly Covered with wood.     river here about 2 miles wide.     Seven Indians in a Canoe on their way down to trade with the nativs below, encamp with us, those we left at the portage passed us this evening and proceeded on down The ebb tide rose here about 9 Inches, the flood tide must rise here much higher- we made 29 miles to day from the Great Shute [Cascade Locks]-






Clark, undated, winter of 1805-6 ...
"Estimated Distances in Miles Ascending the Missouri, Crossing the Rockey Mountains & decending the Kooskooskee [Clearwater River], Louises River [Snake River] and the Columbia River of the remarkable places and Latitud partially anexed. ...

5 miles to a village of 9 Houses of the Sha ha lah Nation on the Stard Side near the beaten rock 800 feet hi [Beacon Rock, Washington];

11 miles to the Pho ca rock in midl. Rivr. 100 foot high [Phoca Rock], Saw Seal's;





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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:    NOAA, 2008, "Seal & Sea Lion Facts of the Columbia River & Adjacent Nearshore Marine Areas, March 2008;   

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.
October 2011