Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Sandy River Delta, Oregon"
Includes ... Sandy River Delta ... Sandy River ... Sandy River Delta Dam ... Hunters Campsite of April 1, 1806 ... Hunters Campsite of April 2 and 3 1806 ... Hunters Campsite of April 4, 1806 ... Maya Lin Confluence Project ...
Image, 2009, Sandy River, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Upper eastern mouth of the Sandy River, Oregon. Image taken September 19, 2009.


Sandy River Delta ...
Throughout history the Sandy River has had two mouths, the upper one entering the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 123, and the lower one entering at RM 120.5. In 1931 a dike/dam was built to block the main upper (easternmost) channel, allowing all flow to enter the Columbia at the lower mouth. That is today's Sandy River. The upper channel became a sluggish slough. The arms of the Sandy surround and are included in a wooded wetland with ponds, sloughs, bottomlands, woodlands, and prairies, known as the Sandy River Delta.

In 2001 the Bonneville Power Administration wrote:

"... The Sandy River Delta is a former pasture infested with reed canary grass, blackberry and thistle. The limited over story is native riparian species such as cottonwood and ash. The shrub and herbaceous layers are almost entirely non-native, invasive species. Native species have a difficult time naturally regenerating in the thick, competing reed canary grass, Himalayan blackberry and thistle. A system of drainage ditches installed by past owners drains water from historic wetlands. The original channel of the Sandy River was diked in the 1930’s, and the river diverted into the “Little Sandy River”. The original Sandy River channel has subsequently filled in and largely become a slough. ..." [Bonneville Power Administration website, 2006, "Sandy River Delta Habitat Restoration Project, 2001 Annual Report"]

In 1991 the U.S. Forest Service aquired approximately 1,400 acres of the Sandy River delta and began restoration. Grazing was terminated, wetlands and ponds dredged, non-native vegetation removed and native vegetation was established. Future restoration plans may include removal of the 70-plus-year-old dike/dam.


Two mouths of the Sandy ...
Throughout history the Sandy River has had two mouths, the upper one entering the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 123, and the lower one entering at RM 120.5. In 1931 a dike/dam was built to block the main upper (easternmost) channel, allowing all flow to enter the Columbia at the lower mouth. That is today's Sandy River. The upper channel is a sluggish slough. The arms of the Sandy surround and are included in a wooded wetland with ponds, sloughs, bottomlands, woodlands, and prairies, known as the Sandy River Delta.

In 1806 and 1806 Lewis and Clark noted the two mouths with an "island" inbetween.

"... a verry Considerable Stream Dischargeing its waters through 2 Chanels which forms an Island of about 3 miles in length on the river and 1 1/2 miles wide, composed of Corse Sand which is thrown out of this quick Sand river ..." [Clark, November 3, 1805]

"... This morning early we dispatched Sergt. Pryar with two men in a small canoe up quicksand river with orders to proceed as far as he could and return this evening. ... Sergt. Pryar returned in the evening and reported that he had ascended the river six miles; that above the point at which it divides itself into two channels it is about 300 yds wide tho' the channel is not more than 50 yds and only 6 ft deep. ..." [Lewis, April 1, 1806]

In 1841 Charles Wilkes of the U.S. Exploring Expedition named the island between the upper and lower mouths of the Sandy River "Bachelet I.", with the upper mouth being named "Quichel's R." and the lower mouth becoming "Palle Creek". These names did not stick. The upper mouth of the Sandy became the "Sandy River" and the lower mouth became the "Little Sandy River", and the "island" between them became known as "Sundial Island". In the 1930s, the Oregon Department of Fish diked/damed the upper mouth of the Sandy to improve the smelt run, with the waters of the upper Sandy being diverted into the lower mouth. The upper mouth became a slough as it filled in with silt. The "island" became pastureland. The area today is known as the Sandy River Delta and includes hiking trails, birding environments, and an off-leash dog park.


Early Maps ...

Map, 1889, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
1841 Map detail, Charles Wilkes, U.S. Exploring Expedition, showing the two mouths of the Sandy River and the Sandy River Delta. Original Map courtesy NOAA Office of Coast Surveys, 2004.
Map, 1889, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
1889 Map detail, Clark County Washington, the Columbia River, and Multnomah County, Oregon. Camas (La Camas) and Washougal, Washington, and the Sandy River, Oregon. Original Map "Multnomah County" by R.A. Habersham, courtesy "Historic Map Works" website, 2019.
Topo map detail, 1918, Troutdale, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
1918 Topographic map detail, Troudale, Oregon. Map shows the Columbia River south to Troutdale, Oregon, and includes Lady Island, Fairview and Blue Lakes, Sundial Lake, Company Lake, the Sandy River and the Little Sandy River, and Gary Island. U.S. Geological Survey 1:62,000 "Troutdale Quadrangle".


Lewis and Clark's Hunter Campsites ...
While the Lewis and Clark "main camp" was located across the Columbia River at Cottonwood Beach, many of the hunters spent nights camped on the Oregon side of the Columbia River, in the area of the Sandy River and the Sandy River Delta.

April 1, 1806 ...
Above the entrance of the Sandy River

A group of hunters spent the night of April 1, 1806, on the Oregon side of the Columbia "above the enterance of Q. Sand River", today known as the Sandy River.

"... This morning early we dispatched Sergt. Pryor, with two men in a Small canoe up quick sand river with orders to proceed as far as he Could and return this evening. we also Sent a party of three hunters over the river to hunt a large bottom of woodland and prarie above the enterance of Q. Sand River; ... at 3 P. M. the hunters who were Sent over the river returned, having Killed 4 Elk and 2 Deer; the Elk were in good order but the deer extreemly poor. they informed us that game is very plenty in that quarter. the hunters on this Side of the river also returned but had killed nothing; they Saw a fiew Elk and Deer. there were also much Sign of the black bear Seen on the other Side of the river. we Sent a party to bring in the flesh of the Elk and Deer that were killed. they did not return this evening. ..." [Clark, April 1, 1806]

"... 9 of our men who went out last evening for meat of the 4 Elk Stayed out all night. ..." [Ordway, April 2, 1806]

"... The men who were sent in quest of the Elk and deer that were killed yesterday returned at 8 A. M. this morning. ..." [Lewis, April 2, 1806]


April 2 and 3, 1806 ...
Below the mouth of the Sandy River

On the morning of April 2, 1806, Captain Lewis wrote:

"... The men who were sent in quest of the Elk and deer that were killed yesterday returned at 8 A. M. this morning. we now enformed the party of our intention of laying in a store of meat at this place, and immediately dispatched two parteis consisting of nine men to the opposite side of the river. five of those we sent below the Quicksand river and 4 above. ..." [Lewis, April 2, 1806]

On April 3, 1806, Captain Lewis wrote:

"... Early this morning Joseph Fields came over and informed me that Reubin Feilds Drewyer and himself had killed four Elk. as the party with me were now but weak and the Indians constantly crouding about our camp, I thought it best to send a few men to dry the meat on the other side of the river; accordingly Sergt Pryor and two men returned with Jos. Fields for that purpose. the hunters were ordered to continue the chase; while the others were employed in drying the meat. I have had no account as yet from the party below the entrance of Quicksand river. ..." [Lewis, April 3, 1806]

"... the party bilow quick Sand river did not return to day ..." [Clark, April 3, 1806]

The men returned on the morning of April 4.

"... This morning early we sent Sergt. Ordway in Surch of Sergt. Gass and party below the entrance of the Quicksand river from whom we have yet had no report. in the course of a few hours both parties returned. ..." [Lewis, April 4, 1806]


April 4, 1806 ...
Below the mouth of the Sandy River

Collins, Windsor, and Gass spent the night of April 4, 1806, below the mouth of the Sandy.

"... Collins who had killed the bear, found the bed of another in which there were three young ones; and requested to be permitted to return in order to waylay the bed and kill the female bear; we permitted him to do so; Sergt. Gass and Windsor returned with him. ..." [Lewis, April 4, 1806]

"... Four men were sent on ahead this forenoon in a canoe to hunt; and I went out with two more to the den where we saw the cubs, to watch for the old bear; we stayed there until dark and then encamped about a quarter of a mile off, and went back early in the morning; but the old one was not returned: so we took the cubs and returned to camp. ..." [Gass, April 4, 1806]

"... this morning at 10 OClock Sergt. Gass returned with Collins and Windsor they had not succeeded in killing the female bear tho' they brought the three cubs with them. ..." [Lewis, April 5, 1806]


Views ...

Image, 2009, Sandy River, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Sandy River from the Sandy River Delta, Oregon. View of the lower western mouth of the Sandy River. Image taken June 28, 2009.
Image, 2009, Sandy River, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Upper eastern mouth of the Sandy River, Oregon. Image taken September 19, 2009.


Sandy River Delta, etc.

  • Bachelet Island ...
  • Confluence Project ... Maya Lin Bird Blind ...
  • Sandy River Delta Dike/Dam ...
  • Sundial Beach and Sundial Island ...
  • Thousand Acres Dog Park ...


Bachelet Island ...
In 1841, Charles Wilkes of the U.S. Exploring Expedition called the Sandy River Delta "Bachelet Island".

"To the north of the east end of Frost Island [Lady Island] is Evert's Bay [mouth of the Washougal River], nearly circular, a mile in diameter. Bachelet Island [Sandy River delta] is of an oval shape, 1 1/2 miles in length, Palle Creek [lower mouth of the Sandy River], which passes between it and the south shore, is only used for boats and canoes. Above Bachelet Island the river again widens."


Confluence Project ... Maya Lin Bird Blind ...
To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, artist Maya Lin (designer of the Viet Nam Memorial) was commissioned to design interpretive artwork for seven locations along the Columbia and Snake Rivers, collectively known as the "Confluence Project". At the Sandy River Delta there is a ramp leading to a wooden structure built of black locust, called a "Bird Blind" and was formally dedicated August 23, 2008. Engraved on the wooden slats are names of 134 plants and animals documented by Lewis and Clark.
[More]

Image, 2009, Maya Lin Bird Blind, Sandy River Delta, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Maya Lin Bird Blind, Confluence Project, Sandy River Delta, Oregon. Image taken September 19, 2009.
Image, 2009, Maya Lin Bird Blind, Sandy River Delta, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Maya Lin Bird Blind, Confluence Project, Sandy River Delta, Oregon. Image taken September 19, 2009.
Image, 2009, Maya Lin Bird Blind, Sandy River Delta, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Clark's Nutcracker, Maya Lin Bird Blind, Confluence Project, Sandy River Delta, Oregon. Image taken September 19, 2009.


Sandy River Delta Dike/Dam ...
From: Portland Hikers Field Guide website (2009):

"... The Sandy River Delta was formed by mudflows originating on Mount Hood and flowing down the Sandy River to the Columbia. The most recent of these mudflows was about the year 1800. By 1900, the delta had been reworked by floods on the Columbia, as well as a constant stream of sediment coming down the Sandy River as the river cleared its channel. The larger part of the river flowed under the railroad and highway bridges and about a half mile north. At that point, it veered east and entered the Columbia River almost two miles east of where it does today. A secondary, smaller channel existed where today's current channel exists.

In 1904, a large flood partially blocked the secondary channel and it began to run dry during the fish runs. In an effort to help fish runs, a dam was built in 1931 that completely blocked the main eastern channel. In this way the river was forced in its entirety into the former secondary channel. The original dam was a 750 foot wide, five foot high barrier constructed of piling. In 1938, the dam was improved to a 10 foot high structure filled with riprap. In time, continuing erosion filled the old river channel with sediment. Today the dam is nearly buried in sediment and only the top is visible, used as a road by power line maintainers and a trail by the rest of us.

More modern looks at the fish runs question the value of the dam. There is talk of removing the dam and allowing the river to return to its original channel. ..."

Today (2009) the dam is nearly buried in accumulated sediment and it looks like a road paved with over-sized cobbles.


Image, 2009, Sandy River Delta, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Crossing the Sandy River Delta dike/dam. Image taken June 28, 2009.
Image, 2009, Sandy River Delta, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Sandy River Delta dike/dam. Image taken June 28, 2009.
Image, 2009, Sandy River Delta, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Surface, Sandy River Delta dike/dam. Image taken June 28, 2009.


Sundial Beach and Sundial Island ...
In 1841 Charles Wilkes of the U.S. Exploring Expedition named the island between the upper and lower mouths of the Sandy River "Bachelet I.", with the upper mouth being named "Quichel's R." and the lower mouth becoming "Palle Creek". These names did not stick. The upper mouth of the Sandy became the "Sandy River" and the lower mouth became the "Little Sandy River", and the "island" between them became known as "Sundial Island". In the 1930s, the Oregon Department of Fish diked/damed the upper mouth of the Sandy to improve the smelt run, with the waters of the upper Sandy being diverted into the lower mouth. The upper mouth became a slough as it filled in with silt. The "island" became pastureland. The area today is known as the Sandy River Delta and includes hiking trails, birding environments, and an off-leash dog park.


Thousand Acres Dog Park ...
Quite a bit of the Sandy River Delta is an off-leash dog park. ... GREAT idea !!! ...

In 1805 and 1806 Lewis and Clark traveled with a dog, Captain Lewis's Newfoundland, "Seaman". On November 3, 1805, the two Captains walked the Sandy River Delta. It is not known whether Seaman went with them. If he did it would make him the first American dog to romp in today's Dog Park!!!

"... at 3 miles I arrived at the enterance of a river which appeared to Scatter over a Sand bar, the bottom of which I could See quite across and did not appear to be 4 Inches deep in any part; I attempted to wade this Stream and to my astonishment found the bottom a quick Sand, and impassible -- I called to the Canoes to put to Short. I got into the Canoe and landed below the mouth. & Capt Lewis and my Self walked up this river about 1 1/2 miles to examine this river which we found to be a verry Considerable Stream Dischargeing its waters through 2 Chanels which forms an Island of about 3 miles in length on the river and 1 1/2 miles wide, composed of Corse Sand which is thrown out of this quick Sand river ..." [Clark, November 3, 1805]

Image, 2009, Sandy River, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Sandy River recreation. Image taken June 28, 2009.
Image, 2009, Sandy River, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Sandy River recreation. Image taken June 28, 2009.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 3, 1805 ...




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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:
  • Bonneville Power Administration website, 2006, "Sandy River Delta Habitat Restoration Project, 2001 Annual Report";
  • Portland Hikers Field Guide website, "portlandhikersfieldguide.org", 2009;


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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March 2019