Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Tenasillahe Island"
Includes ... Tenasillahe Island ... Red Slough ... Columbian White-tailed Deer National Wildlife Refuge ...
Image, 2012, Tenasillahe Island from Puget Island, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Tenasillahe Island as seen from Puget Island. Image taken September 17, 2012.

Tenasillahe Island ...
Tenasillahe Island is located in the middle of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 35, just downstream of Puget Island. The Clifton Channel separates it from the Oregon shore and the mainstream Columbia separates it from the Washington shore and the Julia Butler Hansen Refuge for Columbian White-tailed Deer. Tenasillahe is one of the many islands in the Refuge. On the downstream side of Tenasillahe is located Welch Island, one of the many islands in the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge. The Red Slough separates the two islands.

Early Tenasillahe Island ...
Tenasillahe Island's name is composed of two Chinook-jargon words, "tenas," meaning small, and "illahe," meaning land.

According to "Oregon Geographic Names" (McArthur and McArthur, 2003, Oregon Historical Society):

"Tenasillahe Island (Clatsop) ... The name Tenasillahe is composed of two Chinook jargon words, tenas, meaning small or little, and illahe, meaning land, hence, "little land". There are many ways of spelling Chinook words, but the USBGN, as a matter of standardization, has adopted the form shown at the head of this paragraph. This island is low and marshy in places, which doubtless accounts for the Indian name. Maps prepared by Lewis and Clark show this and other islands nearby in the Columbia River marked marshy islands, but the expression was apparently not used as a geographic name. Lt. W.R. Broughton passed Tenasillahe Island on October 25, 1872, and describes it as a "long, sandy, shallow spit." His report on this part of the Columbia River is not entirely clear, but it may be that he camped on the island that night, as he mentions "the dampness of the situation." Wilkes used the name Kathlamet for this island, a form of Cathlamet."

In 1792 Lieutenant William Broughton, of the George Vancouver expedition, passed by Tenasillahe Island on October 25, 1792.

In 1805 and 1806, Lewis and Clark called Tenasillahe Island and a nearby smaller island (today's Welch Island) the "Marshy Islands", a descriptive name rather than a naming of the islands.

In 1841, Charles Wilkes of the U.S. Exploring Expedition used the name "Katalamet I." for Tenasillahe Island.

The 1856 U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Cadastral Survey (tax survey) map for T9N R6W, shows today's Welch and Tenasillahe Islands, with Tenasillahe Island labeled "Tenas Illahe Island". Welch Island and Red Slough are depicted but not identified.

The 1892 U.S.C. & G.S. Topographic "Columbia River Sheet 3" shows "Tenasillihee I.". On the east side of the island is the "Tenasillihee Fishery".

Edmund S. Meany wrote in "Origin of Washington Geographic Names" (1923, University of Washington Press):

"Tenas Illihee Island ... west of Puget Island in the Columbia River, in the southern part of Wahkiakum County, charted by that name on the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey Chart 6152. The Wilkes Expedition, 1841, charted it as "Katalamet Island." (Hydrography, Volume XXIII, Atlas, chart 70). The Chinook Jargon words Tenas Illihee mean "Little place" or "little home."

In 1893 the U.S. Board of Geographic Names made "Tenasillihee Island" official.

In 1914 the U.S. Board of Geographic Names made "Tenasillahe Island" official, over variants "Tenasillihee", "Tennassillihii", "Tenas Illihee", "Tenas-Illihee", and "Tenasillahe".

Views ...

Image, 2012, Columbia River from Clifton Road, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Columbia River as seen from the Clifton Road, Oregon, with Tenasillahe Island. In the distance Tenasillahe Island is to the left and Puget Island is to the right. The settlements of Clifton would be left (downstream) and Bradwood would be right (upstream). Clifton Channel is in the middleground, left. Jetty visible on right juts off Tenasillahe Island. Image taken September 22, 2012.

Tenasillahe Island, etc.

  • Red Slough ...

Red Slough ...
Red Slough, roughly 1.4 miles long, separates Welch Island from Tenasillahe Island, approximately at Columbia River Mile (RM) 35. The Oregon community of Clifton is located south of Red Slough and the Washington community of Skamokawa is located north of Red Slough.

Red Slough has gone by two names -- "Multnomah Slough" and "Red Slough".

"Multnomah Slough" appeared on maps and charts since the late 1800s. The 1875 "Columbia River Sheet No.2" U.S. Coast Survey Plate No.1299, and the 1878 "Columbia River, Sheet No.3" U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey Chart No.641 show "Multnomah Slough".

"Red Slough" appeared on a 1948 NOAA Chart #6152, and in 1981 a USGS field investigation found "Red Slough" was the name used by residents living in the area. As early as 1885 "Red Slough" ("Red's Slough") was in usage.

"BOAT FOUND. On the 30th of August, between Bay View and Fisherton, one small fishing boat, sail and oars complete. Said boat was drifting down the river with sail set. Owner can have same by proving property and paying charges. John Vantura, Red's Slough, Tenas Illahe Island, August, 31st, 1885." [The Daily Morning Astorian, September 3, 1885, courtesy Historic Oreogn Newspapers Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, 2019]

"On Saturday last Charles Rande, of Klatskanie, Columbia county, came to this city and swore out a complaint charging Peter Marks with stealing a new net and other property, valued at $700, from his, Rande's barn. A warrant was issued by Deputy Prosecuting Attorney C.J. Curtis, for the arrest of Marks, who was then, Rande stated, at Red Slough, near Clifton ... [The Daily Morning Astorian, December 6, 1894, coutesy Historic Oregon Newspapers Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, 2019]

In 1980 the U.S. Board of Geographic Names made "Multnomah Slough" the official name for this slough.

In 1986 the U.S. Board of Geographic Names changed the official name to "Red Slough", citing confusion with "Multnomah Channel", located 60 miles upstream.

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 7, 1805 ...
A cloudy foggey morning Some rain. we Set out [from their camp at Cape Horn, Wahkiakum County, Washington] early proceeded under the Stard Shore under a high rugid hills with Steep assent the Shore boalt and rockey, the fog So thick we could not See across the river [typical for this area in the winter], two Canos of Indians met and returned with us to their village which is Situated on the Stard Side behind a cluster of Marshey Islands [Puget Island and the Hunting Islands] , on a narrow chanl. of the river [Cathlamet Channel] through which we passed to the Village of 4 Houses, [Cathlamet, Washington area] ....

Those people call themselves War-ci--cum ...

after delaying at this village one hour [Cathlamet, Washington area] and a half we Set out piloted by an Indian dressed in a Salors dress, to the main Chanel of the river, the tide being in we Should have found much dificuelty in passing into the main Chanel from behind those islands [Puget Island and the Hunting Islands],     without a pilot, a large marshey Island [Tenasillahe Island] near the middle of the river near which Several Canoes Came allong Side with Skins, roots fish &c. to Sell, and had a temporey residence on this Island, here we See great numbers of water fowls about those marshey Islands; here the high mountanious Countrey approaches the river on the Lard Side [near Clifton, Oregon], a high mountn. to the S W. about 20 miles [Saddle Mountain], the high mountans. Countrey Continue on the Stard Side, about 14 miles below the last village and 18 miles of this day we landed at a village of the Same nation [Skamokawa, Washington]. This village is at the foot of the high hills on the Stard Side back of 2 Small Islands [today, Price Island lies between Skamokawa and the Columbia River] it contains 7 indifferent houses built in the Same form of those above, ... opposit to this Village the high mountaneous Countrey leave the river on the Lard Side [downstream of Aldrich Point] below which the river widens into a kind of Bay [Cathlamet Bay] & is Crouded with low Islands Subject to be Covered by the tides [today this is the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge, part of the Lower Columbia River Estuary] - we proceeded on about 12 miles below the Village [Skamokawa] under a high mountaneous Countrey on the Stard. Side. Shore boald and rockey and Encamped under a high hill [ridge of Jim Crow Point] on the Stard. Side opposit to a rock [Pillar Rock] Situated half a mile from the Shore, about 50 feet high and 20 feet Diamieter,     we with dificuelty found a place Clear of the tide and Sufficiently large to lie on and the only place we could get was on round Stones on which we lay our mats rain Continud. moderately all day & Two Indians accompanied us from the last village, they we detected in Stealing a knife and returned, our Small Canoe which got Seperated in the fog this morning joined us this evening from a large Island Situated nearest the Lard Side below the high hills on that Side, the river being too wide to See either the form Shape or Size of the Islands on the Lard Side [part of the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge].

Great joy in camp we are in View of the Ocian [Clark's famous "Ocian in view! O! the Joy"], this great Pacific Octean [Pacific Ocean] which we been So long anxious to See. and the roreing or noise made by the waves brakeing on the rockey Shores (as I Suppose) may be heard distictly

we made 34 miles to day as Computed

Journey to the PacificReturn 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

  • Historic Oregon Newspapers Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, 2019;
  • McArthur, L.A., and McArthur, L.L., 2003, "Oregon Geographic Names", Oregon Historical Society Press;
  • Meany, E.S., 1923, "Origin of Washington Geographic Names", University of Washington Press;
  • U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) database, 2006, 2019;
  • 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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August 2016