Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Vancouver Lake Lowlands"
Includes ... Vancouver Lake Lowlands ... Hudson's Bay Company ... "Lower Plain" ... Blurock Landing ... Caterpillar Island ... Frenchman's Bar Park ... Knapp Landing ... Lake River ... Lower River Road ... Round Lake ... Rufener's Pond (Elmer's Pond, Lower River Road Pond) ... Shillapoo Lake ... Shillapoo Wildlife Area ... Vancouver Lake ...
Image, 2015, Lower River Road Pond, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
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Rufener's Pond, "Lower River Road Pond", Vancouver, Washington. View from moving car on Lower River Road. Image taken July 13, 2015.


"Rufener's Pond" is also known as "Elmer's Pond" or the "Lower River Road Pond".


Vancouver Lake Lowlands ...
In 1825 the Hudson's Bay Company's established Fort Vancouver, located at Columbia River Mile (RM) 106.5, on the Washington (north) side of the river. As the Fort and developing community around the fort grew it utilized open plains and prairies for cultivation and livestock. Eventually, as the Fort declined, settlers moved into these open areas and took up homesteading. One of these Plains was "Lower Plain", now referred to as the "Vancouver Lake Lowlands".

Vancouver Plains and Prairies ...
From: Fort Vancouver National Historic Site Cultural Landscape Report, 1992:

  • ["Existing Conditions"] ... "At its height in the 1840s, Fort Vancouver consisted of thousands of acres of forests and plains, extending for twenty-five miles along the Columbia River, and stretching north from the river for distances varying from four to fifteen miles. Principal operations took place on three large natural plains named Fort Plain, Lower Plain, and Mill Plain. Five additional plains, First Plain, Second Plain, Third Plain, Fourth Plain, and Camas Plain (referred to as the Back Plains), located north and east of the three large plains, were also periodically farmed."


Additionally, a smaller Fifth Plain northeast of Fourth Plain was used for grazing, and there was the Prairie du The ("Tea Prairie"), located southeast of the Camas Plain (east of today's towns of Camas and Washougal).

The three lower plains (Fort, Lower, and Mill) corresponded to natural river terraces that stepped down toward the Columbia River and created a series of open spaces surrounded by a fairly dense fir forest. The six upper plains (First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Camas) were small open pasture areas initially used by the Indians and located on the flats above the Columbia River terraces.

Today the names "Mill Plain" and "Fourth Plain" still exist as east-west road names, and there is a small north/south creek crossing Fourth Plain Road east of the community of Orchards which is called "Fifth Plain Creek". "Lower Plain", now locally known as the "Vancouver Lake Lowlands", is a mixture of farming and light industry. It is popular with area birders.

[More]


Image, 2017, Vancouver Lake Lowlands, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
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Field, Vancouver Lake Lowlands, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken July 13, 2015.


1800s "Lower Plain" ...
Fort Vancouver's "Lower Plain" is known today as the Vancouver Lake Lowlands. According to the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site Cultural Landscape Report (1992):

  • [1829-1846] ... "Lower Plain, west and northwest of Fort Plain, was an immense open plain, roughly triangular in shape, bounded on the east by the finger of forest separating it from Fort Plain; the forest extended to the northern edge of the plain. In the north of the plain was "Big Lake," (now Vancouver Lake) a somewhat circular lake, approximately two miles in diameter at that time, from which the "Lake River" sprang, forming the northwest boundary of the plain as it ran to the Columbia River, which formed the south and southwest edge of the plain. A finger of the lake extended south (it shows southeast on the 1844 map), forming a narrow strip of open meadow to the east of it, between one-half and three-quarters of a mile in width, in which fenced fields were laid out, certainly by the mid 1830s. Throughout most of this period, cattle, horses and sheep were pastured in the unfenced open plain, which stretched in a narrow band between river and forest for miles down river to the junction with the Lewis River. There were two more lakes on the plain: Chalifoux Lake, and another, smaller lake to the north of it. In the southeast corner, a dairy, with enclosures and structures, and a piggery with enclosures and structures, and several cultivated fields along the river were located."

  • [1829-1846] ... "Lower Plain was bounded on the east by a stretch of forest and undergrowth extending from the forests of the north to the riverbank, immediately west of Fort Plain and Kanaka Village, about a mile and one-half from the stockade. It ran for about three-quarters of a mile in a narrow band along the river, and then broadened to three or more miles in width, to the southern tip of Big (Vancouver) Lake. A string of narrow lakes formed the northerly border of this narrow band, north of which was an open meadow on which the Company, fairly early on, established a farm called West Plain Farm, generally considered part of Lower Plain. The plain encompassed two smaller lakes beyond Big Lake--Chalifoux and Wapato Lakes--and continued north in a narrow strip to the mouth of the Cathlapootl (Lewis) River. Even Company employees were not certain of the extent of their claim on Lower Plain: in later testimony Dugald Mactavish said at one point that the frontage of Lower Plain ran for ten miles down river, and at another time, said five miles. seems likely that the Company considered any land south and east of the Lake River within its boundaries."

  • [1829-1846] ... "Functionally, the Lower Plain had two uses in its early years of development: the West Plain farm, which contained cultivated fields, and the remainder of the plain, which was used to pasture cattle, horses, some sheep and pigs, and, apparently, goats. By 1844, the narrow stretch of the plain just west of the forest separating Lower Plain from Fort Plain had been developed to include cultivated fields, a piggery and a dairy."

  • [1847-1860] ... "The 1859 Covington map indicates squatters had subdivided, and cultivated and enclosed any cultivable land in the Lower Plain. Amos Short's claim was in the vicinity of the Company's former dairy. To the north, encompassing the former West Plain farm, partially demolished by the 1844 fire, were a string of cultivated fields with barns and houses, following the pattern of cultivation established by the Company, up to the northern pastures bordering what is now Lake Vancouver. To the northwest, along the river edge, was another series of cultivated fields, barns and houses, primarily on lands formerly cultivated by the Company. The claimants to these lands included those listed by McKinlay, including former Company employees, as well as several others."

Views ...

Image, 2015, Fifth Plain Creek, Clark County, Washington, click to enlarge
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Lower River Road, looking north, Vancouver Lake Lowlands, Clark County, Washington. Image taken July 13, 2015.
Image, 2014, Mount St. Helens, Vancouver Lake, Washington,  click to enlarge
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Mount St. Helens, Washington, from Vancouver Lake, Washington. Image taken December 1, 2014.
Image, 2007, Caterpillar Island, click to enlarge
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Langsdorf Landing boat ramp (also known as the Shillapoo ramp) across from Caterpillar Island, Vancouver Lake Lowlands, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken September 22, 2007.
Image, 2017, Vancouver Lake Lowlands, Washington, click to enlarge
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Canada Thistle and Bee, Vancouver Lake Lowlands, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken June 28, 2017.


Vancouver Lake Lowlands, etc.

  • Blurock Landing ...
  • Caterpillar Island ...
  • Frenchman's Bar Park ...
  • Knapp Landing ...
  • Lake River ...
  • Lower River Road ...
  • Lower River Road Longhorns ...
  • Round Lake ...
  • Rufener's Pond (Elmer's Pond, Lower River Road Pond) ...
  • Shillapoo Lake ...
  • Shillapoo Wildlife Area ...
  • Vancouver Lake ...


Blurock Landing ...
Blurock Landing is located on the Washington State side of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 100.5. Downstream is Hewlett Point and Vancouver's Frenchman's Bar Park, and upstream is Mathews Point, also known as Lieutenant Broughton's "Parting Point". Blurock Landing is located at the mouth of Vancouver Lake's flushing channel. Vancouver Lake lies to the east. Across the Columbia River on the Oregon side is Kelley Point and Kelley Point Park, the mouth of the Willamette River, and Sauvie Island's "Belle Vue Point".
[More]

Image, Belle Vue Point, Sauvie Island, Oregon
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Columbia River and Belle Vue Point, Sauvie Island, Oregon, as seen from Blurock Landing, Washington. Image taken July 1, 2009.


Caterpillar Island ...
Caterpillar Island is located at Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 98. The island is a long not-too-wide island separated from Shillapoo Wildlife Area by a narrow slough known as "Fisherman's Slough". Upstream of Caterpillar Island on the Washington side is Frenchman's Bar Park, Hewlett Point, and Blurock Landing while downstream is Tina Bar, where, in February 1980, some of skyjacker D.B. Cooper's money was found, and the Fazio Brothers Sand Company. Further downstream is Knapp Point and Knapp Landing. Kadow's Marina and Langsdorf Landing are located on the Washington mainland across from Caterpillar island and Sauvie Island is located on the Oregon side across the Columbia. Caterpillar Island is managed by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (2002 information), and it's four picnic sites are accessible only by boat.
[More]

Image, 2007, Caterpillar Island, click to enlarge
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Caterpillar Island, Washington, with "boxy boat". Image taken September 22, 2007.
Image, 2007, Caterpillar Island, click to enlarge
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Caterpillar Island and Fisherman's Slough. View from Shillapoo area boat ramp. Image taken September 22, 2007.


Frenchman's Bar Park ...
Frenchman's Bar and Frenchman's Bar Park are located on the Washington side of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 100.5. The area was named after Paul Haury, a French sailor who jumped ship in British Columbia and later bought land in the area west of Vancouver. Sauvie Island, Kelley Point, and the mouth of the Willamette River are visible across the Columbia from the beaches of Frenchman's Bar. Upstream is Hewlett Point and Blurock Landing and downsteam is Caterpillar Island. The area of Frenchman's Bar and Caterpillar Island was at once time known as "Upper Willow Bar", with nearby Sauvie Island's Willow Bar Islands being the "Lower Willow Bar". Vancouver Lake lies two miles east, and is connected to Frenchman's Bar by a formal trail.
[More]

Image, 2005, Frenchman's Bar Park, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
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Frenchman's Bar Park, Vancouver, Washington. View of the southern end of the park. Image taken July 3, 2005.


Knapp Point and Knapp Landing ...
Knapp Point and Knapp Landing are located at Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 95 and RM 95.5, respectively. Upstream (south) of Knapp Point and Knapp Landing is Caterpillar Island and the Shillapoo Wildlife Area. Downstream (north) of Knapp Point and Knapp Landing is Fales Landing, and the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. Due east is Post Office Lake and west, across the Columbia on the Oregon side are the Willow Bar Islands, on the eastern side of Sauvie Island.
[More]

Image, 2009, Columbia River near Knapp Landing, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
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Columbia River near Knapp Landing, Vancouver, Washington. View looking downstream. Sauvie Island is on the opposite shore of the Columbia. Image taken July 1, 2009.
Image, 2015, Barns, Lower River Road, Knapp Landing, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
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Barns on Lower River Road near Knapp Landing, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken July 13, 2015.


Lake River ...
[More]

Image, 2015, Lake River, Ridgefield, Washington, click to enlarge
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Lake River (upper water) as seen from NW Krieger Road, Ridgefield, Washington. Swampy ponds are visible in the middle ground. Image taken February 13, 2015.


Lower River Road ...
(to come)

Image, 2014, Lower River Road, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
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Lower River Road, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken November 9, 2014.
Image, 2009, Vancouver Lake Lowlands, click to enlarge
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Vancouver Lake Lowlands. Image taken January 2, 2009.
Image, 2015, Lower River Road, Knapp Landing, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
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Lower River Road closure, Vancouver, Washington. Beginning in 2015 Lower River Road closed approximately one mile before Knapp Landing, due to Columbia River erosion of the banks along the road. Image taken June 6, 2015.


Lower River Road Longhorns ...
(to come)

Image, 2014, Lower River Road, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
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Longhorn Cattle, Lower River Road, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken November 1, 2014.
Image, 2014, Lower River Road, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
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Longhorn Cattle, Lower River Road, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken November 1, 2014.
Image, 2014, Lower River Road, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
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Longhorn Cattle, Lower River Road, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken November 1, 2014.


Round Lake ...
Round Lake is a small lake located on the Vancouver Lake Lowlands just north of Shillapoo Lake, south of Post Office Lake, and west of Lake River. The lake is named on the 1896/1905 U.S. Geological Survey 1/62,000 topographic "Portland Quadrangle" map.

Image, 2017, Round Lake, Vancouver Lake Lowlands, Washington, click to enlarge
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Round Lake (body of water in the distance (middle left), Vancouver Lake Lowlands, Vancouver, Washington. Water in the foreground is flooding from heavy winter rains. Note barbed wire fence nearly under water in the foregound. Image taken June 28, 2017.
Image, 2017, Round Lake, Vancouver Lake Lowlands, Washington, click to enlarge
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Round Lake, Vancouver Lake Lowlands, Vancouver, Washington. View of small lake attached to but just south of Round Lake (as depicted on maps). Image taken September 8, 2017.


Rufener's Pond (Elmer's Pond, Lower River Road Pond) ...
[More]

Image, 2015, Lower River Road, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
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Great Egrets, Lower River Road Pond, Vancouver, Washington. View from moving car on Lower River Road. Image taken July 6, 2015.


Shillapoo Lake ...
Shillapoo Lake is located at Columbia River just upstream of the Ridgeport Dairy (Post Office Lake) Unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, and north of Vancouver Lake. A slough separates the Shillapoo Lake area from Caterpillar Island. Shillapoo Lake was once a shallow 1,000-acre lake which was drained in the 1950s for farming. Today Shillapoo Lake is a wildlife area, with sections being redeveloped as a lake. Shillapoo and nearby Post Office Lakes are relicts of the natural floodplain of the Columbia River.
[More]

Image, 2008, Scenic, Shillapoo Lake, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
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Scenic, Shillapoo Lake, Vancouver, Washington. Image taken December 16, 2008.


Shillapoo Wildlife Area ...
Shillapoo Wildlife Area, as of 2008, is a 2,370-acre habitat is located on the floodplain of the Columbia River in Clark County, southwest Washington. The Wildlife Area was initially established in 1952 with the purchase of 277 acres between Shillapoo Lake and the Columbia River. Today this is part of the Wildlife Area's 1,012-acre "South Unit". Included in the South Unit is one of the largest Great Blue Heron rookeries along the Columbia River. The 882-acre "North Unit" includes the northern and eastern portions of the drained Shillapoo lakebed and approximately 1 1/2 miles of shoreline on Lake River. There is also a third 477-acre "Vancouver Lake Unit" bordering the south side of Vancouver Lake. The Wildlife Area is managed by the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife.
[More]

Image, 2014, Shillapoo Lake Wildlife Area, click to enlarge
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Ring-necked Pheasant. View from Shillapoo Wildlife Area. Image taken September 7, 2014.
Image, 2008, Shillapoo Lake Wildlife Area, click to enlarge
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Northern Flicker. View from Shillapoo Wildlife Area. Image taken October 11, 2008.
Image, 2008, Shillapoo Lake Wildlife Area, click to enlarge
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House Finch, male. View from Shillapoo Wildlife Area. Image taken November 26, 2008.
Image, 2008, Shillapoo Lake Wildlife Area, click to enlarge
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Greater Yellowlegs. Vancouver Lake, view from Shillapoo Wildlife Area. Image taken October 11, 2008.


Vancouver Lake ...
Vancouver Lake is a large, shallow, 2,858-acre lake, measuring 3 miles long and 2 miles wide. It is located on the right bank of the Columbia River, downstream of Vancouver, Washington, and across from the mouth of the Willamette River and Sauvie Island, Oregon. Downstream of Vancouver Lake lie other smaller Washington lakes, such as Shillapoo Lake and Post Office Lake. Vancouver Lake drains into the Columbia River via Lake River, located on the north side of Vancouver Lake. There also is an island at the northern part of the lake, created in the early 1980s as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged the perimeter of the lake.
[More]

Image, 2003, Vancouver Lake, Washington,  click to enlarge
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Vancouver Lake, Washington. Image taken June 29, 2003.
Image, 2010, Vancouver Lake, Washington,  click to enlarge
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Kayak, Vancouver Lake, Washington. Image taken September 14, 2010.
Image, 2008, Vancouver Lake, Washington, click to enlarge
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Common Merganser, female, Vancouver Lake, Washington. Image taken December 16, 2008.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, ...
 




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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:    Fort Vancouver National Historic Site Cultural Landscape Report, 1992;       Vancouver National Historic Reserve Cultural Landscape Report, October 2005, Produced by Jones & Jones Architects and Landscape Architects, Ltd., Seattle, Washington, for the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.;   

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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July 2017