Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Wahkeena Falls and Wahkeena Creek, Oregon"
Includes ... Wahkeena Falls ... Wahkeena Creek ... "Gordon Falls" ... Historic Columbia River Highway ... The Golden Age of Postcards ...
Image, 2013, Wahkeena Falls, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Wahkeena Falls, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken February 19, 2013.


Wahkeena Falls ...
Wahkeena Falls is located on the Oregon side of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 135, and is one of many falls in the Columbia River Gorge which can be seen from the Historic Columbia River Highway. One mile upstream is Multnomah Falls, and downstream is Mist Falls and Benson State Recreation Area. Wahkeena Falls is 242 feet high and is a "tiered" falls, and is located on Wahkeena Creek. These falls were once known as "Gordon Falls" for F.E. Gordon, a pioneer landowner. Confusion arose between Gordon Creek near the Sandy River and Gorton Creek near Cascade Locks. In 1915 the Mazamas were appointed to name points on the Columbia River Highway and clear up confusion of similar names in the area. Wahkeena Falls and Wahkeena Creek were chosen. In 1915 the U.S. Board of Geographic Names made official "Wahkeena Falls". "Wahkeena" comes from the Yakama Tribe and means "most beautiful". A short trail links it with Multnomah Falls.

Wahkeena Creek ...
(to come)

Image, 2013, Wahkeena Creek, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Wahkeena Creek, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken February 19, 2013.


Wahkeena Falls in 1940 ...
From the Oregon State Archives "A 1940 Journey Across Oregon":

"... WAHKEENA (Ind. most beautiful) FALLS, 159.6 m., named for the daughter of a Yakima Indian chief, are considered by some the most beautiful of the many falls in the gorge. There is no sheer drop, but the waters hurl themselves in a series of fantastic cascades down the steep declivity. Wahkeena Creek has its source in Wahkeena Springs only a mile and a half above the cliff over which the waters plunge. ..."


Image, 2013, Wahkeena Falls, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Wahkeena Falls, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken February 19, 2013.


Wahkeena Falls, etc.

  • Historic Columbia River Highway ...
  • Portland Rotary Wheel ...
  • Simon Benson Plaque ...
  • Wahkeena Creek Bridge ...
  • Wahkeena Falls Footbridge ...
  • Wahkeena Falls Recreation Site ...


Historic Columbia River Highway ...
Wahkeena Falls is located one-half mile west of the more-famous Multnomah Falls, both of which are located on the Historic Columbia River Highway.

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


Portland Rotary Wheel ...
Portland Rotary Club Bronze Fountain Artwork (1916, 1985, 2014), was originally installed at Wahkeena Falls, moved in 1985 to Horsetail Falls, and then about 2014 moved back to Wahkeena Falls.

"The Portland chapter of Rotary International dedicated this large bronze cog, the symbol of the organization, at Wahkeena Falls in 1916. It was the centerpiece of a large fountain. In 1985, the artwork was installed at Horsetail Falls, without its fountain base. The legend on one side of the cog reads "Portland Rotary Club 1916". On the reverse, the legend read the organization's motto, "He Profits Most Who Serves Best"." [National Historic Landmark Nomination Form, 1996]

Image, 2015, Wahkeena Falls, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Portland Rotary Wheel at Wahkeena Falls, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken October 22, 2015.


Simon Benson Plaque ...
Simon Benson Memorial Plaque (1940s):

Image, 2013, Simon Benson plaque, HCRH, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Simon Benson plaque, Wahkeena Falls, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken February 19, 2013.


Wahkeena Creek Bridge ...
Wahkeena Creek Bridge (1914):

"This small structure is a 14-foot reinforced concrete slab bridge. [National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, 1983]

"This 18-foot bridge is a simple reinforced-concrete slab span." [National Historic Landmark Nomination Form, 1996]

Penny Postcard, Columbia River Highway, Oregon, 1911
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: "Columbia River Highway Bridge at Gordon Falls", postmarked 1917.
Penny Postcard postmarked August 1917. Published by Louis Scheiner, Portland, Oregon. Card #4577. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Image, 2015, Wahkeena Falls, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Bridge over Wahkeena Creek, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken October 22, 2015.


Wahkeena Falls Footbridge ...
Wahkeena Falls Footbridge and Masonry Guard Walls (1914):

"The pedestrian footbridge is located at the base of Wahkeena Falls on the Larch Mountain Trail. The bridge is 46 feet long and 8 feet wide. The small concrete brige contains a semi-circular barrel arch with an opening of 14 feet. The bridge is covered with rubble masonry. The bridge was donated by Simon Benson, who gave the falls area to the city of Portland." [National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, 1983]

"This rubble masonry footbridge is 46 feet long and 8 feet wide and contains a semi-circular barrel arch with a 14-foot opening. The masonry guard walls, with concrete caps, continue east and west of the bridge for some distance. Simon Benson paid for the bridge's construction, as he did for the Multnomah Falls Footbridge." [National Historic Landmark Nomination Form, 1996]

Penny Postcard, Wahkeena Falls, Columbia River Highway, Oregon, ca.1920
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Wahkeena Falls, Columbia River Highway, Oregon, ca.1920.
Penny Postcard, ca.1920, "Wah-Kee-Na Falls, Columbia River Highway, Oregon.". Published by Chas. S. Lipschuetz Company, Portland, Oregon. Card #307. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Image, 2013, Wahkeena Falls, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Wahkeena Falls with walking bridge, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken February 19, 2013.


Wahkeena Falls Recreation Area ...
Wahkeena Falls Recreation Site/Area (created 1915):

"This recreation site, now part of Mount Hood National Forest, began as a private donation from Simon Benson." [National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, 1983]

"Simon Benson purchased a 400-acre tract, which included Wahkeena Falls, and deeded it to the city of Portland in 1915 for use as a park. Subsequently, the land was divided between the Oregon State Parks Division and the USDA Forest Service to become Benson State Park (near Multnomah Falls) and the Wahkeena Falls Recreation Area. In the 1930s, the Forest Service developed land north of the CRH into a day-use area as part of a Civilian Conservation Corps projet to improve its facilities in the Gorge." [National Historic Landmark Nomination Form, 1996]

Image, 2015, Wahkeena Falls, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Sign, Wahkeena Falsl, Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregon. Image taken October 22, 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, Wahkeena Falls, Columbia River Highway, Oregon, ca.1920
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Wahkeena Falls, Columbia River Highway, Oregon, ca.1920.
Penny Postcard, ca.1920, "Wah-Kee-Na Falls, Columbia River Highway, Oregon.". Published by Wesley Andrews Co., Portland, Oregon. Card #839. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Columbia River Highway, Oregon, 1911
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: "Columbia River Highway Bridge at Gordon Falls", postmarked 1917.
Penny Postcard postmarked August 1917. Published by Louis Scheiner, Portland, Oregon. Card #4577. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Wahkeena Falls, Columbia River Highway, Oregon, ca.1920
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Wahkeena Falls, Columbia River Highway, Oregon, ca.1920.
Penny Postcard, ca.1920, "Wah-Kee-Na Falls, Columbia River Highway, Oregon.". Published by Chas. S. Lipschuetz Company, Portland, Oregon. Card #307. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

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 [Skamania and Skamania Landing], which is Situated between 2 Small Creeks [Woodward 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 Pierce National Wildlife Refuge and Franz National Wildlife Refuge]. ...     we encamped under a high projecting rock on the Lard. Side [Rooster Rock],     here the mountains leave the river on each Side, which from the great Shute to this place is high and rugid [Columbia River Gorge, including Bridal Veil, Cape Horn, Yeon Mountain and St. Peters Dome, Oneonta Bluffs, Basalts at Multnomah and Horsetail Falls]; 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]-





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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:    McArthur, L.A., and McArthur, L.L., 2003, Oregon Geographic Names, Oregon Historical Society Press;    Oregon State Archives website, 2009, "A 1940 Journey Across Oregon";    U.S. Forest Service website, 2005, "Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area";    U.S. Geological Survey's Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) website, 2006;    Waterfalls of the Pacific Northwest website, 2005;   

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.
June 2015