Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Wapato Portage ... Ridgefield NWR, Washington"
Includes ... Wapato Portage ... Cathlapotle Village ... Lake River ... Cathlapotle Plankhouse ... Carty Unit ... Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge ... Carty Lake ... Duck Lake ... Gee Creek ... Campsite of March 29, 1806 ... Oregon White Oak ...
Image, 2009, Ridgefield NWR, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Meadow at Wapato Portage, Ridgefield NWR, Washington. Image taken, October 10, 2009.


Wapato Portage ...
"Wapato Portage" is the location of Lewis and Clark's campsite for March 29, 1806. It was located in a meadow bordering Lake River, upstream of the Chinook tribe's Cathlapotle Village and near "a large pond" which might be today's Carty Lake. All these sites are now located within the Carty Unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.

Long Meadow ...

Captain Clark wrote "... encamped on a butifull grassy place ...".

"... and at 5 oClock reembarked and proceeded up on the N E. of an Island to an inlet about 1 mile above the village and encamped on a butifull grassy plac, where the nativs make a portage of their Canoes and Wappato roots to and from a large pond at a Short distance. ..." [Clark, March 29, 1806]

[More]


Image, 2014, Basalt Cobblestone Quarry, Ridgefield NWR, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Long Meadow, south section looking north, Carty Unit, Ridgefield NWR, Washington. View taken from the approximate location of Wapato Portage. Image taken October 9, 2014.
Image, 2014, Basalt Cobblestone Quarry, Ridgefield NWR, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Long Meadow, south section looking south, Carty Unit, Ridgefield NWR, Washington. View taken from the approximate location of Wapato Portage. Carty Lake (not visible in this image) is on the left and the community of Ridgefield can be seen in the distance. Image taken October 9, 2014.


2,300 Years ...
Wapato Portage, also called 45-CL-4, is a site which dates back at least 2,300 years. The Chinookan people used this site for over two thousand years. A Cathlapotle Village was located just downstream of the Lewis and Clark campsite.

Campsite of March 29, 1806 ...
Lewis and Clark, on their voyage down the Columbia River in 1805, identified a large Chinook village ("Cathlapotle") of 14 houses located at the confluence of the Columbia River, Lake River and the Lewis River. Lewis and Clark estimated that 900 inhabitants lived at the village. The village fronted on Lake River, the channel separating Bachelor Island from the Washington mainland.

"... I observed on the Chanel which passes on the Stard Side of this Island a Short distance above its lower point is Situated a large village, the front of which occupies nearly 1/4 of a mile fronting the Chanel, and closely Connected, I counted 14 houses in front here the river widens to about 1 1/2 miles ..." [Clark, November 5, 1805]

On March 29, 1806, they returned to trade and visit with this village. The men camped on Lake River in a meadow upstream of the village, today an area refered to as "Wapato Portage". This area is within the Carty Unit of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.

Lewis and Clark's previous campsite was on Deer Island, and their campsite of March 30, 1806, was at "Jolie Prairie" at the location of today's Columbia Shores.


One mile or two ??? ...
Captain Lewis wrote the location of their camp was "at the distance of 2 miles we encamped ..."

"... at the distance of three miles above the entrance of the inlet on the N. side behind the lower point of an island we arrived at the village of the Cath-lah-poh-tle wich consists of 14 large wooden houses. here we arrived at 3 P. M. ...    after remaining at this place 2 hours we set out & continued our rout between this island, which we now call Cath-lah-poh-tle after the nation, and the Lard shore. at the distance of 2 miles we encamped in a small prarie on the main shore, having traveled 19 miles by estimate.    the river rising fast ..." [Lewis, March 29, 1806]

Captain Clark wrote "an inlet about 1 mile above the village and encamped on a butifull grassy place ...".

"... at 3 oClock P. M. we arived at the Quath lah pah tle Village of 14 Houses on main Shore to the N E. Side of a large island. ...    we purchased wappatoe and Some pashaquar roots. ...    and at 5 oClock reembarked and proceeded up on the N E. of an Island to an inlet about 1 mile above the village and encamped on a butifull grassy plac, where the nativs make a portage of their Canoes and Wappato roots to and from a large pond at a Short distance.    in this pond the nativs inform us they Collect great quantities of pappato, which the womin collect by getting into the water, Sometimes to their necks holding by a Small canoe and with their feet loosen the wappato or bulb of the root from the bottom from the Fibers, and it imedeately rises to the top of the water, they Collect & throw them into the Canoe, those deep roots are the largest and best roots. Great numbers of the whistling Swan, Gees and Ducks in the Ponds. ..." [Clark, March 29, 1806]

Gass wrote:

"... The morning was pleasant with some white frost and we proceeded on early; passed some old Indian lodges, and in the afternoon came to a large village, where we were received with great kindness, and got fish and wapto roots to eat. Here we bought some dogs and waptos, and then went on again, about a mile and encamped. ..." [Gass, March 29, 1806]

Ordway commented that the prairie of their "handsom Green" campsite was at one time a village.

"... towards evening we proceed. on a Short distance further and Camped on a handsom Green where had once been a village. ..." [Ordway, March 29, 1806]

Whitehouse wrote:

"... Towards evening we proceeded on our Voyage, & went a short distance & encamped at a handsome green where their had formerly been an old Indian Village; laying on the So side of the River. ..." [Whitehouse, March 29, 1806]

Image, 2009, Ridgefield NWR, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Location of Wapato Portage, Ridgefield NWR, Washington. Image taken, October 10, 2009.
Image, 2014, Long Meadow, Carty Unit, Ridgefield NWR, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Long Meadow at Wapato Portage, Carty Unit, Ridgefield NWR, Washington. Image taken October 9, 2014.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 5, 1805 ...
Rained all the after part of last night, rain continues this morning, I [s]lept but verry little last night [Post Office Lake, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge] for the noise Kept dureing the whole of the night by the Swans, Geese, white & Grey Brant Ducks &c. on a Small Sand Island [one of the islands of the Ridgefield Refuge] close under the Lard. Side; they were emensely noumerous, and their noise horid- we Set out <at about Sun rise> early here the river is not more than 3/4 of a mile in width, passed a Small Prarie on the Stard. Side [quite possibly the location of today's Campbell Lake] passed 2 houses about 1/2 a mile from each other on the Lard. Side a Canoe came from the upper house, with 3 men in its mearly to view us, passed an Isld. Covered with tall trees & green briers [Bachelor Island] Seperated from the Stard. Shore by a narrow Chanel [Lake River or Bachelor Island Slough] at 9 [8?] miles I observed on the Chanel [Lake River or Bachelor Island Slough] which passes on the Stard Side of this Island [Bachelor Island] a Short distance above its lower point is Situated a large village [Cathlapotle Village, near where Lewis and Clark camped on March 29, 1806, a place now known as Wapato Portage], the front of which occupies nearly 1/4 of a mile fronting the Chanel, and closely Connected, I counted 14 houses in front here the river widens to about 1 1/2 miles. ...    about 1 1/2 miles below this village on the Lard Side behind a rockey Sharp point [Warrior Point, Sauvie Island], we passed a Chanel 1/4 of a mile wide [Multnomah Channel] which I take to be the one the Indian Canoe entered yesterday from the lower point of Immage Canoe Island [Hayden Island, at this point Lewis and Clark had not discovered Hayden Island and Sauvie Island were two separate islands]     a Some low clifts of rocks below this Chanel [St. Helens, Oregon], a large Island Close under the Stard Side opposit [Lewis River floodplain, home of Woodland, Washington, possibly more of an "island" in 1805 ???], and 2 Small Islands, below [today's Burke and Martin Islands], here we met 2 canoes from below,- below those Islands a range of high hills form the Stard. Bank of the river [Martin Bluff], the Shore bold and rockey, Covered with a thick groth of Pine     an extensive low Island [Deer Island], Seperated from the Lard side by a narrow Chanel, on this Island we Stoped to Dine I walked out found it open & covered with <Small> grass interspersed with Small ponds, in which was great numbr. of foul, the remains of an old village on the lower part of this Island, I saw Several deer ...     below the lower point of this Island [Deer Island] a range of high hills which runs S. E. forms the Lard. bank of the river the Shores bold and rockey & hills Covered with pine, [Lewis and Clark are passing Goble, Oregon, and the area around the Trojan Nuclear Power Facility     The high hills leave the river on the Stard. Side a high bottom between the hill & river [Kalama, Washington]. We met 4 Canoes of Indians from below, in which there is 26 Indians, one of those Canoes is large, and ornimented with Images on the bow & Stern. That in the Bow the likeness of a Bear, and in Stern the picture of a man- we landed on the Lard. Side & camped [near Prescott Beach, Oregon] a little below the mouth of a creek [Kalama River] on the Stard. Side a little below the mouth of which is an Old Village which is now abandaned-;     here the river is about one and a half miles wide. and deep, The high Hills which run in a N W. & S E. derection form both banks of the river the Shore boald and rockey, the hills rise gradually & are Covered with a thick groth of pine &c. The valley [Columbian Valley] which is from above the mouth of Quick Sand River [Sandy River] to this place may be computed at 60 miles wide on a Derect line, & extends a great Distanc to the right & left rich thickly Covered with tall timber, with a fiew Small Praries bordering on the river and on the Islands; Some fiew Standing Ponds & Several Small Streams of running water on either Side of the river; This is certainly a fertill and a handsom valley, at this time Crouded with Indians. The day proved Cloudy with rain the greater part of it, we are all wet cold and disagreeable- I saw but little appearance of frost in this valley which we call <Wap-pa-too Columbia> from the root or plants growing Spontaniously in this valley only ...     We made 32 miles to day by estimation-






Clark, March 29, 1806 ...
we Set out very early this morning [from their camp on Deer Island] and proceeded to the head of deer island [Deer Island, Oregon] and took brackfast. the morning was very cold wind Sharp and keen off the rainge of Mountains to the East Covered with snow [Cascade Mountain Range]. the river is now riseing very fast and retards our progress very much as we are compelled to keep out at Some distance in the Curent to clear the bushes, and fallin trees and drift logs makeing out from the Shore. dureing the time we were at Brackfast a Canoe with three Indians of the Clan-nar-min-na-mon Nation came down, ...     they reside on Wappato Inlet [Multnomah Channel] which is on the S W. side about 12 miles above our encampment of the last night [Deer Island] and is about 2 miles from the lower point, four other Tribes also reside on the inlet and Sluce which passes on the South W. Side of the Island [Sauvie Island], ...    we proceeded on to the lower point of the Said island [Sauvie Island] accompanied by the 3 Indians, & were met by 2 canoes of nativs of the quath-lah-pah-tal who informed us that the chanel to the N E of the Island [Sauvie Island, the other channel being today's Multnomah Channel] was the proper one. we prosued their advice and Crossed into the mouth of the Chah-wah-na-hi-ooks River [Lewis River] which is about 200 yards wide and a great portion of water into the columbia at this time it being high. The indians inform us that this river is crouded with rapids after Some distance up it. Several tribes of the Hul-lu-et-tell Nation reside on this river. at 3 oClock P. M. we arived at the Quath lah pah tle Village [Cathlapotle Village, today within the Ridgefield NWR, Carty Unit] of 14 Houses on main Shore to the N E. Side of a large island [Bachelor Island]. ...     we purchased wappatoe and Some pashaquar roots.     gave a Medal of the Small Size [Jefferson Peace Medal] to the principal Chief, and at 5 oClock reembarked and proceeded up [on Lake River] on the N E. of an Island [Bachelor Island] to an inlet [??? perhaps drainage from Carty Lake] about 1 mile [Lewis says 2 miles] above the village and encamped on a butifull grassy plac [Wapato Portage], where the nativs make a portage of their Canoes and Wappato roots to and from a large pond at a Short distance [Carty Lake]. in this pond [Carty Lake] the nativs inform us they Collect great quantities of pappato, which the womin collect by getting into the water, Sometimes to their necks holding by a Small canoe and with their feet loosen the wappato or bulb of the root from the bottom from the Fibers, and it imedeately rises to the top of the water, they Collect & throw them into the Canoe, those deep roots are the largest and best roots. Great numbers of the whistling Swan, Gees and Ducks in the Ponds. ...     we made 15 miles to day only.



Lewis, March 29, 1806 ...
We set out early this morning and proceeded along the side of Deer Island [Deer Island]; halted at 10 A. M. near its upper point and breakfasted. here we were joined by three men of the Clan-nah-min-na-mun nation. the upper point of this Island [Deer Island] may be esteemed the lower side or commencement of the Columbian valley. after breakfast we proceeded on and at the distance of 14 miles from our encampment of the last evening [on Deer Island] we passed a large inlet 300 yds in width [Multnomah Channel] this inlet or arm of the river extends itself to the South 10 or 12 M. to the hills on that side of the river and receives the waters of a small creek [Moulton suggest McCarty Creek] which heads with killamucks river [Tillamook River], and that of a bayau which passes out of the Columbia about 20 miles above, the large Island thus formed we call wappetoe island [Sauvie Island] ...     on the North side of the columbia a little above the entrance of this inlet [Multnomah Channel] a considerable river [Lewis River] discharges itself. this stream the natives call the Cah-wh-na-hi-ooks. it is 150 yards wide and at present discharges a large body of water, tho' from the information of the same people it is not navigable but a short distance in consequence of falls and rappids a tribe called the Hul-lu-et-tell reside on this river above it's entr. at the distance of three miles above the entrance of the inlet [Multnomah Channel] on the N. side behind the lower point of an island [Bachelor Island] we arrived at the village of the Cath-lah-poh-tle wich consists of 14 large wooden houses [Cathlapotle Village, located on the Carty Unit, Ridgefield NWR].   here we arrived at 3 P. M. ...    after remaining at this place 2 hours we set out & continued our rout between this island [Bachelor Island] , which we now call Cath-lah-poh-tle after the nation, and the Lard shore. at the distance of 2 miles we encamped in a small prarie on the main shore [Wapato Portage], having traveled 19 miles by estimate.     the river rising fast ..."




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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:    "Plankhouse.org" website, 2005;    U.S. Bureau of Land Management website, 2007;    U.S. Bureau of Land Management website, 2007, "General Land Office Records (GLO)";    U.S. Fish and Wilflife Service brochure, 2004, "Wapato Portage";    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website, 2005, "Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge";   

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 2013