Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Whitcomb Island, Washington"
Includes ... Whitcomb Island ... Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge ... Whitcomb ...
Image, 2005, Whitcomb Island, Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Whitcomb Island, Washington, Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge: View of the shoreline of the slough separating Whitcomb Island from the Washington shore. Image taken May 24, 2005.


Whitcomb Island ...
Whitcomb Island is located on the Washington side of the Columbia River and streatches from River Mile (RM) 255 to RM 270. Canoe Ridge rises above the island on the north, and the Blalock Islands are upstream. Boardman, Oregon lies directly across the Columbia. Whitcomb Island is part of the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge. The island is approximately 5 miles long by 2 miles wide and can be reached by from Washington State Highway 14.

Image, 2004, Canoe Ridge, Washington, from Tower Road, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Canoe Ridge, Washington, and Whitcomb Island: Canoe Ridge, Washington, as seen from Tower Road, Oregon. Whitcomb Island is barely discernable along the shoreline (green at base of Canoe Ridge). Image taken September 24, 2004.


Whitcomb ...
Whitcomb is located at the base of Canoe Ridge on the Washington side of the Columbia River at River Mile (RM) 265. According to Robert Hitchman in Place Names of Washington (1985):
"... Settlement, 1 1/4 miles north of Columbia River, on the side side of Canoe Ridge, extreme southwest Benton County. The original name, Luzon, was changed to the present name at the suggestion of 2 landowners, James A Moore and G. Henry Whitcomb, in honor of the latter. ..."
Current topo maps show Whitcomb located off of Washington State Highway 14 at the base of Canoe Rige, but only about 1/4 mile from the Columbia. The crossing to get to Whitcomb Island is approximately 2 miles yet upstream.

Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge ...
The 25,347-acre Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1969 for wildlife habitat lost to flooding caused by the construction of the John Day Lock and Dam. The Refuge consists of 6 units. The Boardman Unit is accessed from the Tower Road exit off Highway 84 approximately 3 miles west of the town of Boardman, Oregon. The McCormack Unit is located 3 miles south of Highway 730 off of Paterson Ferry Road near Irrigon, Oregon. The Paterson, Ridge, and Whitcomb Island Units are all accessed from Washington State Highway 14. The Columbia River Unit is accessible by boat.
[More]

Views of Whitcomb Island ...

Image, 2005, Whitcomb Island, Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Whitcomb Island, Washington, Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge: View is looking upstream along the slough which separates Whitcomb Island (right) from the Washington shore (left). Image taken May 24, 2005.
Image, 2005, Whitcomb Island, Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Whitcomb Island, Washington, Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge: View is looking downstream along the slough which separates Whitcomb Island (left) from the Washington shore (right). Whitcomb Island is part of the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Image taken May 24, 2005.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, October 20, 1805 ...
A cool morning wind S. W. we concluded to delay untill after brackfast which we were obliged to make on the flesh of dog. after brackfast we gave all the Indian men Smoke, and we Set out leaveing about 200 of the nativs at our Encampment [near Irrigon, Oregon]; passd. three Indian Lodges on the Lard Side a little below our Camp [Irrigon, Oregon] which lodges <we> I did not discover last evening, passed a rapid at Seven miles one at a Short distance below we passed a verry bad rapid, a chane or rocks makeing from the Stard. Side and nearly Chokeing the river up entirely with hugh black rocks [Lewis and Clark called these rapids "Pelican Rapids"] an Island below close under the Stard. Side on which was four Lodges of Indians drying fish,- here I Saw a great number of pelicons on the wing, and black Comerants [American White Pelicans and Double-crested Cormorants]. at one oClock we landed on the lower point of <Some> an Island at Some Indian Lodges, a large Island on the Stard Side nearly opposit and a Small one a little below on the Lard Side on those three Island I counted Seventeen Indian Lodges, ...

[Lewis and Clark are passing through the Blalock Islands area. Today most of the islands are beneath the waters of Lake Umatilla, the reservoir behind the John Day Dam. In this vicinity are today's Boardman, Whitcomb Island, Canoe Ridge, slightly downstream is Crow Butte and historic Castle Rock, along with the many lands of the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge.]

after diner we proceeded on to a bad rapid at the lower point of a Small Island on which four Lodges of Indians were Situated drying fish; here the high countrey Commences again on the Stard. Side [Alder Ridge] leaveing a vallie of 40 miles in width, from the mustle Shel rapid [Umatilla Rapids at the McNary Dam]. examined and passed this rapid close to the Island at 8 miles lower passed a large Island near the middle of the river a brook on the Stard. Side [Alder Creek] and 11 Islds. all in view of each other below, a riverlit [Willow Creek] falls in on the Lard. Side behind a Small Island a Small rapid below. The Star Side is high rugid hills [Alder Ridge], the Lard. Side a low plain and not a tree to be Seen in any Direction except a fiew Small willow bushes which are Scattered partially on the Sides of the bank

The river to day is about 1/4 of a mile in width; this evening the Countrey on the Lard. Side [area around Arlington, Oregon] rises to the hight of that on the Starboard Side [ridge above Roosevelt], and is wavering- we made 42 <days> miles to day [to Roosevelt, Washington]; the current much more uniform than yesterday or the day before. Killed 2 Speckle guls Severl. ducks of a delicious flavour.





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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:    Hitchman, R., 1985, Place Names of Washington, Washington State Historical Society;   

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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September 2008