1805 To the Pacific – Between the Long and Short Narrows
As the Corps passed through the Columbia River Gorge, they faced major navigational hazards.
Celilo Falls forced them to make a two-day portage. Just downstream from the falls they encountered
the Long and Short narrows. In between the two narrows is the present-day site of
Columbia Hills State Park.
A large village stood at the site of the state park. On Oct. 24 Clark wrote, "The
nativs of this village reived me verry kindly, one of whome envited me into his house, which
I found to be large and comodious, and the first wooden houses in which Indians have lived
Since we left those in the vicinity of the Illinois, they are…20 feet wide and 30 feet
long with one Dore raised 18 inches above ground…the roofs of them was Supported by
a ridge pole resting on three Strong pieces of Split timber thro' one of which the dore was
Passage through the narrows was dangerous and required great skill, and a certain amount
of luck. Later Clark reflected on the passage: "I thought by good Stearing we could
pass down Safe, accordingly I deturmined to pass through this place notwithstanding the horrid
appearance of this agitated gut Swelling, boiling & whorling in every direction (which from
the top of the rock did not appear as bad as when I was in it;[)] however, we passed Safe to
the astonishment of all the Inds …"
1806 The Return Home – Up the Columbia River, trading for horses
As the members of the Corps pushed their way up the river towards the narrows, the men
began attempts to trade for horses from the local American Indians. Lewis and Clark knew
they could not portage their largest canoes upstream through the narrows and falls. They
needed horses to continue their trip. The local inhabitants had horses, but negotiating for
them was not easy. The American Indians were shrewd traders and knew they had the upper
hand in the bargain.
At the present-day site of Columbia
Hills State Park, Clark arrived with the local chief at sunset.
"After Some Serimony I entered the house of the Chief. I then informed them that
I would trade for their horses in the morning … The Chief Set before me a large
platter of Onions which had been Sweetened," noted Clark. Later, "the
nativs requested the party to dance wich they very readily consented and Peter Cruzat
played on the Violin and the men dance Several dances & retired to rest in the houses of
the 1st and Second Cheif." Over the next few days, many tiresome attempts at
deal-making netted the Corps several horses to help them on their way toward home.
The explorers were impressed by the amount of trade that passed through the villages.
Clark described this stretch of river as "the Great Mart of all this Country."
Indians from all over the Northwest came to trade for "their pounded fish of which
they prepare great quantities."
Past and Present Landscape
Much of Columbia Hills State Park
has looked the same for centuries. Lewis and Clark would recognize the basalt cliffs,
steep slopes of broken rock and dry rolling hills. They would recall the grasses,
beautiful wildflowers and oak trees growing in the creek bottoms. The modern visitor
sees all this and more, including some much-appreciated changes.
An irrigated oasis – complete with shade trees, small campground, restrooms
and picnic areas – welcomes visitors to this otherwise desert-like landscape.
You can enjoy views of the Columbia River, see ancient American Indian petroglyphs
(carvings etched in stone), imagine the Native village and tons of dried fish and
recall the experiences of the Corps of Discovery.
Some changes to the landscape are quite dramatic – the Long and Short narrows
and Celilo Falls are now underwater, submerged by the lake formed behind The Dalles Dam.
Next section of journey history
Return to Lewis and Clark Main Menu