A Lewis & Clark Adventure With Katelyn - Page 1

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Katelyn and Diana Ice Harbor Dam

On August 8th we arrived in Sunnyside, WA with our motor home to pick up granddaughter Katelyn for a vacation excursion that would take us down along the route of the Lewis and Clark "Corps of Discovery" along the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean. We had been planning this and Katelyn had been anticipating this trip for many months. We had previously given her a book on Meriwether Lewis & William Clark and she was prepared and now had some knowledge of these famous explorers. Before leaving, her parents singed a medical release form for us to take with us just in case a problem might occur, and then we headed out down the road toward the tri-cities area. We ended up in Pasco where we stayed at the Sandy Heights RV Park for two nights. In this park there was a nice playground and a nice indoor swimming pool. The swimming pool was a great relief from the stifling heat of the 100-degree days we were experiencing. From this park, we took a long circular tour with the jeep that took us south and eastward and then westward along the routes that Lewis and Clark took. We first stopped at Ice Harbor Dam on the Snake River where we went to the visitor center and saw the fish ladder and the fish that were trying to make their way past the dam. We tried to visualize the party of Lewis and Clark paddling their way down this portion of the Snake River to its junction with the Columbia. We could easily do this when looking at the river water flowing beneath the dam, but of course the water above the dam was like a peaceful lake (Lake Sacajawea). Clark wrote in his journal on October 16, 1805 that this is where they had to portage around a small rapid and then sat down for dinner, "... and having taken Diner Set out and proceeded on Seven miles to the junction of this river and the Columbia which joins from the N. W. ..." passd. a rapid two Islands and a graveley bare, and imediately in the mouth a rapid above an Island.

We then drove further eastward to Lewis and Clark State Park where we looked the area over and then turned around and traveled west and south along the overland Lewis and Clark route. Many people do not realize that Lewis and Clark took this short cut route overland from the Wallua Gap at the Columbia to the Lewiston/Clarkston area on their return journey, instead of retracing their route back via the Snake River. We passed through the towns of Waitsburg, Prescott, Walla Walla, and Touchet. After passing through Walla Walla, we stopped at the Whitman Mission National Historical Site. This is a wonderfully maintained site where the story of the Whitmans and their massacre by Indians is told. These were missionary people of the late 1830's who were some of the first to travel overland along what would become known as the Oregon Trail. They first journeyed as far as Fort Vancouver (the Hudson Bay Company site) across the Columbia River from present day Portland, Oregon and then they went back to establish their mission site near current day Walla Walla. Indians of that time were dying from white man disease and some of them faulted Marcus Whitman when he was unable to cure some of those dying Indians. A band of Indians then decided to take some revenge or retribution.

Sacajawea Museum
Katelyn at marker indicating Lewis and Clarks first campsite on Columbia River

After then leaving Pasco in the motor home, we stopped for a while at Sacajawea State Park at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. This is where Lewis and Clark camped for two days (October 16 and 17, 1805). Clark noted, "In every direction from the junction of those rivers the Countrey is one Continued plain low and rises from the water gradually ... We halted above the point on the river Kimooenim (the Snake River) to smoke with the Indians who had collected there in great numbers to view us ... After smoking with the Indians, we formed a camp at the point where the two rivers unite [at today's Sacajawea State Park], near to which we found some driftwood, and were supplied by our two old chiefs with the stalks of willows and some small bushes for fuel." Those Indians provided them with much information on the surrounding area and on October 17th, Clark took two men in a small canoe and ascended up the Columbia River for several miles to where "the natives showed me the enterance of a large Westerly fork which they Call Tapetett (the Yakima River)". Sacajawea State Park has large open grassy areas with large shade trees making it a nice place to come and picnic. We pulled into a completely empty parking lot and wondered if it was the $5 parking fee that was keeping people away. It is here where there is a museum dedicated to Sacajawea that is run and maintained by volunteers. Sacajawea, of course, is the Indian woman who Lewis and Clark befriended at an Indian village near Mandan, North Dakota and who then accompanied them on their journey. Except in the Northwest, the common spelling of her name is Sacagawea. She, with her baby was instrumental in being an effective guide as well providing a measure of safety for the exploration party. Other Indians that were met along the way concluded that these explorers did not have war like intentions since there was a woman and a baby with them. We spent quite a bit of time at the museum and learned more of Sacajawea and of some of the local history.

Sign describing the town of Ainsworth

We found out that the land just north and adjacent to the park is where the old historic town of Ainsworth used to be located. This town was founded in 1879 when the first railroad line to Portland was being built and workers gathered here to build a railroad bridge across the Snake River. The town was named Ainsworh to honor the railroad tycoon of that name and time. It was interesting for us to find out about this piece of history because Diana's great grandmother was on the first passenger train to cross this bridge and arrive in Portland in September of 1883.

Katelyn and Hat Rock

From Sacajawea Park, we headed south along the Columbia River, entered Oregon, and then stopped at Hat Rock State Park. Hat Rock is mentioned in the Lewis and Clark journals as a particular rock formation situated on the south side of the Columbia River that they had noted while passing on the river. Actually, they had started the morning of October 19, 1805 from their camp near the mouth of the Walla Walla River and traveled 36 miles that day. After the first stretch of paddling the river, the following was written in Clark's journal: " S.W. 14 miles to a rock in a Lard. resembling a hat just below a rapid at the lower Point of an island in the midl: of the river ...". The enlisted men in the party must have recognized the landmark immediately as it looked just like their military issued tall beaver-felt hat called a "round hat" that stood about 5 inches high and had a 2-inch brim. As a side note here, it was discovered that the previous old-fashioned doffing of the hat quickly broke down the stiff, narrow brim of this hat, so the abbreviated gesture of raising the flat of the hand to touch the brim became the accepted gesture of salute. Although it was exceedingly hot for us on this particular day (at least a 100 or more degrees), we found another empty parking lot, locked up the motor home and proceeded up a trail toward the rock. We walked up about a half a mile to the rock, took some pictures with Katelyn and then returned to the motor home.

Katelyn found some Columbia River shells

Soon, we were off again and later came upon McNary Dam where we found an overlook of it and the Columbia River. At this point on the river, Clark wrote on October 19, 1805: "... 1 assended a high clift about 200 feet above the water; from this place I descovered a high mountain of emence hight covered with Snow, this must be one of the mountains laid down by Vancouver, as seen from the mouth of the Columbia River, from the course which it bears which is 'West' I take it to be Mt. St. Helens, [actually Mount Adams]  destant about 120 miles a range of mountains in the Derection crossing a conical mountain S. W. toped with snow [actually Mount Hood]" . A short while later, we were again on the road crossing the Columbia and heading west. Our next stop was Crows Butte park where we found a nice campground to spend the night. While parked in this campground, Diana and Katelyn began to put together a scrapbook of this trip. Clark wrote of this area on October 20, 1805: "... here the high countrey (Crows Butte) Commences again on the Stard. Side leaveing a vallie of 40 miles in width, from the mustle Shel rapid ..." .

Katelyn posing at Stonehenge

The next day after traveling a few more miles, we soon arrived at Maryhill State Park across the river from Biggs, Oregon. On October 22, 1805 Clark wrote of this area, "... A fine morning calm and fare we Set out at 9 oClock passed a verry bad rapid at the head of an Island close under the Stard. Side, above this rapid on the Stard Side (Maryhill State Park) is Six Lodges of nativs Drying fish ...".  We found a good spot to park the motor home, next to a large shade tree, and then we unhooked the jeep to go exploring. We soon found Stonehenge, which is a replica of the mysterious Stonehenge in England, located on a bluff above the Columbia River. This was built by Samuel Hill, son-in-law of the railroad magnate James J. Hill, as a memorial to the dead of World War One from Klickitat County, Washington. Sam Hill was a pioneer advocate of instituting a good road system, a promoter of international peace (he built the Peace Arch at the Canadian border at Blain, Washington), and was a friend of Romanian royalty. We spent quite a bit of time here walking around the stone works in the sweltering heat. While taking pictures, we noticed the grave stone monument of Sam Hill standing alone on the hillside just below and to the right of Stonehenge, about a 100 yards away.

Maryhill Museum Maryhill Museum, looking east

Next, we traveled just a few miles south to the former home of Sam Hill, which is now the Maryhill Museum of Art. In 1907, Sam Hill bought 6,000 acres of land overlooking the Columbia River with the intent of establishing a Quaker agricultural community. Designed by the historic firm of Hornblower & Marshall, Maryhill is constructed of steel I-beams with interior steel studs. The walls, floors, and ceilings are of poured concrete reinforced with steel. He named both his home and his land company Maryhill after his daughter, Mary. In 1926, Hill invited Queen Marie of Romania to dedicate his still unfinished home. Marie felt a deep gratitude toward Hill, who had generously aided Romania after World War I. Thousands of people converged at Maryhill to witness the ceremony. He designed his home to be automobile friendly and it had ramps built at both ends to deliver passengers to either side of the home. If necessary, the autos could enter the home during inclement weather to unload passengers. Covered garages were built under the ramps to hold his and visitor cars. These garages are now also part of the museum, one of which contains a section dedicated to Lewis and Clark.

Katelyn at Maryhill Museum
Lewis & Clark exhibit at Maryhill museum

Here at the museum we saw a display of Native American artifacts that closely resemble those that Lewis and Clark documented and collected from the Columbia River Gorge area, including a flat bag in the Wasco/Wishxam style that is almost identical to one Lewis & Clark acquired while in the area. We continued to explore the museum, including a room dedicated to Sam Hill and his memorabilia, a large room containing all kinds of things from Queen Marie, a room full of Auguste Rodin sculptures, and other rooms full of various art. We also took note that on their return trip on April 22, 1806, some members of the Lewis and Clark party once walked and road horseback across the plateau where this museum sits. They also saw Mount Hood in the distance and saw another snow capped peak, which they named Mount Jefferson (in Oregon) in honor of their president who had sent them on this journey.

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Note: All photos on this site are Copyright © 2006 - 2013 by David Schindele