83. Confluence, Snake and Columbia Rivers

Burbank, Washington

View northwest, up the Columbia

Two large, slackwater rivers converge in the desert

© 2000 Airphoto—Jim Wark

Welcoming Fanfare

In the afternoon of 16 October 1805, the expedition portaged aroud "the last bad rapid as the Indians Sign to us"–the last on the Snake River, that is–and soon arrived at the "Great River of the West," the Columbia.

They camped on the point between the Columbia (left) and Snake Rivers, about where the grove shading Sacajawea State Park in Pasco, Washington (upper right), now stands. Kennewick is on the left in the picture. On the bottom right is McNary National Wildlife Refuge and the town of Burbank.

"The Country around these forks is level Smooth plain," wrote Ordway, "not a tree to be Seen as far as our Eyes could extend." Clark measured the width of the Snake at 575 yards, the Columbia at 960 and three-quarters. Since 1953 McNary Dam, thirty-two miles down the Columbia from here, has broadened the confluence into Lake Walula.

The Indians–Yakamas and Wanapams–considerately kept their distance until the Corps had finished setting up camp. Then "a Chief came from their Camp . . . at the head of about 200 men Singing and beeting on their drums . . . and keeping time to the musik, they formed a half circle around us and Sung for Some time," Clark reported. Afterward, he added, "the 2 old Chiefs who accompanied us from the head of the river procured us Some fuil such as the Stalks of weed or plant and willow bushes," and one man "made me a present of . . . about 20 lb. of verry fat Dried horse meat," all exceptionally magnanimous gestures.


From Discovering Lewis & Clark from the Air
Photography by Jim Wark

Text by Joseph Mussulman
Reproduced by permission of Mountain Press