84. Columbia River Near Blalock, Oregon

Columbia River

View northwest, downstream

Wide, slackwater flowing slowly through the flat desert

© 2000 Airphoto—Jim Wark

Greatest Chief

Roads and riverine engineering have obliterated most of the details Lewis and Clark saw as they passed by on the Columbia. Yet this scene's most arresting feature is still the "high mountain of emence hight covered with Snow" on the photo's horizon. Clark mistook it for Mount St. Helens. The Indians called the mountain Pahtoe. Since 1838 it has been known as Mount Adams.

In this vicinity on 19 October 1805, the Corps met Yelleppit, chief of the Walulas, whom Clark described as "a bold handsom Indian, with a dignified countenance about 35 years of age, about 5 feet 8 inches high and well perpotioned." He was, Clark later said, "the greatest we met with."

From the mouth of the Snake River to the Lewis River, 240 miles away, the banks were crowded with people. On the return trip, the congestion even caused traffic jams. The Corps's stress was sometimes made worse by the shortage of food and knowing that the salmon were not yet running.

In addition to the crowds, rough terrain made the expedition's trip up the Columbia the following year at least as arduous as the downstream run had been. By the time they camped for the night on 24 April 1806, perhaps near the bend on the north (right) side of the river, the Corps had exchanged their dugout canoes for horses to carry their supplies. The men's feet and legs grew sore from trudging over rough stones and through deep sand, after being "for some months past accustomed to a soft soil."


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

Text by Joseph Mussulman
Reproduced by permission of Mountain Press