Clark's Chart--The Narrows

The Short and Long Narrows, by William Clark

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The Narrows

This sketch is on pages 2-3 of Codex H, Clark's journal No. 6,1 which Nicholas Biddle deposited with the American Philosophical Society in 1818. The pencilled instruction to the engraver, which is barely legible at the top of the page, is in an unknown hand. It suggests that this was a sketch for the map in Voorhis No. 4, which is a slightly more detailed inversion of this one. Along with the partial application of brown watercolor, it also indicates that at one time this map, or its inversion, may have been considered for use as a hand-tinted engraving in the published version of the captains' journals. That never happened. (The blue tint is a result of the aging of the paper, plus the bleed-through of ink from the maps on pages one and four.)

The name "Chenoweth" has been applied, possibly by Elliott Coues, to the creek Clark showed unnamed below Quenett Creek. Justin Chenoweth was a surveyor and school-teacher who arrived at The Dalles in 1849, and settled on land by the creek in 1852. Other details, mostly dates in an unknown hand shown here in parentheses, were added in pencil sometime after the pen-and-ink map was drawn.

Clark's neat chart of the Short and Long Narrows would have been a boon to early 19th-century travelers, for Lewis and Clark's own descriptions of the "obstacles" they encountered in the Columbia Gorge are somewhat difficult to grasp, and Biddle's paraphrases were not much clearer. Elliott Coues, in his copiously annotated 1893 version of Biddle's 1814 edition of the journals, recognized the need for elucidation. "Perhaps," he wrote, "a few words serving as stepping-stones may help the reader to make the portage of these difficult places."2 His solutions, which even accounted for recent engineering improvements at the Dalles and Cascades, were definitely helpful, even though Reuben Thwaites's 1905 publication of the original journals soon re-introduced the original uncertaincies and confusions.

Today, except that the details of the expedition's experiences convey a sense of the difficulty and the drama of their passages through the Gorge, all the issues are moot. From the foot of the old Cascades to the head of the old Celilo Falls, it's all smooth sailing now.


1. See Moulton, Journals, 5:330.

2. Elliott Coues, ed., The History of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 3 vols. (New York: Francis P. Harper, 1893), 2:940-41, note 1, The Columbian Cascades, and 2:954-56, note 1,The Dalles of the Columbia.

Funded in part by a grant from the National Park Service, Challenge-Cost Share Program.