Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sacajawea, we hardly knew yea ...

After my fourth and final trip to the Tri Cities for this particular work project, I went to check out Sacajawea State Park located at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers.  It was here on October 16 and 17, 1805 at the confluence of these two great rivers that the Lewis and Clark expedition encamped for two nights.

"... towards evening we arived at the forks of the river which came from a northly direction and is larger than this Columa. R. the country around these forks is level Smooth barron plains not even a tree to be Seen as far as our eyes could extend a fiew willows along the Shores. we found about 2 hundred or upwards Camped on the point between the two Rivers. a verry pleasant place. we Camped near them on the point. ..." Private Joseph Whitehouse, Corps of Discovery, October 16, 1805

From my readings I know that the confluence area was used by several tribes including the Walla Walla, Umatilla, Wanapum, Yakama, and Palouse.  The Palouse, excellent horseman, gave rise to the Appaloosa breed of horse.  The Palouse were subdued when the majority of their horses were slaughtered by the U.S. Army.

McNary Dam on the Columbia River forms Lake Wallula and backs up the waters of the Columbia and Snake Rivers to the point that may obscure the original expedition campsite.  I'm not entirely sure to what extent the river water levels have been raised.  I do know that the only real free flowing section of the Columbia River in Washington State is the Hanford Reach which is a little further upstream.

Sacajawea State Park itself is a pleasant day use park.  It became a Washington State Park in 1931.  It has a recently remodeled museum, the Sacajawea Museum.  The museum is small but well worth a visit.  The museum and other park buildings are built in an Art Deco style and probably date back to the 1930s, perhaps some depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps project.  The park has broad green lawns, large trees for shade, trails, and lots of riverfront.

Sacajawea Museum

Looking downstream on the Columbia to a railroad bridge.  A wind farm is visible atop the Horse Heaven Hills in the distance.

Looking upstream on the Snake River to a railroad bridge and the twin bridges of US Hwy 12.  Grain terminals to the left and right.  Lewis and Clark wouldn't recognize the place.

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