The Dalles was the jumping off spot for pioneers, soldiers, gold miners, adventurers, and all manner of characters. Attractions at The Dalles include; Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, Fort Dalles MuseumThe Dalles Dam, The Dalles Lock & Dam, The Dalles Historic Walking Tours and The Dalles Murals.
We’ll pass Celilo Falls, the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in North America. It was the economic and cultural hub of Native Americans in the region for thousands of years. At Biggs Junction we’ll cross over to Washington State.
Here’s a helicopter flight from The Dalles to Hillsboro for a fast trip back.
The Dalles to Biggs Junction
The Dalles (exit 82)
The city of The Dalles, incorporated on June 26, 1857, is the third oldest incorporated city in Oregon. At the time, The Dalles was one of the largest population centers in the Pacific Northwest, and played a major role in terms of commerce, politics, military presence and inland navigation. It also served as the end of the overland Oregon Trail beginning in 1843. Lewis and Clark camped at The Dalles twice, in 1805 and 1806.
About 15 miles upriver from the city of The Dalles is (or was) Celilo Falls, the economic and cultural hub of Native Americans in the region.
For 15,000 years, native peoples gathered around Celilo Falls to fish and exchange goods. They built wooden platforms out over the water and caught salmon with dipnets and long spears on poles as the fish swam up through the rapids and jumped over the falls.
Historically, an estimated fifteen to twenty million salmon passed through the falls every year, making it one of the greatest fishing sites in North America. The falls were the sixth-largest by volume in the world and were among the largest in North America.
“Once this was our land and Celilo was our falls,” murmured Mrs. Flora Thompson, wife of Chief Tommy Thompson whose people had maintained inherent fishing rights at the falls for uncounted centuries. “Now our lands and our fishing places are gone,” she said softly, “and soon we will be gone, too.”
There were approximately 480 fishing stations in and around Celilo Falls with the Columbia squeezed here into a width of only 140 feet, with the falls from 3 to 12 and 15 feet high. Fishers built wooden scaffolds out over the roaring falls and used dipnets to catch salmon returning upriver to their natal streams.
It was dangerous, hard work with salmon weighing up to sixty pounds. This photo shows the area before the inundation of Celilo Falls by The Dalles Dam in March 1957.
It was the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in North America. Buried in 1957 by the backwater of The Dalles Dam, it is now called Lake Celilo, the 24 mi (39 km) long reservoir stretches upstream to the John Day Dam.
Since the early 1970s, the fish catch has dramatically declined, with hatchery-raised species making up more than 80 percent of commercially caught salmon in the river. In 1992, the government listed the native Snake River Sockeye salmon as an endangered species, and in 1998 Willamette steelhead joined the list of endangered fish.
The eastern-most end of our journey up the Oregon-side of the Columbia River Gorge is Biggs Junction. There we’ll cross to the Washington side. Alternatively, you could take The Dalles Bridge, which spans the Columbia between The Dalles and Dallesport, Washington. The toll-free bridge carries the traffic of U.S. Route 197.