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76. “The Corps of Discovery Running the Columbia”

36” x 60” oil on canvas

“(the river)...widened to about 200 yards, in those narrows the water was agitated in a most Shocking manner boils Swell & whorl pools, we passed with great risque It being impossible to make a portage of the Canoes.”

“The whole of the Current of this great river must at all Stages pass thro' this narrow chanel...narrow and compressed for about 2 miles...”

Captain William Clark, October 24, 1805

“This Great Shute or falls is about ½ a mile with the water of this great river Compressed within the Space of 150 paces in which there is great numbers of both large and Small rocks, water passing with great velocity forming & boiling in a most horriable manner...”

Captain William Clark, October 31, 1805

From St. Louis to the Continental Divide is approximately 2,000 miles and from the Divide to the Pacific only 1,000 miles. Lewis and Clark knew that the Columbia River would have numerous rapids and falls in order for it to reach sea level in only half the distance and they were not disappointed. Many times during these weeks of October the Journals mention rapids and rocks and fast water. A long stretch of particularly threatening water began at Cellilo Falls which would have to be navigated. The Corps referred to the various rapids as the Short and Long Narrows, the Great Shute, and the Cascades. Taken together they amounted to a continuous stretch of narrow spots and rapids into which the entire Columbia River's volume was forced. In some places the Corps portaged and in others they ran the rapids in their clumsy canoes. Expecting to capitalize on the Corps' misfortune, the natives would wait at the bottom of the rapids, hoping to pluck out treasures as they floated by. They were disappointed however as all of the canoes and all of the men would survive the cascades of the Columbia without incident.