Campsite, John Day River Valley, John Day Lake, LePage, Oregon

Oregon Trail and the Lewis and Clark Trail

I am very thankful we didn’t have to walk.

The Oregon Trail ends in Oregon City and we are there Saturday. From our location, pioneers went south and homesteaded in Oregon. The Lewis and Clark Trail ends (which is a dumb thing to say because it is only the half-way point) at the Pacific Ocean and we will be there in two weeks.  The end of Lewis and Clark Trail is further west at the mouth of the Columbia River. Lewis and Clark camped the winter of 1804 close to here, and then walked and boated back to the east coast starting the next spring.

We first crossed the Oregon Trail this summer in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Instead of turning west along the trail we pushed further north and at the Missouri River picked up Lewis and Clark Trail along the Missouri River in the middle of North Dakota, and then we turned west. Ever since then we have been on or between these two historic routes to the west, both ending just a few miles from here.

Columbia River, John Day River Valley, John Day Lake, LePage, Oregon
Columbia River, John Day River Valley, John Day Lake, LePage, Oregon

Goodale’s Cutoff

We finished Goodale’s Cutoff as it rejoined the main Oregon Trail near west of Old Fort Boise, which is well to the west of the New Fort Boise, (in Boise, Idaho). Some would argue that Goodale’s Cutoff actually re-joined the main trail in Boise, but we were there too – last week.

We picked up the Oregon Trail and the Lewis and Clark Trail after the pioneers had already traversed several hundred miles and our objective wasn’t to actually travel the route, but when you are headed this way, the routes would be hard to avoid. Right now we are in the Columbia River Canyon and the Oregon Trail is just up the hill to the south.  At this point, Lewis and Clark had fashioned some canoes and were floating down the Columbia River, which is right outside our camp.

John Day River Valley, John Day Lake, LePage, Oregon
John Day River Valley, John Day Lake, LePage, Oregon

John Day

John Day was a frontiersman in Oregon and left his name on every feature he saw. Mountains, streams, rivers, valleys, cities, everywhere in Oregon, all over Oregon bear his name.  We are at the intersection of the John Day River and the Columbia River. Near the historic John Day Rapids; which are now submerged under the John Day Reservoir which was created the John Day Dam and has flooded the John Day River — all the way up to the John Day Falls. (I made that last one up but you get the idea, Google has no record of any waterfall named John Day.)

We had some good family time in Boise, and always feel bad when we are about to leave them and continue our journey. At least when we leave the family behind, we can call them and get updates.

When the Oregon Trail Pioneers left their families, they knew that there was no return, yet the draw was so strong, that they walked (riding was a myth) all the way from Independence Missouri over two thousand miles to Oregon. The migration was historic, all endorsed but not supported in any meaningful way by the federal government. Early pioneers homesteaded all the very best land in the few early years and still, hundreds of thousands came and came. The real end of the migration was probably in 1848 when gold was discovered in California. Oregon dropped from the imagination of fortune hunters and was replaced by the gold rush. Still, many more came to Oregon and once the train was completed, in 1869 – you no longer had to walk.

The Dalles

Last year when we came through “The Dalles” and I put it in quotes because that is the name, I was told it is not Dalles, but rather The Dalles. Yesterday I found out that The Dalles is a French term that means the slab (rock), the ditch or also the gutter, in English. Anyway, last time we were here it was not windy. Typically it is windy every day on this section of the Columbia River. 

This year the wind is blowing. Last year, no wind and smoke choked the entire area. There were a few forest fires this year, but nothing like last year. This year, was the fire season that didn’t happen. I am very happy. The Dalles marks the steep-walled section of the Columbia River and also marks the transition between the rain zone from the dry zone.  The obvious difference is that to the west is the green and The Dalles is still brown. Fall is the time of year that the green zone of Oregon gets the least rain and it is supposed to be very nice here in the fall. I hope this year holds to that norm. 

Here is a link to the google map for the area.

Link to our 2019 Route

Link to our route Boise to Oregon Coast

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