Hood River
OTCC Interpretive sign

Thousands of Oregon Trail emigrants passed this way toward new lives in a place Abigail Scott, emigrant of 1852, called the "Garden of the World." The Willamette Valley was nearly 2,000 miles from Missouri, and by the time emigrants reached the Hood River, known to them as the "Dog River," many families had separated after traveling together for five months. Women, children and wagons boarded rafts upriver near The Dalles and, with the help of local Indians, floated down the Columbia River. Others drove livestock along the south bank of the river, crossing the Hood River near this site. the emigrant route from the Hood River down the south bank of the Columbia was almost impassable. Emigrants would either drive livestock over the northwest flank of Mt. Hood toward Oregon city, or swim them across the Columbia River a few miles downstream to travel the north bank. These emigrants had to cross the Columbia again near the mouth of the Sandy river.

"...We put our cargo aboard, which consisted of 15 families and 18 wagons and luggage. Part of our men drove the cattle down the trail...going some of the time up the side of a mountain for four or five hundred feet like stairs, but only wide enough for one ox to walk, and many places if they would make a misstep, they would fall one or two hundred feet and nothing could be found of them but a grease spot....We left our families and returned with our boat 12 miles, where an abrupt spur of the mountain obliged the trail to cross the Columbia to the north side. Here we met our cattle and after working part of two days and all of one dark and rainy night, we ferried across the Columbia about 200 head of cattle, being all that we could find, but some of our cows came up minus."
Loren B. Hastings; November 1847

Cascade Falls Portage

Thousands of Oregon Trail emigrants passed this way toward new lives in a place Abigail Scott, emigrant of 1852, called the "Garden of the World." The Willamette Valley was nearly 2,000 miles from Missouri, and by the time emigrants reached this portion of the trail with over 1,800 miles behind them, progress was impeded by the last major obstacle on the river route of the Oregon Trail--the great Columbia River Cascades. Emigrant families reaching The Dalles in the 1840's often separated. Women, children and disassembled wagons boarded rafts and, with the help of local Indians, floated down the river. Men and boys drove livestock along the banks of the river. Waterborne emigrants were forced to portage around the perilous Columbia Cascades across the river from this site. By the 1850's this portage was improved by what Lydia Rudd, emigrant of 1852, called "an excuse here of a railroad...." This railroad was initially little more than a mule-pulled cart on a rough plank road. "...we start this morning round the falls with our waggons we have another 5 miles to go I carry my babe and lead or rather carry another through snow and mud and water almost to my knees it is the worst road that a team could possibly travel I went a head with my children and I affraid to look behind me for fear of seeing the wagon turn over in the mud and water with evry thing in them my children give out with cold and fatigue and could not travle and the boys had to unhitch the oxon and bring them and carry the children on to camp I was so cold and numb that I could not tell by feeling that I had any feet at all we started this morning at sunrise and did not get to camp untill after dark and there was not one dry thread on one of us not even my babe and I was so fatigued that I could scarcely speak or step...."
Elizabeth Dixon Smith; November 18, 1847

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