Troutdale Sign
OTCC Interpretive Signs

Crossroads in Oregon History

Troutdale has always been an important crossroads in Oregon's history. Lewis and Clark camped near the Sandy River on their historic trek to the Pacific Ocean in 1805, and during the latter 19th century, thousands of Oregon Trail emigrants passed through this eastern gateway to the Willamette Valley. Oregon's first link to the transcontinental railroad was forged with wooden ties and steel rails through Troutdale in the 1880s, and the Historic Columbia River Highway, Oregons's first paved highway passes through the communtiy at the western entrance to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Although Troutdale has changed through the years, much that illustrates its past is still evident and currently available to the visitor.

Troutdale picture
Downtown Troutdale, reminiscent of a bygone era, presents a century-old general store and wooden storefronts that today house modern business: antique stores, restaurants, sports and outdoor retailers. Troutdale city Hall, located at 104 SE Kibling Street at the corner of the Historic Columbia River Highway, today houses the city's government, but in the 1920's it was also the community's dance hall.
Harlow House
The Harlow House, built in 1900 by the son of Troutdale's founder, Capt. John Harlow, is the city's historical museum. Harlow House is located along the Sandy River a short distance from its confluence with the Columbia, where Oregon Trail emigrants floating down the Columbia often met others who had driven livestock down the river's banks. Part of the old emigrant road is still visible behind the Harlow House.

Troutdale Station
The Troutdale Rail Depot Museum recalls the early days of railroading and the city's glory days as a vegetable shipping center. The building is located in Depot Park and offers the visitor easy access to the sandy River and Beaver Creek.

"Skookum Chuck"

In the 1840s Oregon Trail emigrants often separated near The Dalles. Women, children and wagons boarded rafts and, with the help of local Indians, floated down the Columbia River. Men and boys drove livestock along the banks of the river, crossing to the north bank near Hood River; many crossed back again toward the Columbia's confluence with the Sandy River near Troutdale. River-borne emigrants portaged around the Cascades near Casscade Locks, and floated downstream where many along with Jacob Hammer, emigrant of 1844, experienced wind that "literally lifted the water from the river..." Some emigrants floated to Fort Vancouver, while others landed near the mouth of the Sandy to await the arrival of family and livestock from the north bank. Ferries were  established between the Columbia's banks by the late 1840s, and according to Origen Thomson, emigrant of 1852 they were "in hot competition" for emigrant patronage.


"...the storm was so near by this time that the preceding swell began to rock the boat. She had to have motion or she would surely go down before the onset of the storm. We bent to our oars with all our strength, just in time to avoid that result, though she shipped considerable water. We were now enveloped in the spray, it shutting us from the sight of some Indians in a canoe that were proceeding us and hugging the Oregon shore. They went on their way and carried the news to our friends....that we were certainly all drowned as they had seen us go down in the "skookum chuck"(strong water), and so no doubt it appeared to them." Jacob Hammer: October 27, 1844

From the Wagon to the PlowHarlow House Sign

Oregon Trail emigrants arrived at the Sandy River after descending the Columbia or traveling its rugged banks with livestock. Emigrants camped along the banks of the Sandy River; reassembling wagons and recuperating. Crossing the Sandy downstream from ths site, and climbing the hill behind the Harlow House, where the trail is still visible, emigrants could look behind at the bluffs that today mark the western entrance of the Columbia Gorge. For emigrants, however, these bluffs marked the eastern gateway to the Willamette Valley. The journey almost over, weary overlanders would soon switch their teams from the wagon to the plow--journey's end was often the cause for reflection and thanksgiving. "We lay last night about 3 miles above the mouth of Big Sandy Creek on the opposite of the river, which was our stopping place. We landed this morning at our destined place and to our great joy found the rest of our company with the mules all safely over the Cascade Mountains. We remained here several days to rest and dry out and counsel where to lay our claims and after returning our acknowledgements to that Beneficent Being who alone can preserve through the many dangers and difficulties through which we have passed, and having all got through this terrible wilderness alive, I bring my journal to a close in the Valley of Willamette." Henry Allyn; September 6, 1853.

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