Tributaries: A Confluence History Blog

Townsend’s Warbler By Francesco Veronesi from Italy (Townsend's Warbler - Washington State_S4E2274)

Birding along the Columbia River 1834-37

John Kirk Townsend’s research and letters give us a glimpse at the types of birds and animals found to be living along the Columbia River in the 1830’s. Because of his detailed and seasonal observations, we can compare the flora and fauna at places like the Sandy River Delta and Vancouver with what exists there today. more >

A close friend of John J. Audubon, Townsend sent specimens of birds collected along the Columbia River – like the “Townsend Warbler” shown here at upper left – to Audubon and the societies who sponsored Townsend’s journey to the Northwest. This is a plate from Audubon’s book.

1834 Letter Describes ‘Awful & Magnificent Grandeur’ At the Mouth of the Columbia River

John Kirk Townsend, naturalist and ornithologist, wrote vividly descriptive records of his experiences and journey in the American West. This week, read a particularly gripping excerpt of his time at Cape Disappointment. more >

The launching of the Liberty Ship SS William Clark from a Kaiser shipyard in Oregon during World War II. The steel plate aloft is the keel plate for the next ship to be built, the plates being lowered into place as the just launched ship hit the water. Kaiser Permanente photo

Industrialization on the Columbia Inspired Sweeping Cultural Changes

Industrialization arrived in full force on the Columbia River in World War II and with it American cultures changed in surprising ways. Read more about how two shipyards at Vancouver, WA and Vanport, OR played an important role in the region. more >

Chinookan people seine fishing on Sand Island, Baker’s Bay near Cape Disappointment, circa 1905. Photo by John F. Ford in the Oregon Historical Society’s Collection (OrHi 46585). Prior to white settlement, the Chinook used a variety of methods to harvest the Columbia River’s abundant salmon, and among the most important was seining. Seines are long nets that have floats on top and weights on the bottom. One end is attached to the shore and the other end is taken out into the water and circled back around to the shore, trapping the fish that are encircled by the net.

Columbia River Fish Weirs & Wheels – Two Divergent Cultures

Iconic ancient fish weirs and 19th century fish wheels represent entirely different world views on what the fish and the river represent to people of different cultures. White newcomers saw the river as something to be harnessed mechanically. For native people, the river is a sustainable resource, a gift, with rules and taboos in place to protect it. more >

View III Celilo Canal

A View of the Columbia in 1920 Part IV – The Closing Journey

The Columbia River in 1920 was free of the hydroelectric dams that would turn it into a series of lakes in the coming decades. One adventurer/journalist traveled the distance of the mighty river. In Part 4 of this series, historian Mary Rose takes us down the final stretch of this epic journey. more >