The confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers was a major uniting force for tribes of the Columbia River basin. It became a major site for settlers later, as the waterways provided a convenient mode of transportation.
Many different tribes came together at the site of modern-day Sacajawea State Park. Although to later explorers it seemed barren, this crucial trading site was also an important site for weddings and kinship exchanges.
The town of Ainsworth, Washington sat at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers and was home to a bustling work town after the end of the “Indian Question.” However, it disappeared in favor of nearby Pasco.
Orinthologist John Kirk Townsend provided valuable descriptions not only of the Columbia River’s bird populations but also of Cape Disappointment. A portion of a letter describing Cape Disappointment is reprinted here.
Native methods for catching fish along the Columbia River used spears, baskets, and weirs. White newcomers saw these as inefficient and began using mechanical processes such as fish wheels to increase canneries’ catches.
In 1791/2 Captain Robert Gray became the first European to sail the Columbia River, entering at Cape Disappointment to trade with local Chinook. Lewis and Clark visited in 1805 and found the Chinook ready to trade.