By Judy Rickard, author, Torn Apart: United by Love, Divided by Law, Findhorn Press, 2011
This was a stop that was a town today – The Dalles, Oregon. Those who live here, and many others, say that this is the end of the Oregon Trail. Why? Because beyond this point travelers either took the Columbia River and ferried their wagons and stock to the west coast, or continued on The Barlow Road, hacked out of the woods to make overland passage possible to the west coast. Despite learning that my birth mother and family have roots there (and they also came over the Oregon Trail) I side with my birth father’s ancestors and many others who call the end of the Oregon Trail Oregon City, where I also have family today. Ferrying on The Columbia was treacherous, often fatal. But slugging it along the harsh terrain on The Barlow Road was no walk in the park. We learned later on how treacherous that route was as we hit unimaginable slopes and drops and barriers.
Whichever camp you find yourself in, The Dalles is an important stop on the trail, final or not. This site was a major Native American trading center for at least 10,000 years, according to our friends at Wikipedia. It is a significant archaeological area. At the beginning of the 19th century, Lewis and Clark had camped near here and recorded the Native American name for the creek there at Quenett. In 1814, French fur trader Gabriel Franchere called the place The Dalles because of the long series of major rapids in the river. Shortly after, several overland groups of the Astor Expedition explored the rapids, as did others from the North West Company, Hudson Bay’s Company and Pacific Fur Company. The rapids of the Columbia River at The Dalles was the largest and longest of the four “great portages”, where fur trading boats had to unload and transship their cargoes. Sometimes, during high water, boats traveling downriver would “shoot the rapids” instead of portaging, although the practice was dangerous and many people died as a result over the years.