As you visit Columbia River Gorge towns and attractions, you may ask yourself, “where did that word come from?” Read on to learn some interesting folklore and a bit of history.
Named by Lewis and Clark in 1805; they originally referred to it as Beaten Rock and later as Beacon Rock. The rock was later known as Castle Rock, until 1915 when its name was changed back to Beacon Rock.
Celilo comes from Wyam, meaning “echo of falling water” or “sound of water upon the rocks.”
The Dalles was named by fur trappers for the French word for gutter. Here emigrants floated down the Columbia River in rafts through the stony river gorge.
Deschutes is from French rivière des chutes, meaning river of the falls.
It has been believed that Dog Mountain got its name “because pioneers in the area were forced to eat their dogs to avoid starvation.”
William Drano, known as French Billy, organized the Drano Flume Company to build a flume which traversed much of his homestead land near what is now called Drano Lake.
An explanation is that the city’s name is a combination of the names of a civic leader’s daughters, Esther and Katie, however, there is no evidence of their existence.
In pioneer days some travelers, being in a starving condition, ate dog meat near Hood River, and the unpopular name Dog River was the result. Later on, Mrs. Nathaniel (Mary) Coe, a well-known pioneer resident of the valley, objected to the name Dog River and succeeded in changing the name to Hood River.
Horsethief Butte + Horsethief State Park
Workers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers thought the terrain was similar to that of horse thief hideouts in popular 1950s Hollywood westerns. The abundance of horses kept on the premises by local Indians apparently gave the workers their inspiration.
Derived from a Chinookan word meaning “beyond,” referring to people who lived on the other side of the mountains.
In 1907, Samuel Hill purchased 5,300 acres of land along the Columbia River with the dream of establishing a Quaker farming community. He formed the Maryhill Land Company, named after his daughter, and set about building a town.
Chinook jargon for “land of the dead.” Memaloose Island is located in the Columbia River which was a Native American burial ground.
According to Native American lore, Multnomah Falls was created to win the heart of a young princess who wanted a hidden place to bathe. The Multnomah people, were Chinookan people who lived in the area of modern Portland, Oregon.
A century-old building that was originally home to a pear cannery and distillery in downtown Hood River. In the 1950s, a fire all but destroyed the east side of the building— leaving what we now affectionally call ‘the Ruins.’
Cascades Chinook word sk’mániak, meaning “swift waters.”
First called Starveout after two Union Pacific Railroad trains were stalled in the area by heavy snows in the winter of 1884–1885. For some days, the passengers were kept from starvation by men who packed supplies from Hood River on skis.
The falls were originally known as Giffords Falls, after photographer Benjamin A. Gifford, whose photos documented the falls in 1909. The current name, Tamanawas was derived from a Chinook word which means “friendly or guardian spirit.”
A small island was carved out of the mainland in 1890 to build the Cascade Locks and canal which provided safe passage around the rapids for ships traveling up and down the Columbia River. The rapids seemed as loud as thunder so they called it Thunder Island.
In 1872, Captain John Harlow stocked the ponds in the dale at the base of the bluff behind his home with trout and called his farm “Troutdale.”
Wah Gwin Gwin Falls
Also known as “Lullaby Falls,” it’s believed the name Wah Gwin Gwin comes from a Native American word meaning “rushing waters.”
Wahkeena comes from the Yakama Tribe and means “most beautiful.”
The name Washougal comes from the Cascades Chinook place/name [wasiixwal] or [wasuxal], meaning “rushing water.”