Friday, October 13, 2017

Travel the Columbia River Gorge Over 100 Years Ago

By Miralee Ferrell

Two of my books set in the 1800s, Finding Love in Bridal Veil, Oregon, and Dreaming on Daisies, required that one of the characters (or more) travel by steamboat up the Columbia River Gorge, where I've lived most of my life. Lewis and Clark first discovered this route as they searched out The Oregon Trail. The picture of Bridal Veil Falls to the right is exactly what the pioneers would have seen as they traveled the river that flows between Oregon and Washington.

A few years ago I had the fun of taking a trip from Hood River to Cascade Locks on a reproduction of an old paddle-wheeler, and it was a wonderful experience. Here’s a picture of a paddle-wheeler still making trips from Portland, Oregon, all the way East through several dams—some offer day trips, some go for several days on an extended cruise.
Bailey Gatzert near Cascade Locks, circa 1910
From Wikipedia

The first steam boat went up the Columbia in the 1850s, the Beaver.

During the time period my books are set, the 1870s and 1880s, there was no highway through the Gorge—in fact, there was rugged territory that had to be transversed through the edges of the Cascade Mountains, and some of it could only be accomplished by boat.

 One of the largest hurdles to boat travel during that time period was Celilo Falls, a few miles above The Dalles, Oregon. I was only a few years old when The Dalles Dam was built and Celilo Falls flooded. It wasn’t so much a large dropping fall, as a series of small falls and rapids where the Native Americans had fished for generations. I remember my parents driving up there so my older sister and I could see it before it disappeared for the last time.
Mitrchell Point Tunnel 

The very first highway through the Columbia Gorge began construction in 1913, and is now called the Scenic Columbia Gorge Highway. It still has many of the beautiful bridge and concrete work, passes in front of breathtaking waterfalls, and is maintained by the State. I was so amazed when researching the transportation through the Gorge a few years ago, to discover that my great-grandfather on my mother's side, helped build the highway. He and his team of mules were hired to drag stumps out of the
way after being removed from what would become the roadbed. Until this road was built, people traveled by wagon, horseback or boat if they wanted to get from Portland to The Dalles, while staying along the river.

Another way people traveled the Gorge after roads were developed was via wagon or buggy. I visited Nashville, TN for a writer's retreat, and while there, I was able to take a tour of a plantation. The house and grounds were fascinating, but I particularly loved the huge barn that housed horses on one side and a plethora of buggies on the other. What a treasure trove and an education in buggies and sleighs of that era.

This sign was in the stall beside the

The buggy shown above is a Brougham, as depicted on the sign to the right. If it weren't for the driver's foot-board, you could almost think this was a car! The following description is taken from Wikipedia. A brougham (pronounced "broom"
or "brohm") was a light, four-wheeled horse-drawn carriagebuilt in the 19th century.[1][note 1] It was named after Scottish jurist Lord Brougham, who had this type of carriage built to his specification by London coachbuilder Robinson & Cook[1] in 1838 or 1839.[1][2] It had an enclosed body with two doors,[1] like the rear section of a coach; it sat two, sometimes with an extra pair of fold-away seats in the front corners,[2] and with a box seat in front for the driver and a footman or passenger. Unlike a coach, the carriage had a glazed front window, so that the occupants could see forward.[1] The fore-wheels were capable of turning sharply. A variant, called a brougham-landaulet, had a top collapsible from the rear doors backward.[note 2]

Miralee Ferrell is celebrating the release of the first two audio books in the Love Blossoms in Oregon series. Blowing on Dandelions is available on Audible and Amazon now, and Forget Me Not will be very soon. 

Miralee Ferrell is the author of 20 novels, including many set in the old west. Her two newest series is Love Blossoms in Oregon, the one mentioned above and shown in these photos as audio books, set in Baker City, Oregon in the 1880s, and more recently, a five-book series, Horses and Friends, middle-grade horse novels full of adventure, a little mystery, and lots of horses! Book one, A Horse for Kate, book two, Silver Spurs, Book three Mystery Rider, book four Blue Ribbon Trail Ride, and book five, Rebel Horse Rescue. Her newest book, Runaway Romance, releases November 1 and will air on UP TV (channel) as a made-for-TV movie on January 7th. You can find Miralee at her website where you can also sign up for her newsletter, or on her Facebook author group.


  1. Interesting history and the pictures added a lot. Water falls are breath taking.

  2. Interesting history and the pictures added a lot. Water falls are breath taking.

  3. Interesting history and the pictures added a lot. Water falls are breath taking.