Date: April 2, 2012
Tonight’s Location: Mameloose State Park, Oregon
Mileage: End - 106367
Start - 106118
Total Miles for the day: 249
Weather: sunny, warm
Temperature: start 39º
Wildlife count: Magpie, Raven, Mallard, Coot, Common Loon, Lesser Scaups, Great Blue Herons, Stellar’s Jay, Rock Squirrels, Kestrel, Canada Geese, American Robins, Osprey
We left Umatilla at 8:30 and drove straight to Memaloose State Park – the park has just opened for the season, and the host had just arrived yesterday. We have the premier spot in the entire park – our back window is a panorama of the Columbia River Gorge – what beauty!
We had a quick bite of lunch and took off to explore the Gorge. Having visited the Umatilla Visitor’s Center, we already had maps and books on the Gorge and knew what we wanted to see. However, in order to get back to The Dalles, we had to travel west to go east, as the state park is located off of I-84, and there is no entrance to go east. So, we went west to Mosier, got on the ‘old historic Gorge highway’ and found some amazing views – see pictures!
We learned that Memaloose is from a Chinook Native word meaning ‘to die.’ Native Americans in the Northwest did not bury their dead, but wrapped them in skins and placed them on wooden stands on rocky points or islands, where they would not be reached by animals. Lewis and Clark named the island just out from our camper, Sepulchur Island, visiting it in 1805 and on the way back in 1806.
The land that forms the Gorge was covered with several hundred feet of volcanic lava from volcanic action in the area. Then, at the end of the last ice age, between 12 and 15,000 years ago, massive ice sheets dammed up rivers, creating huge lakes across Idaho and Montana. The largest, Lake Missoula, held 500 cubic miles of water – more than ½ of Lake Michigan. As rising waters undermined the ice dams, the lakes emptied hundreds of times, sending torrents of ice, water, rock and sand downstream, scouring away soil up to elevations of 1000 feet. These onslaughts helped to create the Columbia Gorge, with many landforms from Montana to the Pacific, testifying to the existence of these cataclysmic events.
Volcanism is always dynamic, and was active shortly before Lewis & Clark arrived. Mt. Hood had erupted 25 years before they entered the Gorge, and Mt. St. Helens emitted lava in just 1803, two years before the Corps arrived.
In The Dalles, we toured the Gorge Discovery Museum, learning about recent history, ancient history, as well as a wonderful exhibit of the Corps of Discovery. (Lewis & Clark) Having just completed their journals, this area holds particular interest.
We crossed over at The Dalles and traveled west on Washington State Route 14 till we arrived at “Bridge of the Gods,” at Cascade Locks. These locks are no longer used since the Bonneville Dam was installed. From there, we drove back east to The Dalles, where we fueled the truck, bought a baked chicken, and came back to camp to relax and have dinner. It has been a delightful day.