The End of the Oregon Trail: Oregon's Willamette Valley and Coast

By Rake, Timothy | The World and I, May 2004 | Go to article overview

The End of the Oregon Trail: Oregon's Willamette Valley and Coast


Rake, Timothy, The World and I


Timothy Rake is a freelance writer, photographer, and educator based in Eugene, Oregon, where he teaches French language and literature. He has previously written about the Pacific Northwest for The World & I.

No longer the last American frontier at the end of a long and laborious journey, today Oregon's coastal region boasts a landscape of limitless beauty and surprising opportunity.

None started but the brave;

None got through but the strong.

--an Oregon pioneer

For pioneers who made the trek, the nearly two-thousand-mile westward march finished in verdant river valleys, rain-soaked forests, or right here along the dramatic Oregon coast where I am sitting now. My eyes gaze at Proposal Rock, awash in a late autumn haze. Protruding into the cold blue waters of the Pacific beneath a hillside of evergreen, the granite colossus resembles a humpback whale beached upon the shore near the town of Neskowin. With a soft afternoon sun falling on my cheeks, I lean back against the sand, close my eyes, and try to imagine how this virgin shoreline looked when George Vancouver skirted the coast and sailed by the mouth of the Columbia River in 1792. "The serenity of the climate, the innumerable pleasing landscapes, and the abundant fertility that unassisted nature puts forth," the British captain wrote, "require only to be enriched by the industry of man ... to render it the most lovely country that can be imagined."

How lovely was the land when the only sounds were the crash of the sea, the whisper of pine needles falling on the fern-paved forest floor, the leaping of salmon, the screech of an owl, and the murmur of wind through the woodland? In the decade after Vancouver's visit, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark opened up the overland route to America's northwest and found winter here more wretchedly wet than lovely. Wondering what those adventurers might see today, two centuries later, I have set myself a task: to size up a landscape enriched by village and vineyard, boasting an impressive American city, facing the strains of urban sprawl and coastal development, but still alive with the Oregon spirit.

Walking along Neskowin Creek, I lose myself in the trees. Here are hints of unspoiled ancient Oregon. One can still see--as I have this day-- silver salmon swimming upstream. One can listen to the wind whistle through the Douglas fir and hear the distant ocean's heartbeat pulsing against the sand. And one can hear the whoosh of automobiles racing along U.S. Highway 101 past clusters of condominiums and vacation cottages.

As much as twelve thousand years ago, this pristine earth provided hunting and fishing grounds for tribes with names like Chinook, Clatsop, and Calapooia. The land was sparsely inhabited and mostly unfamiliar to white men until President Jefferson commissioned Lewis and Clark to explore the newly acquired Louisiana Territory, purchased from France in 1803. A year later, in hopes of finding an inland waterway that would span the continent and join the Pacific Northwest to the Eastern seaboard, the explorers set out on a trek from St. Louis to the Oregon coast. It took nearly eighteen months.

In December 1805, the party of adventurers, including the Indian guide Sacagawea and her child, arrived on the Oregon coast, near the mouth of the Columbia River. As Clark noted, the river was so choked with salmon at places that the Indians collected fish at will.

The party camped near present-day Fort Clatsop and spent a miserably wet winter surviving on elk and root crops bartered from the Indians. Failing to find Jefferson's dream of a navigable water passage across the American continent, the two commanders and their small group headed home disappointed, with these last words of hope recorded in Lewis' journal: "The leafing of the hucklebury riminds [sic] us of spring."

Summer and then rain

Spring in Oregon's fecund Willamette Valley can be beautiful--and miserable for allergy sufferers or sun worshipers. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The End of the Oregon Trail: Oregon's Willamette Valley and Coast
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.