Saturday, August 03, 2013

Celilo Park

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I was rummaging through old photos a while back, and realized I had a few from Celilo Park, on the Columbia River a few miles west of the Maryhill area. It's a pleasant little roadside rest area and boat launch, which as it turns out is operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers. It's operated by the Corps of Engineers because they also run the Dalles Dam, a few miles downstream.

Before the dam went in, the Celilo Park area was once home to Celilo Falls, an vast waterfall on the Columbia River, and a traditional fishing site for local Indian tribes since time immemorial. The falls weren't all that tall, but in terms of sheer annual volume of water Celilo Falls was once one of the largest waterfalls on earth. I would have liked to have seen that. At the time I took these photos, I don't recall there being so much as an interpretive sign explaining what had once been here; since then, a Maya Lin art project has gone in that commemorates the lost waterfall and its cultural importance.

There are a few videos on YouTube that give a glimpse of what the falls were like. This one was shot in 1956, the year before the falls were flooded by the dam:

The Dalles Dam project is widely regarded as a crime against the native people of the region. I absolutely agree with that, and I would love to see the dam removed and the falls come to life again. Opinions vary about how realistic of a dream that is, but hey. Realistic or not, it's a goal.

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