Friday, November 28, 2014

Memaloose Overlook

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Our next adventure takes us back out to the Columbia Gorge, to the Memaloose Overlook, a scenic spot on the old Columbia River Highway segment between Mosier and Rowena. The overlook takes its name from Memaloose Island, a traditional Indian burial site, which is visible in one of the photos in the slideshow. (If any of these photos look familiar, you win a gold star. Some appeared here once before, back in 2007 when I was just figuring out this blog business.)

This overlook is one piece of Memaloose State Park, which also includes a campground and rest area along Interstate 84. From the park's history page:

The original park tract was 2.64 acres given to the state in 1925 by Roy D. and Bernice M. Chatfield. Situated on what was originally the old Columbia River Highway, the park was called Memaloose Island Overlook. With the reconstruction of the highway, additional private lands were purchased in 1952 and 1953. Land not needed for highway purposes was transferred to the Parks and Recreation Division. The park is named for a nearby island in the Columbia River which was a traditional Indian burial ground. In Chinook language, the word "memaloose" is associated with burial ritual. The most prominent feature on the island is a monument to Victor Trevitt, settler of The Dalles and friend of the Indians who died in 1883 and was buried on Memaloose Island in accordance with his wishes.

Unfortunately Trevitt's gesture (and showy monument) drew public attention to the island. Bone-thieving souvenir hunters soon followed, and local tribes understandably stopped using the island. The Wasco County Historical Society's account states that thieves stripped the island clean of bones -- other than Mr. Trevitt, of course -- while a Friends of the Gorge page indicates that the Corps of Engineers moved 650 skeletons off the island in 1937, just before the island was partially flooded by Bonneville Dam. Both versions of the story indicate Trevitt is now alone on the island, as far as anyone knows.

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