The Great Shute (Chute) was a name that the Lewis and Clark expedition called the Columbia River Gorge on their voyage west back in 1804.Looking past their spelling mistakes I think they described what they saw appropriately.
What a grand sight it must have been too. The huge river was teaming with migrating salmon, the abundant waterfowl nested along the shore and the deer and elk grazed the meadows along this mightiest of American rivers. Is it any wonder that Chief Joseph fought so hard for his land, this land of the Nez Perce?
Celilo Falls was just one of the major obstacle that the Corps of Discovery encountered on their journey to the Pacific ocean so long ago.
The sheer raw beauty of the river and it's gorge must have taken their breath away as they went from desert to lush Pacific rain forest.
Think about the many legendary rivers that drain into the Columbia. Names likes the Snake, Deschutes, Willamette,Clearwater and Wind just to name a few.Is it any wonder that this river was truly the river of dreams.
Those of us today cannot fathom what the Columbia once was as we travel east along I-84. We encounter man's intrusion upon river almost from the beginning. Hydro-electric dams that have forever taken away Celilo Falls and created one slack water reservoir after another.Water that in the summer time reaches the fish killing mid-seventies in temperature and pollution that makes the windsurfers near Hood River sick. These dams have become fish killing barriers with so many awful consequences that one cannot begin to list them here.
Then there are the ghosts of the huge salmon and steelhead runs of the past. Countless hundreds of thousands of all the salmon species along with steelhead,cutthroat trout and smelt are just memories anymore. Take your pick of reasons for their decline because there are many but at the bottom of it all is, of course, greed. Greed that began when in 1792 Captain Robert Gray first encountered the river which he would name after his ship. Greed when the legendary Lewis and Clark paddled down it and surely greed today.
On this Earth Day 2008 I think it is only appropriate to pay homage to the once mighty Columbia river.