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The city spreads north-south over the sandy flats of the Snake River. Hemming it in on both the east and the west are steep, treeless bluffs, beyond which stretches a rolling plateau. Early in the spring, the bare branches of the trees and vines glow red-brown with the renewed flow of the sap. In April, the orchards are a riot of delicately pink and white blossoms, and gardens and vineyards make geometric patterns of green against the well-cultivated earth. Harvest season is equally beautiful—red, yellow, and purple grapes load the vines, apples and pears bend the branches of the trees, and melons ripen in the fields. All this produce, as well as the grain and stock of the plateau regions, found a natural outlet through Clarkston, which served as the shipping and processing center. Among its industrial units were meat-packing plants, canneries, box factories, and flour and feed plants.

The early settlers found nothing to attract them to Jawbone Flats, as they called the barren basin that is now Clarkston. In 1863 William Craig, trader and trapper among the Nez Perce, and colonel in the forces that fought the Native Americans in 1855, established a small ferry at this point and for many years furnished transportation to the thousands of prospectors rushing to the gold fields of the Salmon River and the Clearwater districts. Lewiston sprang up on the east side of the stream, but Jawbone Flats remained a range for the horses of John Greenfield.

The beginning of Clarkston dates from 1896, when the Lewiston Water and Power Company, with the backing of eastern capital, platted a town and called it Vineland. The next year a bridge was constructed across the river at this point, and soon traffic, which had been handled by the small ferries at various river points, was focused at Vineland, renamed Concord. The town boomed and land sold for as much as $1,000 an acre. By popular petition in 1900, the town officially became Clarkston, to honor Capt. William Clark of the 1804–1806 Lewis & Clark Expedition.


Ca. 1950 aerial view of Clarkston (left), looking north.

Source: Washington State Digital Archives

1917 photo by Asahel Curtis of the junction of the Snake and Clearwater rivers, at the Idaho-Washington state line. Lewiston, ID is at left; Clarkston, WA is at right.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

1938 view of first Lewiston-Clarkston Bridge with view of Lewiston, ID.

Source: Washington State Archives

1910 photo by Asahel Curtis of the first bridge between Lewiston, ID and Clarkston, WA, over the Snake River.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

Points of Interest Points of Interest icon

Lewiston-Clarkston Bridge

The current Lewiston-Clarkston Bridge is the third bridge to span the Snake River, connecting the two cities of Lewiston, east of the river, and Clarkston, west of the river. The original bridge was constructed in 1899 and was dismantled and replaced with a new bridge in 1939. In 1984, that bridge was replaced by the current concrete bridge.

Clarkston Carnegie Library

This two-story brick building, built in 1913, began with an unusual deal with Andrew Carnegie. The community requested $5,000 from Carnegie, who gave $10,000 instead. Though Carnegie usually granted funds to local governments, in this case the grant was made to the school district. It was used as the city library until 1957 and is now a community center.

U.S. Post Office

Clarkston’s only example of Depression-era federal architecture, this buff brick building was built in 1941 in the “Starved Classical” style adopted by the federal government for its buildings of that time. A New Deal bas-relief wood sculpture called “Lewis and Clark,” by J.D. McGovern, graces the interior.

C. C. Van Arsdol House

Several additions were built onto the original 1880 one-story, one-room homesteaders cabin, making this house a bit of a puzzle. Cassius C. Van Arsdol was a talented engineer who played a big role in transportation development in the area. He worked for the Union Pacific and Northern Pacific railroads and founded the Lewiston Water & Power Company in 1895 to divert water from Asotin Creek to area farmers. He platted Clarkston immediately afterwards and settled here with his family on 15 acres. After selling his interest in the company, he returned to the Northern Pacific to oversee construction of the Canadian Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad that extends from Edmonton to Prince Rupert. His papers are at Washington State University.