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Wishram

Nestling in a little dell and overlooking the curving rocky cascades of the river, the town is the division point of the Spokane, Portland, and Seattle Railroad, which maintained a yard and a roundhouse here. Small, well-kept houses, roofed in red, blue, and green, gave a tidy appearance. A cosmopolitan touch was provided by a two-story stucco bungalow court apartment and a large hotel. Railroad employees resided in yellow-painted houses near the hotel. Numerous poplar trees border winding graveled streets. Since this is a stopover point for trains, itinerants who “ride the rods” assembled at an area near the town nicknamed the “jungle.” Wishram once was called Fallbridge, but that name was changed in 1926. Today, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad comes through Wishram, and the current railroad station replaced the old one on the same site. Many of the buildings are still around, including the hotel, although it has been altered significantly.

Images

Secondary highway near Wishram.

Source: Washington State Archives

Ca. 1950 elevated view of Wishram and the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway yards. Looking southwest.

Source: Washington State Historical Society

Points of Interest Points of Interest icon

Pioneer Memorial

A Pioneer Memorial stands 100 feet east of the railroad station along the mainline track. It consists of several basalt columns bound together with an iron cable; on it is a bronze plaque bearing the name of pathfinders and pioneers, beginning with Meriwether Lewis and ending with John C. Fremont. The monument was erected in 1926 by the Great Northern Railroad, with which the Spokane, Portland, and Seattle Railroad is closely affiliated.

Celilo Falls

One-half mile west from Wishram by trail takes you to where Celilo Falls once spilled, where the Columbia River plunged 20 feet over a knife-edged precipice extending across the river. The falls marked the entrance to a narrow channel, bordering precipitous cliffs of basalt. The falls are gone, but a pull-out on the south side of SR 14 affords a view of the site. Look for the heritage marker describing the geology of the area, the life of the Indians and their relation to the mighty river, and how the falls were submerged by the construction of the Dalles Dam in 1957.

Wishram

The ancient village of Wishram was a “food emporium” and trading mart for the Indians. Here they gathered from east and west to barter with the Klickitats, who fished below Celilo Falls for the salmon struggling up the river to their spawning grounds, and dried and packed the fish in bundles and bales of varied sizes for trading purposes. Washington Irving, in Astoria, explains that tribes from the Pacific Coast brought sea foods, wapato (Ind. “wild potato”), and other roots and berries. From the interior, along the lane of the Snake and Columbia Rivers, natives drove in with horses, or rowed downstream in canoes laden with bear grass roots and other edibles. Later, during the salmon run, Indians would stand on frail scaffoldings, fastened precariously on the rocky sides of the channel above the falls, with ropes fastened to their waists and long-pointed javelins in hand, awaiting the leap of the salmon. In the split second when the fish were arrested in midair, the spears were driven home. Treaty rights allowed the Indians the exclusive privilege of taking salmon by this primitive method. With Celilo Falls submerged in the river, this traditional method of fishing has not been possible since 1957.

Great Northern Steam RR locomotive 2507

Located in a park adjacent to the Amtrak Station, this 1923 Baldwin, Class P-2 locomotive engine and a Glass Q-1 tender speak to the early railroad rivalries in the area. Known for its speed, reliability and good looks this engine was retired in 1957, purchased by the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railroad and gifted to Klickitat County as a stand-in for a promised Great Northern locomotive.  It sat at Maryhill State Park for 30 years before moving to Wishram in 2003.

Celilo Railroad Bridge

When it was constructed in 1912, this was the only Columbia River crossing between Pasco, Washington and Portland, Oregon. It was built as a major link in the Oregon Trunk Railroad. Sam Hill’s dream of linking Spokane and San Francisco via the Great Northern was furthered by this, his initial entry into Oregon. This is the largest of 10 steel bridges built along the Oregon Trunk Line. It is located at a narrow but treacherous stretch of the river.