Trade has existed for thousands of years along the Columbia River. Some historians and local tribes claim that Celilo Falls, now buried behind the Dalles Dam, was a meeting place of sorts for the last twelve thousand years!
The river is still to this day a hubbub of trade. While one can certainly still canoe the entire river if brave enough, there is now a different system. Modern freight is moved regularly between the Pacific Ocean, up the Columbia and the Snake Rivers, and into Idaho through a series a dams and locks.
In the early 20th century, the Army Corp of Engineers created the Columbia Basin Project to provide irrigation for farms, to control flooding of the main rivers and their tributaries, and to provide power. The first of many dams on the Columbia was the massive project at Grand Coulee completed in 1942.
Now, what we know of as the Columbia River is just a series of lakes and dams allowing for the easy transport of goods over water for hundreds of miles.
But . . . somewhere behind the Dalles Dam (completed in 1957) there is an ancient waterfall called Celilo Falls or Wyam or Wayam by the local languages. Celilo Park sits between the river at a lake, also called Celilo, and the Columbia River Highway. Across the highway is the tiny little village of Celilo. It’s still there because a group of people say their ancestors have always been there. And so, they too will remain.
If you stand at the water’s edge and look out over Lake Celilo from Celilo Park, you are looking at what you used to be a massive waterfall. Joseph Whitehouse, a soldier who travelled with Lewis and Clark and kept a detailed daily journal, said:
The Rocks & Clifts lay very high near to the River; on both sides of these falls; & the Water falling in such an immense quantity, makes a roaring that can be heard several miles below it.https://lewisandclarkjournals.unl.edu/item/lc.jrn.1805-10-22
You can’t see it anymore, but it’s still there.
The Dalles Dam https://www.nwp.usace.army.mil/The-Dalles/
Friends of Celilo Falls https://www.facebook.com/TheFriendsOfCeliloFalls