Wednesday, April 13, 2011
When Lewis and Clark passed through the Gorge on their return trip to Missouri, in April of 1806, the travelers found an area rich in wildlife, natural beauty and Native American trading partners.
In the area of present-day Cascade Locks, the expedition faced one of its bigger challenges: navigating the Cascade Rapids. Rushing water, high winds and driving rain made the task difficult.
So difficult, in fact, that the expedition was briefly separated on the night of April 9-10, 1806, as they tried to cross from the Washington side of the Columbia to the Oregon side. Three men and a canoe were left on the Washington side due to the high waves.
The remainder of the expedition spent the evening near Tanner Creek near Cascade Locks.
"In this channel we found a good harbor and encamped on the lower Side. We Saw Some deer Sign and Collins to hunt in the morning until the Canoes were toed above the rapids. Made 16 Miles to day. evening wet & disagreeable," wrote Captain William Clark in his journal.
In the ensuing days the group would cross back and forth from the Oregon and Washington sides, including visits to several Native American villages in the vicinity of Cascade Locks.
In the history of the expedition, the group's journey through Cascade Locks and Hood River County has been nearly completely brushed aside.
That changes April 13 when bronze sculptures of Sacagawea, the expedition's Shoshone guide, and Seaman, the Newfoundland dog belonging to Meriwether Clark, will be erected at Cascade Locks Marine Park.
"This is going to be a fantastic addition to the port," said Rachel Burand, the Port of Cascade Locks special projects manager. "We chose to do it on April 13 because that was when they came through on the return trip in 1806."
Local artist Heather Söderberg has been creating the sculptures of both Sacagawea and Seaman for the port, a multi-stage process that will not be finished until just before the statues are placed in the park.
When fully assembled the Sacagawea statue will weigh in at around half a ton and Seaman will weigh 500 pounds.
"It's a huge process," Söderberg said. "It takes months."
Söderberg moved her studio and foundry to Cascade Locks last year after being in the Wood Village area prior to that mainly because she believes that art makes communities a great place to be and she loves Cascade Locks and the Gorge.
"I moved my business here specifically to bring art here," she said. "I love Cascade Locks… and I've seen how much art can improve public spaces."
The process for having the two statues placed in Marine Park began several years ago, when a wooden sign commemorating Lewis and Clark's expedition in the park fell down from its pedestal.
Longtime Port Commissioner Jean McLean began advocating for a permanent replacement.
"I've been talking about that pedestal for a number of years," she said.
The conversation started as a statue of Lewis and Clark but eventually evolved into the bronze statues of Sacagawea and Seaman, with Söderberg taking on the project for just the cost of the materials.
McLean's term as port commissioner ends in June and she will not be running again. She said she is happy to have the statues going up before she leaves office.
"It's going to look good," she said.