This morning after going one mile, we left the river, five mile over the ridge we crossed the river and encamped for the day in order to recruit our cattle as they were much fatigued by crossing the Blue Mountains. — William J. Watson, August 25, 1849
this days brot us the the (sic) Indian agency on the west bank of the Umatila River here we got some provisions flour at 60 per bacon 75 beef 25 shugar 75 coffee 75 per pound and hard to get at that this is a beautiful valley well calculated for farming. — John Newton Lewis, October 3, 1852
Passed over a ridge of high land, then down the bottom to the crossing of the umatilla, the river has a large channel here but the water all sinks, and we passed on a bed of gravel and pebble stones, for which the stream is famous all along. On the west bank is United States Agency, a very neat looking frame house painted white, it looked cheering, as we had not seen a frame house since we left fort Laramie. — John or David Dinwiddie, September 2, 1853
Destruction of the Whitman Mission in 1847 drastically altered the emigrant route. The wagon trains then began following the Umatilla River west, and forded the stream anywhere from 20 to 500 feet south of this point, depending upon the fluctuating course of the river.
This was an important campsite. These
fertile Umatilla River bottom lands afforded immense growths of rye grass, waving almost six feet above the rich loam. The meadows and marshes near the river were thick with wild hay grass and tules. There was abundant feed for livestock, wood for campfires, and water for humans and animals. On the west bank, the white-frame Indian Agency offered scarce provisions for sale. The camp served as a point of repairs, preparations and respite.
This junction also offered an option: turn north to follow the Columbia and its rapids, or continue west over the dusty, windy and often scorching-hot trek across the Columbia Plateau. Most headed due west toward Well Spring.
Look up-river toward the groves of cottonwood and alders along the quiet river banks. The pastoral scene is little changed from what the emigrants saw along the Umatilla River from 1843 to 1859.
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