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Riverfront Park Rd.

The Dalles, OR 97058

(541) 705-0701 


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The History of Celilo Falls

Celilo Paddle Company is the namesake of Celilo Falls. Celilo Falls was the main waterfall in a series of cascades and waterfalls that ran through the portion of the Columbia River along which the present day city of The Dalles, Oregon is situated. This series of cascades and falls was collectively known as The Narrows. The Narrows covered around 12 miles and dropped 82 feet when the water was high. The Columbia River violently churned through The Narrows on its way to the Pacific Ocean.

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, on their expedition to the Pacific Ocean, came to The Narrows in October of 1805. After studying the landscape, they decided to portage around the 20 foot drop of Celilo Falls and run the rest of The Narrows in a dugout canoe (class V rapids by today's standards). Clark described the waterway as "agitated gut swelling, boiling and whirling in every direction". According to the noted late historian, Stephen E. Ambrose, "(The natives) gathered by the hundreds along the banks to watch the white men drown themselves and to be ready to help themselves to the abandoned equipment afterwards. But...the Americans made the run without incident."

Celilo Falls and The Narrows that ensued continued to garner the admiration and awe of the many explorers and settlers who came west after Lewis and Clark. This continued until 1957 with the construction of The Dalles Dam. The dam created the flatter river conditions we know and recognize today.

Celilo Falls 1890

Celilo Falls 1890