The Dalles, Oregon
The Dalles is a place, where spectacular scenery, outdoor adventure, history, and friendly people all come together. Located in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, between Mt. Hood. and Mt. Adams, on the south bank of the Columbia River, The Dalles has been a natural destination point for pioneers of yesteryear and visitors of today!
The end of the overland Oregon Trail, The Dalles carved a unique place in history as a jumping off spot for pioneers, soldiers, gold miners, adventurers, gun-slingers, floozies, and scallywags. Lewis and Clark camped at this location at Rock Fort Camp during their historic journey to explore the Louisiana Purchase territory in 1805 and 1806. Fort Dalles was established in 1850. Ten thousand years of Native American trading took place on the banks of the Columbia River, carved by the Missoula Floods.
How do you pronounce "The Dalles"? And where did it get that name?
Map of the Columbia River from The Dalles to Celilo Falls, 1888. Click here to see a larger version of this map.
"The Dalles" rhymes with "pals", and "gals" and doesn't rhyme with much of anything else. And yes, "The" is part of our name. File us under the letter "T".
The "dalles" was a reference to a series of trecherous rapids once located just upriver from where the community is today. The French speaking Hudson's Bay Company fur traders and mountain men of the 1800s used the term to describe areas where river water was constricted by rock channels.
The word "dalle" translates, literally, in French as "large tile" (dalles is plural). It was a reference to gutters lined with tiles, or flagstones. The name became associated with this area because of the long gutter-like formation of the rapids known as the "grande dalles" of the Columbia, a channel that was two miles long, approximately 150 feet wide by 150 feet deep, where the entire volume of the Columbia River thundered through that long channel. Further upriver were the "petite" dalles, and Celilo Falls. The rapids of The Dalles and Celilo Falls made river navigation incredibly dangerous and difficult, if not impossible. Both the rapids of The Dalles and Celilo Falls were submerged by the backwater lake created by The Dalles Dam, when it went into operation in 1957.
Be on the alert for Floozies! They love greeting our visitors at the Riverdock, located at the foot of Union Street. Several cruise ships are visiting the Columbia River Gorge this year, and the Fort Dalles Floozies turn out to greet the visitors to The Dalles. We love to share our wonderful town and our history with everyone and hope you enjoy meeting our Floozies!
For a look at the cruise ship schedule, visit The Dalles Main Street
or click here for a PDF of the cruise ship docking schedule.
Are you a member of Wasco County Historical Society?
Membership supports the mission of Wasco County Historical Society to educate and preserve our county's history. Individual membership is only $15. Click here for the membership form.
Sanborn Maps for The Dalles
View PDFs of the Sanborn Insurance maps of the The Dalles. The maps available range from 1884 through 1960. Sanborn Maps is an American publisher of historical and current maps of US cities and towns that were initially created to estimate fire insurance liabilities. The company's maps are frequently used for preservation and restoration efforts. The Sanborn maps themselves are large-scale lithographed street plans at a scale of 50 feet to one inch (1:600).
You will find maps for 1884, 1888, 1892, 1900, 1909, 1926, and updated maps for 1944-1960 (based on the 1926 map). A treasure trove of information for the historian trying to figure out what was located where and when in The Dalles.
Click here to head to the Sanborn Map page.
The Dalles celebrated the beginnings of our community in 2013 with the 175th anniversary of the founding of the Wascopam (pronounced "wus-KO-pum") Mission, March 21, 1838. To learn more about the mission, click here.
Once the "best hotel in the west" the old Umatilla House was a busy place during the wild west gold rush years in the 1860s through the 1890s. To learn more about the Umatilla House, click here.