First Advisor

William Lang

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Columbia River Gorge (Or. and Wash.) -- History, Skamania County (Wash.) -- History, Gifford Pinchot National Forest (Wash.) -- History



Physical Description

Digitized computer-produced typeface. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 226-238).


This is a narrative of place, of intersections between people, power, and perception of landscape. The environs of the Columbia River Gorge create a very distinct sense of place. Where once a series of three rapids - the Cascades of the Columbia - blocked industrial upriver transport, now Bonneville Dam and Locks allows smooth passage. To the north the vast 1.3 million acre Gifford Pinchot National Forest dominates the landscape. On the Columbia's banks lies the town of Stevenson, Washington, with Carson a few miles away, in a transitory ecological zone between east and west, at the forest's edge. There, community development has been manifestly influenced by human relationships to the landscape.

Contested visions of place during the nineteenth century resulted in violent conflict and framed debates over place.Examining struggles over who would control access, first to the Cascades of the Columbia, and then to the timber of the Wind River Valley, provides a venue for examining power - of nature, ideas, and changing human cultures as overlapping groups imposed their views of the good life onto the landscape. As each successive group gained power, the relationships of humans to the land, and to one another, changed.

By examining historic connections between river and forest, and between human communities to each, this study identifies multiple meanings of the same environment for different groups. I use a bioregional approach, exploring relationships between land, people and resources on the Columbia's north bank between 1805 and 1913. Power relations at the Cascades and in the forest were determined through conflict, negotiation, and the federal government, with the human relationship to nature influencing outcomes. Conflict often resulted from struggles over access to place, while human groups negotiated their place within the landscape. Nature privileged one group over another through disease, fire, and human perception, while the United States government co-opted place through public land laws, Indian removal, and by measuring and bounding the landscape. Who gained access to the river and forest of the Columbia's north shore, and how they did it, is the focus of this story.


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