Historic Hood River
This great view of the construction of the canal at Cascade Locks is dated December 1, 1883. Construction spanned the years from 1878 to 1896.
It is an unusually large photographic print for the era (18″x22″), rich in detail of the construction project. The scale is hard to understand until you start to pick out all the men amongst the boulders. Every time I look I see more, but there are at least 24 in this view. It’s impressive to see the size of those boulders that were split, lifted, and carried away by steam power. You can see a cart with a full load of boulders at the near end of the track which winds its way through the canal and out of the frame.
The photographer is none other than Carleton Watkins, one of the most famous men to document the commerce and beauty of the Columbia River in the 19th century. Most of his 1300 “mammoth negatives” were tragically lost in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, so period prints such as are in most cases all that is left of his work. I’ve verified that there are other copies of this print in existence, but we’re lucky to have an example in our museum.