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Area History


Though native Americans have enjoyed the many splendors of the central Cascade mountain range for thousands of years, modern man only discovered this wonderland relatively recently. In 1792, the British George Vancouver began naming the mountains he saw from Puget Sound after officers in the Royal Navy and others.

The 1805 Lewis & Clark expedition came across the Columbia River. As a result of their reports, David Thompson's visit in 1806 (while working for the Hudson Bay Company) and the Simon Fraser voyage in 1808, word spread swiftly of a wonderful place where the mountain range was crossed by the mighty Columbia river. Reports included a land where where trout and salmon spawned and the climate was comfortably cool in the summers, and winters were relatively mild.

The Cascade Rapids, (now submerged under the Bonneville Reservoir portion of the Columbia Rive Gorge) lent the mountains their name. Originally referred to as the “mountains by the cascades,” this would soon be shortened to the "Cascades" and man has referred to them as the Cascades ever since. Distinctions of region include the Northern Cascades (the northern, Canadian portion,) High Cascades (the volcanic mountains, from Mount Rainier near Tacoma, Washington on down to Lassen Peak in northern California, and the Central Cascades (largely in Oregon.)

The popular Mount Bachelor, within the Central Cascades region, got its name from that it is near, yet stands apart from, the Three Sisters mountains. Each year, thousands flock to this area for skiing and winter sports as well as a myriad of summer activities including mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, and fly fishing. A sportsman's paradise, the Central Cascades region has become a popular destination within the past century, but it wasn't always that way.

During the gold rush days, the Northern Cascades had a part to play as well. It would be that Fraser Canyon Gold Rush, in and about 1858, which would cause the Crown to lay dibs on Victoria Island and the greater British Columbia area. The rushes would only last a couple years, even with all of the spin-offs the Fraser Canyon rush sprouted, but the explorations, designations and declarations had already been accomplished, the settlements begun.

Perhaps best known as Bend, the main city within the central Cascades had humble beginnings as a logging town. A development company funded the start of some 300 people, and the city of Farewell Bend was incorporated just past the turn of the 1800's, named so for that it was located at the major bend in the mighty Columbia.

Since those humble beginnings, the town has become a major force within this highly ecologically minded state. The Columbia now sports hydro-electric generator dams, providing the state with relatively low-cost non-polluting energy. Debates which arose about the impact on spawning salmon, which travel hundreds of miles up river each year to mate and lay their eggs, have brought commercial interests and conservation minds to work together to devise side routes which allow the salmon to continue their runs around the sides of the dams, while preserving the ability to harness the river's power to generate electricity.

In more recent years, the eruption of Mt. St. Helen's in 1980 and 2006 caused early warning systems to be installed in the Cascades. As all of the range is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, scientists were concerned that the Mount St. Helen eruption might herald a revisiting of the old volcanic action within these majestic mountains, but the concern has since proven entirely unfounded.

Though early settlers were known to fear it greatly, the mighty Columbia River has been tamed, and now provides its many visitors with a wonderful vacation destination attraction as the only break in the entire Cascades range. Whether coming for extreme sports, camping, biking and hiking, or the calm serenity that these mountains emit, every visitor is instantly and permanently charmed by the venerable, unforgettable peaks of the Cascade Mountain Range.