The Dalles, Oregon

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The Dalles (pronounced /ˈdælz/) is the largest city and county seat of Wasco County, Oregon, United States. The name of the city comes from the French word dalle (meaning either "sluice" or "flagstone" and referring to the columnar basalt rocks carved by the river[2]), what the French-Canadian employees of the North West Company called the now-inundated rapids of the Columbia River between the present-day city and Celilo Falls. The population was 12,156 at the 2000 census and was estimated at 12,520 in 2006.[3] Also in the same area was the Petite Dalles or Little Dalles, or Short Narrows, which is now also inundated.



Lewis and Clark camped near Mill Creek on October 25–27, 1805, and recorded the Native American name for the creek as Quenett. The first use of the name Dalles, according to Oregon Geographic Names, appears in fur trader Gabriel Franchère's Narrative, on April 12, 1814, which was well after the several overland groups of the land components of the Astorian Expedition of 1810-1812 would have passed through and explored the region. The British fur traders in the region, initially just the smaller Northwest Company began exploiting the area around 1811 after its explorers passed through the area in 1807 and 1811 when they encountered a surprise — the American's expedition of the Pacific Fur Company caught in the act building Fort Astoria near the mouth of the Columbia. Several of its overland work parties transited the Dalles enroute to the nascent fort. Later, when the American's supply ship foundered, the agents for the Pacific Fur Company sold out to the British Northwest Company, for now thinking themselves stranded and believing it impossible to get furs overland back to the east past the harsh terrain of the known passes over the continental divide for their plan had been to ship furs out of the Columbian basin by sea. By the time the Northwest Company'd been absorbed by the giant Hudson Bay Company in 1821, The Dales was the company's preferred land terminus-transhipment-river port for shipping around the rapids and waterfalls down river from the port. In 1824 the Hudson Bay Company took the idea of a river port terminus one step further and established Fort Vancouver at the downriver side of the mule trail around the riverine obstacles. The key attraction of the Dalles was not the local topography away from the river where the town of today lies, but was instead in the ready access to the Columbia river available there — because it was one of only a few places along miles of river bank where it was relatively easy to build, launch, and load rafts, barges, or cargo canoes and cargo boats ladened with the lucrative Beaver pelts or supplies. Banks of the Columbia upstream and down were generally higher, steeper, and so much more difficult to use for miles both up river and down.

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