A very small tourist town (ca. 3 square miles) with just over 1,000 residents, sitting along the Columbia River is named appropriately for the Locks built atop the Cascade Rapids perpendicular to the town. It is a town located in Hood River County Oregon. The locks were built to improve navigation past the Cascade Rapids and the town grew up in support of the workers in the area. The locks were built in 1878 and completed in 1896. They became submerged in 1938 and no longer used, as they were replaced by the Bonneville Lock and Dam. They became the Cascade Locks Marina Park and Campground sitting in the shadow of the legendary yet modern Bridge of the Gods. Cascade Locks also is a few miles upstream from the Eagle Creek Gorge where the Pacific Crest Trail cuts through, making Cascade Locks a popular stop-off for the PCT Hikers. The town has been in political limelight of late as the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in 1999 has attempted to build a off-reservation casino here, and since 2008 the city has been trying to sell off its well water to Nestle for bottling. In May 2016, voters from Hood River County was 65% in favor of stopping the Nestle operations, although the town is still fighting the County to allow it. This has recently made Cascade Locks a hotspot for ecological concern. The region is pleasantly warm (never too hot due to the winds) with dry summers, and no average monthly temperatures over 71.6 degrees fahrenheight giving it a warm summer Mediterranean climate. It is also home to a salmon hatchery.
The Canals and Locks
- “Cascades Canal and Locks – The need to improve travel in the Columbia River began with the flow of immigrants heading west and grew steadily as that flow swelled into a tidal wave of commerce. Getting around the rapids remained the greatest challenge. In 1876 Congress appropriated $90,000 to the US Army Corps of Engineers to study construction of a canal at the Cascades. For the next 20 years until the canal opened in 1896, a succession of Corps’ Engineers and private contractors struggled against the forces of nature to complete the monumental project. The canal was originally designed to be eight feet deep, fifty feet wide, and 7,200 feet long at low water with two locks. The cost was fixed at $1.2 million. No sooner had work begun in November 1878 than high winds, rain, and floating ice prevented river travel and isolated the work force at Cascade Locks. Nature had given notice that the cost of the change would be high. In 1880-1881, it was determined that specifications must be changed because of a miscalculation of the low water mark. The plans were revised so that there would be only one lock 90 feet wide and 462 feet long with a lift of 24 feet (later changed to 36 feet.) Work resumed on the canal in 1886. skilled stonemasons cut stones for the canal walls. Unmortared basalt rocks three feet thick were laid above the high water mark. There were now four sets of lock gates. The guard gates at the upper end of the canal were the largest built to that time. They were 55 feet by 52.6 feet and weighed 325,353 pounds. Because the river flood created each year in early June, no work could be done during the dry summer months. Each year at the beginning of the flood season, all of the equipment had to be moved and then re positioned after the flood was over. Work resumed in the fall but was hampered by heavy rainfall and frequent snows. Workers wore cumbersome oilskin coats and awkward boots, showing their efforts greatly. Funds were slow in coming and in 1886 Major Handbury noted that “a generation will have been born and gone to its grave between the beginning and ending of this enterprise’. At last after the flood damage of 1894 was repaired the canal was opened in 1896. 1.8 million dollars had been expended but the cost of human toil far exceeded any dollar amount. Given the isolated and extreme nature of the site, otherwise mundane project statistics are staggering. ” ~ sign at Cascade Locks Marina Park and Campground, Cascade Locks, Oregon