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Museum of the Columbia

Earn an explorer seal by finding all the scavenger hunt items inside. Stick it here when finished. Now you're a Certified Explorer!

The information in this guidebook is just a sampling of what there is to learn in the Museum of the Columbia. Visit each display to dive even deeper into the records of discovery and development of this area. The details and artifacts in each display help bring history alive.

Chelan County PUD Email: ContactUs@chelanpud.org Phone: (509) 663-8121 Toll-free: (888) 663-8121 www.chelanpud.org

Rocky Reach Visitor Center Phone: (509) 663-7522 www.chelanpud.org/visitor-center.html

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Step into the past

We’re so glad you have taken the opportunity to learn about this amazing, historic valley. These exhibits show the exciting past of the Columbia River and its surrounding territory. On your journey through time, you’ll get to see the way the beautiful plateau was formed, how the first people survived off the land, and who the settlers were that brought new technology and innovations to the area.

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For even more fun, keep an eye out for certain artifacts as you explore the museum. There are 17 pictured and numbered in this guide. Check them off as you find them and bring your guidebook to the Visitor Center front desk for a gold seal naming you a Certified Explorer.

This museum guide will help you navigate through the displays. It’s a summary of each section of the museum, but your curiosity shouldn’t stop here! There’s even more information available at each display.


Words you’ll see in the museum Adz (adz): A large ax-like tool with a thin curved blade used for shaping wood.

Archaeology (ar-kee-all-ohjee): A science that studies the way people lived in the past through looking at the physical artifacts they left behind, such as the shelters, clothing and cooking utensils. Archaeological site (ar-keeah-loj-i-cal site): A collection of artifacts, in their original location, indicating past human life or events. Basalt (ba-salt): Dark gray or black volcanic rock made up of three minerals called plagioclase, augite and magnetite. Breech-clout (breech clowt): A long section of cloth or tanned animal skin worn between the legs and held up by a belt, with the front and back flaps hanging in front and behind. Chelan County PUD (sheh-lan): The public utility district, founded in 1936, that operates three hydro projects in Chelan County. 4

Chelan Falls Hydro Plant: The dam and powerhouse located at the southeastern edge of Lake Chelan and owned and operated by Chelan PUD. Expedition (ex-peh-dihshun): A journey taken with a specific purpose in mind. Fossil (fah-sill): A flat imprint of plant or animal remains on rocks or other surfaces. Geology (jee-ah-lah-jee): A scientific study that looks at the earth’s history, physical make up and inevitable changes. Glacier (glay-sher): A great block of ice that is slowly moving to lower elevation, scouring the landscape and creating hills and valleys. Hydroelectric power (hi-droee-lek-trik pow-er): Electricity gained through the fall or flow of water. Legend (le-jend): A traditional story considered historical (but not necessarily accurate) that has been passed down through generations.

Myth (mith): A story, generally believed as true and usually about the past, that explains the world or some part of it. Pemmican (pe-mi-ken): Any combination of dried salmon, meat and berries pounded together with fish oil or animal fat and pressed into cakes to form a nutritious dehydrated food concentrate eaten in the winter or taken on journeys. Petrified (pet-ri-fied): When dissolved minerals seep into logs buried in sediment and preserve the shape by replacing wood fibers with chemical compounds. Petroglyph (pe-tra-glif ): A design that is pecked or carved into the surface of stone. Plateau (pla-tow): An large flat land surface with at least one side significantly higher than surrounding terrain.

Rock Island Dam: A Chelan PUD dam that began operating in 1933 as the first dam on the Columbia River, and that has been expanded and improved since its original construction. Rocky Reach Dam: One of Chelan PUD’s three hydro projects, finished in 1961 on the Columbia River, and the location of the Museum of the Columbia. Silica (si-li-ka): A chemical compound that replaces wood fibers to produce a petrified tree. Sternwheeler (stern-weel-er): A steamboat that is powered and driven by a single paddle wheel at the back. Tule (too-lee): A nickname for two types of plants, hardstemmed and soft-stemmed, that grow in shallow marshes and lakes.

Regalia (reh-gail-ee-ah): Clothing decorations that indicated ranking in or association with a particular group. 5

River of change

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The study of geology includes looking at rocks and landscapes, and figuring out the history behind different parts of the earth. Here you can spot different types of rocks from all over the Wenatchee Valley and see what caused significant changes to the surrounding hills, valleys and plateaus. The most obvious cause of geological changes is the Columbia River. The constantly flowing water wears away at the river banks, and repeated flooding and droughts have caused erosion and landscape shifts.



Subtle changes You’ve probably spent time on a sandy beach, rocky hillside, or freshly-tilled garden. That rock or handful of sand at your feet could have at one time been part of a great mountain boulder or bits of broken shells and rocks from the ocean floor. Over time, rivers, lakes and springs push rocks together, move soil and bring it slowly to the ocean floor where it’s packed together. It’s compressed so tightly, in fact, that the atoms combine and form new rocks and minerals. This process happens so slowly that geological changes can hardly be tracked over a person’s lifetime.

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Rivers, wind and animal life all tear down and erode landscapes. But if they’re all working to wear away at the earth, then why isn’t the world a sandy, level planet? One answer is volcanoes. Early lava flows built up the plateau, moving as fast as 30 mph. At that pace, lava would take only a few days to cover the entire valley. As the lava flowed and cooled, it blocked and rerouted rivers, forming lakes. Sometimes volcanoes repeatedly spilled lava, piling on large amounts of basalt. Other times the landscape would have time to recover and change before another layer of lava would again cover the area.

A basalt entrapment

It’s amazing that at one time these petrified trees once stood tall and strong in a forest or on a mountainside. But after their fall and entrapment in basalt, the wood fiber was slowly replaced by a chemical compound called silica. The bright colors in petrified wood come from mineral impurities. Not all the petrified trees found around Wenatchee are native to the area, or are still in existence today. Some may have taken many years to travel to this region, then been buried in the basalt flows. Others may have originally grown here and died out over time. 8

The Spokane flood

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Even events that happen 200 miles away can affect the terrain in the Wenatchee Valley.

An immense flood that happened long ago in the eastern Spokane area brought large boulders to rest in the valley. Glaciers traveling through the region also helped shape and mold the landscape. Ancient floods, shifting tides, and erupting volcanoes all shaped the mountains, hills, plateaus and valleys around us.


Local finds

If you look closely at these minerals and rocks found in the Wenatchee Valley, you can see the imprint of a leaf in one of the rocks. Imprints like this one are called fossils. Fossils occur when parts of plants, animals or other organisms such as insects, are preserved in the earth. In this set of displays, you can also see an example of basalt and other types of lava rock. 9

Cat of one color

The cougar is a relative of the docile house cat, but this North American native is far from timid. While cougars can attack livestock, pets and even people, they are an important part of the ecosystem because they remove the sick and weak animals from herds. A cougar can spend up to an hour stalking its prey and can cover as much as 15 miles! The cougar preying on the weaker animals prevents those animals from having young, which means only faster and tougher animals survive to reproduce. This keeps the herd strong as qualities like agility and strength are passed on to future generations.


Latin Name: Felis Concolor (“cat of one color”) Coloring: Varies from reddish-brown, tawny (tan), and gray with a black tail tip Prey: Deer, elk, moose, mountain goats, wild sheep, raccoons, coyotes, rabbits, hares, rodents, occasionally pets and livestock Size: Up to 180 lbs and 8 ft in length – North America’s largest cat Known for: Agility, strength, ability to jump – Source: Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife


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Petroglyphs could be considered the first graffiti. The drawings were carved into rocks and cave walls to tell a story or send a message. These petroglyphs were found near Rock Island, before the dam was built. You can see more petroglyphs next to the canoe display. What do you think the creator of these petroglyphs was trying to say?


The Stemilt village

Archaeologists believe this home of 25 to 50 people is about 2,500 years old. That’s more than ten times older than the United States of America. The residents survived primarily on fish, deer, elk, roots and other native plants. Any food they saved for the winter had to be stored in pits or raised high from the ground so that animals couldn’t steal it. The main focus was survival, which meant Stemilt villagers had to adapt to each season’s weather. Nothing went to waste after a hunt or harvest. The people took only what they needed. Anything that wasn’t edible like bones, reeds or fur was used to make tools, clothing and shelters. 11

Archaeological sites

Archaeologists seek to find out how people used to live. They discover possible historic sites with a walking survey, where they watch for tool fragments, food remains, parts of shelters, fire pits or anything that might indicate a person or group of people used to live there. Of course, archaeologists are looking for places that have ties to history, and not just the leftovers of a recent camper’s weekend.

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An archaeological site can be at surface level or underground and is any place where some past human activity occurred. It’s not necessarily where people permanently lived. It could be where early Native Americans prepared food, made tools, hunted and gathered, or held ceremonies. At this display you can follow the excavation of an archaeological site.

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Imagine if almost everything you owned – furniture, bedding, cupboards, even your house – was made completely out of wood because you didn’t have access to other supplies. That’s how it was for early Native Americans living on the Columbia plateau. They made shelters, sleeping mats, plates and even clothing out of thick, dried, lightweight stems from a plant called tule. This shelter shows how they roped the stems together to protect their families against the elements. Eventually Imagine if almost indigenous people of this region everything you owned were introduced to wool and – furniture, bedding, canvas, but before that happened cupboards, even your house they figured out a way to fill – was made completely many of their needs with the out of wood because you plants that grew around them. didn’t have access to other supplies.

Uncovering the past

This display shows what you might see at an archaeological site. Each layer represents a time period. Archaeologists carefully use trowels and brushes to uncover evidence of past humans. There are systems to record the artifacts they find and catalog them for further study. Each one of the arrowheads in this display tells a little bit about the animals the people were hunting. 13

The four seasons

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Just like we have seasons for spring cleaning or back-toschool shopping, the Native Americans in the area had certain jobs they needed to do to prepare for the coming weather. Spring meant digging for roots and celebrating the “Root Feast.� In summer, Native Americans fished, hunted and dried meat for the winter. Autumn brought harvests of local berries and was the time to make shelters for winter. Because of the cold weather that prevented food gathering, early residents passed the winter time with dances and ceremonies inside large mat or tule houses.



The Orondo pictograph Instead of graffiti, petroglyphs, like these found in Orondo, Wash., could be thought of as road signs or billboards used to pass on information. They could mark places where hunting was good, or tell a story of events that took place. These particular petroglyphs were discovered around 1945, later stolen by an unknown person or persons, then rediscovered and donated to Chelan What do you think County PUD. the carvings say?

The vegetation Have you ever noticed how different parts of the world have different kinds of plants? California and Hawaii both have palm trees, and in Washington we have pine trees. Differences in soil, weather and elevation are some of the factors that cause the variations. While it may be harder to notice, there are certain differences in the parts of the Columbia plateau, just like there are differences between areas in the United States. There are six vegetation zones in the Columbia plateau. Animals roam between the zones in search of food and shelter. 15

Early transportation This canoe, found in the Columbia River, was created from a solid log. The builder shaped the outside first, using an adz, a tool similar to an ax. Then the inside was hollowed out using either an adz or ax, after weakening parts of the wood by burning it. The canoe was then steamed and the sides pushed apart to make it wider. Before ferries, canoes like these were hired to transport supplies and sometimes wagons across the Columbia River.


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Life on the plateau The first people living around the Columbia River made use of every resource available to them; from plants and the river, to big game, and talents and abilities of other community members. Everyone and everything had a purpose and an important role to play. Even the decorative beads, shells, dyes and feathers on clothing specified a person’s nation, tribe and clan. At this display learn about Native American clothing, structures, food, family and hunting technique.


Households could be large, including a husband, wife, children, grandparents and possibly unmarried aunts and uncles. Except for very young children and older grandparents, everyone pitched in to hunt and gather food. For big tasks or during ceremonies, everyone came together to help.

Summer clothing: Sleeveless shirt/ dress, skirt, apron/breech-clout, moccasins Winter clothing: Summer wear, plus sleeves, long mittens, caps, vests, capes, blankets, fur items Decoration: Fur, feathers, bone, wood, roots, bark, grass, clay, stone, metal, leather, shells, beads, natural dyes, paint, teeth, quills, parts of deer hooves, fringes Food sources: Hunting, fishing, gathering Staples: Salmon, deer, fruits, roots, bulbs, vegetables, pemmican (pounded salmon and berry cakes) Preparation: Drying, boiling (using water-tight baskets and stones heated in the fire) Storage: Burying under rocks, stashing in dry caves, placing high in trees or arbors 17

Individuals and the community

Family and individual duties were very important to the people living on the Columbia plateau. In order to survive, everyone had a job. Not everyone had the same duties. Just like we have people who run businesses, enforce the law, manage restaurants and deliver the mail, those in the Columbia plateau tribes had certain tasks to complete for the good of the community. Men were often responsible for hunting, while women and girls prepared and stored food and created decorations for clothing.

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The Rock Island Petroglyphs

This is another example of a petroglyph, or a design carved in rock. These particular petroglyphs, from Rock Island, are part of the most extensive petroglyph It’s important to site on the remember that Columbia River. discoveries like these Unfortunately, when some people are important clues come across petroglyphs or the more to the Wenatchee fragile pictographs, they mark over Valley’s history, and the ancient pictures in some way. should be treated with respect.


As what you wear says a lot about your personality, the area’s first people wore clothing with specific meaning. Family members would spend a large amount of time designing not only clothing, but everyday goods as well, such as the items in this display. The colors, designs, and decorations showed their clan and tribe. These pieces of regalia were valued highly in these communities and worn proudly.

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The Moses Coulee pipe A common tradition among Native American adult men and some women was smoking a ceremonial pipe. Sometimes the pipe was smoked for formal celebrations, and other times pipes were smoked during informal nightly campfires. Each person took only a few puffs of the special tobacco before putting the pipe away for next time. A Moses Coulee farmer found this particular pipe four and a half feet below a cave floor. That, plus the wooden casing and cloth the pipe was found in, means it was made a long time ago, and very important to the community members who smoked it.


Throughout the year, families and communities around the world celebrate traditions and holidays. Native Americans called their gatherings ceremonies, which were very important to the people of the Columbia Plateau. Events were held to pray for, celebrate and give thanks for harvests. Sometimes they were held to honor outstanding deeds of community members or to show hospitality to outsiders. During some of these ceremonies, older members of the tribe would smoke a pipe, like the one in the display.


Ancient stories Instead of having libraries filled with books like we have today, the first people on the plateau shared and saved their history by telling the stories to younger generations.

The tales could be legends, where great heroes or events were remembered. Or they could be myths, stories that sought to explain events such as why and how the sun rises. A good storyteller was highly respected, and storytelling was considered an important art form.

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Chinese in the United States Imagine moving to a different country (with a language you didn’t know) to work in a mining camp or to build a railroad so you could send money back to your family. That’s exactly what many Chinese men and women did to provide a better life for their families back home.

With the expansion of mining and the railroad, there were many opportunities for work, even though it was hard. Chinese laborers worked in the mines, built railroad lines, logged, worked in laundries and gardened. Chinese miners often bought land claims and equipment from white workers to find gold for themselves. There were major mining camps in Rock Island, Entiat, Orondo, Chelan Falls and Bridgeport. 21

Lewis and Clark expedition

In 1803, Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, made plans to send Capt. Meriwether Lewis and Lt. William Clark to explore the Missouri River and the Pacific Northwest. Their expedition, which took a little over two years, involved meeting and talking with Native Americans, finding river pathways for future transportation and expanding the American fur trade.

The faces of history The people featured in this museum probably never realized that they were going to be an important part of the Columbia Plateau’s history. There were Native Americans, explorers, miners, farmers, businessmen, teachers and steamboat captains who all contributed to developing the valley. While they came from many backgrounds and countries, their combined exploration and cultivation formed the plateau into what it is today. 22

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The steamboat bell

This bell, found in the Entiat Rapids, is similar to others used on steamboats, with one very noticeable difference. See the cracks and hole in the bell? That was caused by a hard and sharp strike; possibly a bullet. The scratch marks around the hole suggest that someone tried to repair the damage. Sometimes, if a steamboat captain engaged in unethical behavior, a personal enemy would shoot at the steamboat in protest. No one knows what steamboat this bell belonged to, or how it ended up alone in the Entiat Rapids. What’s your guess on what caused the hole in the bronze bell?

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The last of the sternwheelers After 1910, when the Great Northern Railroad expanded along the Columbia River, sternwheelers were no longer the fastest, easiest form of transportation. Even though the need for these boats had plummeted, the Bridgeport was built for Capt. Fred McDermott in 1917. It was the last sternwheeler used on the Columbia River and was abandoned in 1942. Launched: April 12, 1917 Length: 121.5 feet Beam Height: 28.4 feet Depth: 6.4 feet Construction Cost: $15,000 Captain: Capt. Fred McDermott Use: Transporting apples from Bridgeport to Pateros Abandoned: 1942

Early ferries

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With the development of strong and sturdy steel bridges, the Columbia River takes only a minute to drive across. But for early settlers who for months had been traveling a dusty road in a covered wagon, arriving at the Columbia River presented a huge obstacle. 24

Luckily for the pioneers, there were those who built and ran ferries to transport wagons, animals, supplies and people across the river. Eventually bridges were built, but for a while ferries were the only way to reach the Columbia’s opposite bank.

From farm to river

Think about the problem that faced early wheat farmers: you need to get harvested wheat from your farm on a plateau to a sternwheeler on the Columbia River about two miles away. Some solved this problem by hauling bagged wheat on horse-drawn wagons, but you have an extra challenge — there are two canyons that separate your farm from the river. What would you do? In 1902, the farmers’ answer was to develop the Waterville Tramway. The buckets in this display are from the original structure, which brought tools and supplies up to the farms on the plateau and brought bags of wheat down to the Columbia River. Eventually the railroad could transport the tools and wheat, but for seven years this tramway did the job. In time the tramway rotted or burned down, where the fallen metal buckets waited for their removal in 1976. 25

Ice harvest

Did you know that before electricity and freezers, early settlers figured out their own way to have ice in the hot summers? During the winter, they would use a saw, like the one here, to cut ice from a pond or lake and store it in a cave, or in the ground. To keep it from melting they’d surround it with sawdust or another insulating material. Then when summer came, the ice could be used a little bit at a time.

Logging Although extremely dangerous, logging was an important industry during settlement of North Central Washington, particularly before 1900. Sometimes the log rafts were sent down the Columbia River to mills in Wenatchee, but the most successful lumber mills were the ones built on the Wenatchee, Entiat, and Okanogan rivers, because they were so close to available timber.


Tracking towards the future

If all you’d seen for transportation was horse-drawn wagons and bulky sternwheelers, wouldn’t the development of the fast, efficient, reliable railroad seem impossible? What may have seemed impossible became a reality when the Great Northern Railroad reached Wenatchee on Oct. 17, 1892. Its tracks spread to connect with tracks coming from Seattle. Eventually other railroads ran through towns like Waterville, Oroville, Pateros and Mansfield. This made transporting wheat much easier, cheaper and faster than using sternwheelers.

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The steel railroad bridge at Rock Island was the first bridge built across the Columbia River in the United States.

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Modern bridges

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Driving across the Columbia today is easy, but during Wenatchee’s early days, ferries were the only way to cross. With the town’s population growing, ferries grew less practical. The first bridge in the United States across the Columbia River was built in 1893 for the Great Northern Railroad, but the public needed a more accessible bridge for wagons and foot traffic. A wagon bridge was built in 1908. This bridge was replaced in 1950 with a new steel highway bridge. The Olds Station concrete bridge (now the Odabashian bridge), the second across the Columbia in the Wenatchee Valley, was built in 1976.



Lights On!

The history of hydroelectric power starts long before Chelan County PUD. Private power companies claimed it was too expensive to provide power to sparsely populated areas, so only cities had electricity. The story of public power in Chelan County and the Mid-Columbia region is the story of people who believed in extending the reach of electricity to all.

In 1936 county residents voted to form a public utility district so that farmers could have access to electricity like their city neighbors. The PUD served its first 10 customers in 1947 and bought out the private power company’s electric distribution system in 1948. By 1953 the PUD had leased part of Rock Island Dam and was expanding it to power the potlines of a new aluminum smelter and purchased the dam in 1956. A year earlier it bought the Lake Chelan Hydro Project. Another milestone was the start of construction of Rocky Reach Dam in 1956, which was expanded to 11 generating units in 1971. Local development of more clean, renewable, affordable hydropower continued with completion of the second powerhouse at Rock Island Dam in 1979. 29

Power to the people

Before Chelan County PUD was formed, not many people in the smaller communities outside Wenatchee had access to affordable electricity. In 1936, local voters decided to change that. This display shows the desk of Jack Shreve, the PUD’s first employee, where distribution system plans and the first contracts were mapped out. Today power generated at the Lake Chelan, Rock Island and Rocky Reach dams serves homes and businesses in Chelan County and goes to utilities that serve customers across the West.

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Did you find all the scavenger hunt items? 1.

 Trowel in “Uncovering the Past”


 Native American crafts in “Attitudes and Beliefs”


 Opal in “Geology”


 Pictographs in “The People”


 Mortar and pestle in “Archeology”


 Train wheel in “Great Northern Railroad”


 Pencil sharpener in “How It All Began”


 Moccasins in “Clothing”


 Mining figurines in “Chinese Miners”

10.  Model train in “Great Northern Railroad” 11.  Stone sculpture in “Archeology” 12.  Golden eagle in “The Tule” 13.  Native American regalia in “Attitudes and Beliefs” 14.  Antique toaster in “How It All Began” 15.  Candlestick in “Steamboat” 16.  Conglomerate rock in “Geology” 17.  Pipe in “How It All Began”

Remember to get your Certified Explorer seal!


Profile for Chelan County PUD

Museum of the Columbia walking guide  

The information in this guidebook is just a sampling of what there is to see at the Museum of the Columbia. Visit each display to dig deeper...

Museum of the Columbia walking guide  

The information in this guidebook is just a sampling of what there is to see at the Museum of the Columbia. Visit each display to dig deeper...

Profile for ccpud