Crown Point History and Milder 1900s Weather?

It’s a slow evening with nothing of interest in the 7 Day forecast.  I figure I’ll post about one of my 2nd favorite subjects (history) since it’s directly related to today’s fun up at Crown Point.

I’ve been interested in that area since I was a kid, asking my parents what that “house up on the rock” was.  Then when I moved down to the Portland area 20 years ago for my first job out of college, I knew I had to live out there where the weather was more severe in winter.

Do you realize there used to be more buildings in the area?  Vista House was completed in 1918 to go with the first highway that was built through the Gorge.  Before that time, there had been a well-known Inn built on the point just to the west.  Exactly 100 years ago (1912) the Chanticleer Inn was built right where the lower parking lot of Women’s Forum viewpoint is today.   Here are two pics:   You can see Rooster Rock in the lower right portion of the postcard, and Crown Point is well off to the right (not in pic). People could either drive there, OR take the train to Rooster Rock (no freeway yet!) and then walk or get a ride up a winding road to the inn. You can still walk that path; my family and I did it a week ago.  From the lowest part of the parking lot at WF Park, there is a gate to the left, that’s the start.  There is a great viewpoint after the first big curve.  The path gets real muddy near the bottom, but after dropping maybe 800′ in elevation, you end up at the railroad tracks near Rooster Rock itself.  A fun short hike.  

This inn lasted 18 years, then burned in 1930.  Mrs. Margaret Henderson, who operated the inn, moved on two years later to open another inn, the Latourell Falls Chalet.  That’s the first big waterfall you come to east of Vista House.  It burned down just three months after the opening (stuff sure burned a lot back then).  So Mrs. Henderson opened up the Crown Point Chalet.  That one lasted 15 years.  It’s the large building you see above Vista House in this old postcard.  The small building you see  in between (about where the upper end of the Vista House parking lot is now) was a small cafe.  Apparently that building was there all the way into the 1960s.  Here’s a great view…check out the Crown Point Chalet looking DOWN to Vista House.   According to, this building was demolished in the 1950s.  Well, all those restaurants are now gone, and Vista House sits alone with the trees growing up around it now.  There are two or three  houses up above in that area now, one was for sale maybe 12 years ago…really unique, looked like a mini-cathedral for the living room with a truly MASSIVE fireplace and high-arched ceiling.  You can’t build something like that now, it really fit the area like a mini-Timberline Lodge.  Well, my wife and I thought $200,000 was just way too expensive; big mistake.  Should have bought it then…oops. 

Here’s the weather connection; at one time weather records were taken either at Vista House, Crown Point Chalet, or that little cafe.  In some old Columbia Basin Handbooks I bought cheap once, there is reference to a Crown Point weather station that existed from 1932-1945.  I’m no aviation expert, but  in those days there was probably quite a bit more air traffic flying through the Gorge instead of up and over the Cascades?  Maybe that was the reason for the weather station.  About 10 years ago I had a discussion with someone in the Corbett community that actually took weather records during that time.  I remember her talking about the lights in the restaurant swinging back and forth when the wind was REALLY roaring.  I found this picture online tonight:  it shows that cafe, not such a small building is it?  Looks like some sort of antennas or equipment on the roof, so maybe that is where the observations were taken.

That brings me to one final observation.  Maybe I’m staring at these old pictures a bit too hard, but do you notice the fir trees in all these pictures look much thinner?  Basically they look more “beaten up” then the trees you see out there now?  The branches are shorter.  I’ve seen it on some other pictures in the same area.  I know this is getting into Karl Bonner territory (a blog regular), but it would be interesting to see other’s opinions.  I figure there are only two possibilities:

1.  These are leftover old-growth trees that escaped the big lumber companies in the western Gorge.  Any fir tree in this area that lives 100 or more years ends up getting its branches shaved off by occasional severe ice storm and constant winter wind.  We don’t see any like that now because they were all eventually cut down and it’ll take 100 years for the younger ones to start looking like this again?

2.  The winter wind/ice/snow in the western Columbia River Gorge used to be more severe (1800s and early 1900s).  Milder conditions over the last century has allowed fir trees to fill out more than in the past.  Think about how much snow used to fall in Portland in the late 1800s compared to now.  It must have been much rougher to the east.

Your thoughts? 

If you don’t care or have any interest (quite possible and understandable), go ahead and talk weather on this post too.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

108 Responses to Crown Point History and Milder 1900s Weather?

  1. Ian says:

    So, I know I’m really late replying to this, and I seem not to be able to view the oldest comments – I don’t know – but thought I should chime in on the trees. I am a horticulturist (B.S.) and nursery owner and attentive observer of all things botanical. The trees pictured look more full now because of time. Constant winds shape the trees but don’t stop them from continuing to increase in height and spread. Likely the land was cleared shortly before the (older) pic was taken, and they just left those two standing. I would say they probably are douglas fir. I have seen them look like that in very windy areas such as the Deception Pass area at Whidbey Island.

    Redwoods… they’re still moving north and can be expected to continue to do so until they come to some sort of equilibrium with the current climate, or else the climate changes. They will reseed and naturalize at least as far north as Olympia (I’ve seen it) so, they could theoretically make great native plants all the way up to Olympia (and if that far, probably beyond) given a few more (perhaps many) millennia of the current climate. They are not the only tree from this region about which this could be said… Umbellularia californica (Oregon Myrtle) is a VERY competitive reseeder anywhere it is planted in the Puget Sound region. For a helpful analogy consider the response time it takes for glaciers to adjust to a given climate after a period of change… for example we know that some glaciers in the Northwest (large ones, mostly) still have not reached a new equilibrium since the end of the Little Ice Age, while others (more or less) have, sometimes many years ago. The native ranges of plants are not fixed but change over time, just much more slowly than we can often perceive. Some interesting work has been done by taking pollen cores from the sediment of certain lakes in the Northwest. Some of these reveal what was likely a much drier and perhaps somewhat warmer climate here during the Holocene warm period: in one case the dominant vegetation of the western Washington lowlands appears to be an open savanna of Garry oak, shore pine and sagebrush, before douglas fir/cedar/hemlock etc. moved in. We also have relictual populations of various ‘warm climate’ species that apparently arrived here in western Washington during the Holocene and now persist only in narrow and isolated areas since the overtake of more temperate forest trees… Juniperus maritima and Chrysolepis chrysophylla (which, I know, is everywhere in OR, but super rare in WA) would be two examples.

  2. Bellingham was rocked with a 63 mph gust last night at a CWOP weather station and Alki Point had wind up to 60 mph. Several reports of winds topping the 40’s through Central Puget Sound. Highest I saw though in the NWS Seattle CWA was Mission Ridge listed at 88 mph in the Cascades. Many people in the Central Sound were not expecting such gust winds. Nothing like Crown Point but still better than sitting around watching benign weather all the time.

  3. alohabb says:

    I remembe as a kid in the 80’s and early 90’s always getting at least one good snow storm you could count on messing up school for a day or two….but it just doesn’t seem to happen that way anymore!

  4. TAGinGresham says:

    So, I have a question that i’m hoping someone can answer. Over and over we are told not to take any stock in what la la land is showing on the models because most of the time it doesn’t end up coming to be. Once we are inside of 5-7 days, then we have a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen, minus the small details. So my question is, why would we consider winter to be over if nothing is seen on the models (la la land) by the first week of Feb.? Why would we not wait to make that call until at least the last 10 days of Feb.? I am new at this, and this is something that I keep trying to understand. Thanks for any help!

    • chris s says:

      well i will take a stab at it. I think historically speaking, if we dont get a major artic outbreak by the first few weeks of feb, than it becomes much to hard to overcome the increased daylight, the slightly warmer temps we have, etc. Its not impossible to see snow or cold into first week or two into march but it would be a quick shot and would only last a day or 2, and temps really wouldnt get all that cold, think lows maybe in low 20’s and highs in the upper 30’s. Most of the people wanting snow and cold on this blog want it to be a week long event at least and want to see temps in the single digits for lows, teens to twenties for highs, and of course several good shots of snow. Thats my best shot at your question. 🙂

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      Great answer Chris, basically all of us weather geeks look for a big record cold event each winter.
      But TAG, you’re right, no one should say “winter is over” until at least the first few days of February. If nothing of interest is showing up on the maps at that time, then it’ll be safe to say we’re clear through mid February. Thus the chance of a big blast of days-long cold is almost gone.

    • TAGinGresham says:

      Thank you both for the explanation. It makes a bit more sense, although I would still think that until the middle of Feb. we shouldn’t completely lose hope. From then until the end of Feb. is la la land territory isn’t it? Anyways, thanks for taking the time to answer!

  5. Peak gust so far tonite here is 46.

  6. vinnybob says:

    The new 00z looks….. purdy chilly.

    • vinnybob says:

      Real chilly, starting around 240 hrs. I know I shouldn’t focus on one run, but I can’t help it, sorry.

  7. umpire says:

    Thanks for the history, Mark. Before I decided accounting paid better, I was a history major. Even now, in east & especially NE Portland, the Doug firs are pretty thin on the east side. And that’s without a major ice storm since 1996.
    And, did anyone else have a brief burst of wind around 4:00? Had to pick up another armload of branches.

  8. Look at the huge change in temp as the east wind stopped and the west wind kicked in at Crown Point, 7 degrees in 9 minutes.

  9. James says:

    In response to TAG I have to say no. I wouldn’t ever put myself in his position. I tire of the whole, “I’ve given so much and am treated like crap” stance. I don’t deny that alot of good info has been shared. But there’s been alot of drama to go along with it…and no one can truly cast the first stone in that group.

    That said, I was honestly trying to be semi-constructive in my suggestion to create his own blog or forum. Given the support that Rob receives both here and on Western Weather from many of the posters, I’m sure he’d get a bit of a following.

    If he runs/moderates his own forum, then if someone posts something he doesn’t like or is to trollish for his tastes…then he controls whether it stays or goes. Seems like the perfect solution to his woes.

    And regarding who I am. You don’t know me. I post once or twice a month from work, but don’t have an account. Today I posted for the first time from home and don’t remember the info I have stored in my cookies at work.

  10. Mark Nelsen says:

    I’ve gone over this MANY times with Rob in private emails so I won’t rehash here; and I don’t understand why the drama has to return after a month of quiet. I’ve really been enjoying the input from many of you and Rob is always welcome too.
    Some don’t like the way I moderate, some do. The big blowups have generally occurred at night (when I sleep) or on a holiday when I’m doing something with family (Thanksgiving?). I’ve been tougher on people the past 6 months. One guy was banned for a month (had nothing to do with Rob) in August/September and has been fine since. Another on Thanksgiving Day, another promised he wouldn’t return (although he did and now behaves so far).

  11. Rob, I really appreciate your insight and knowledge. But in order to keep peace i would recommend keep personal life out of the discussion. That goes for everyone too, if we can just talk weather and not insult or bring personal life into a conversation, there is no need for fights.

  12. pappoose in scappoose says:

    Exactly, Muxpux. There are those who love to take on the big guns, especially when they know they can push your buttons and push you over the edge. No way to understand that thinking, or change it.

    Good to hear from you, Rob.
    Hope the new year brings you health and happiness!

  13. Austin-Felida says:

    HAHAHAHAHAHA r u kidding, quit complaining it is a blog y would u take wat anyone says to heart.

  14. Mark Nelsen says:

    …and the hard working gauge gets a break out at Vista House…just switched to west at 1 mph. Quite a change from 12 hours ago!

    02 Jan 5:16 pm PST 48 WSW 1G11

  15. chris s says:

    Well the 18z operational run was sure a load of stinky. I know the ensembles look ok, but boy that is several bad operational runs in a row, I gotta say at this point I am feeling a bit nervous.

    • Danny in Troutdale says:

      It was in lala land the whole time anyway. It may sound like a stupid question, but if it filps from cold to mild all the time, what stops it from going mild to cold. Things for a while have been showing some change in mid-late January. I would exspect the GFS to turn around in later runs and we will have a much better idea a week from now. the 15th is still 13 days out.


    • W7ENK says:

      Here’s today’s output from the 18z GFS. It’s being called an outlier because it sits as the warmest run of all in the ensembles…

      I have to ask… Why are the runs that go against what people want called outliers?? They are usually the ones that pan out. Sad, but true. We watched it happen multiple times, just last winter! I’m willing to bet that Sunday 1/15 will be a lot like today, maybe 3-9 degrees cooler, a bit less wind, perhaps a bit more rain, but certainly no snow or arctic influence, and the arctic air will still be sitting out there in Lala Land, poised and ready to move into the area by the 29th! I hope I’m wrong, but…

      Now, I apologize for being cynical, but we saw this happen last winter, where everything was in agreement, then one run spits out looking bad, everyone called it an outlier, but eventually the whole set swung toward said outlier, and we got jack squat. Believe me when I say, I want snow!!! 3 inches for 24 hours would satisfy me for the winter… But I’m skeptical, especially this far out.

      Sure, an overall pattern change is coming, but I highly suspect it will moderate significantly as it gets closer, and by the time it gets here, well, last winter had 3 great examples.

    • TAGinGresham says:

      So Erik, are you saying your gut instinct that you’ve had is now gone?

      It’s only January 2nd, and yet some are saying that because it’s not showing a change (in la la land, which we aren’t supposed to take seriously)in the next three weeks, we might as well say winter is over.

      If we are supposed to look at the models inside of a week or less and use those as a guide to what will happen, then why wouldn’t winter be over until the last week of winter?

      I hope this isn’t sounding accusatory, etc. because I really am trying to learn about all of this. It just seems contradicting in my opinion. Any help in shedding some light on this would be great.

      Hopefully you get that instinct back too!

    • W7ENK says:

      Well, my gut instinct was in line for December 15-20, and, well, obviously…

      This is less gut instinct, and more protectionism based on recent history, I suppose? I never said winter was over, I just have serious doubts that this thing is going to kick into gear. Things looked so good last winter, and as cautious as I was, I still got burned! I really don’t want to repeat that, yet again! I agree with you, because looking at the models beyond one week may be futile, which is why I would like to see this cold solution progressing inward every day. But, it keeps getting pushed back… At first it was a small shot on the 6th followed by the main front on the 8th, then it was the 10th, then 11th, then the 12th… now its out to the 15th?? Right. At this point, I’ll believe it when I see it. I hate being like that, but it is what it is…

      I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Once it’s inside Hour 60, then maybe I’ll start getting excited. What’s the infamous phrase…?

  16. Ryan (Walnut Grove) says:


  17. TAGinGresham says:

    Hmmm…haven’t seen James around, so who are you really? And would you feel the same if you were in his position or are you capable of putting yourself there?

    And why would someone want this crap? “Plague” and “Big boy pants” really only proves the point. Typical disrespect by those who can’t communicate and must resort to name-calling.

  18. It’s been so nice and quiet the last month and now the plague is back. Maybe it’s you that keeps this going? Put on the big boy pants. We enjoy the posts but it’s pretty easy to get rid of the “problem”, just stop responding to it but now I’m beginning to think you like the drama.

  19. germantownsummit1000' says:

    Strongest Southerlies I’ve experienced this year (as in the last 12.1 months). Wild and wooly for the last ~hour.

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