Historical alterations to the Columbia River Gorge as a result of transportation infrastructure, 1850-1900 Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/z029p732k

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  • Featuring high waterfalls and forested cliffs, and displaying a remarkable transition between the Pacific and Interior west, the Columbia River Gorge reveals the grandeur of western landscapes. Yet the landscape that one sees today is an amalgamation of the Gorge's natural setting and its unique human history. Historical research on the Gorge is deficient, as few studies have addressed landscape change that occurred prior to the twentieth century. This research explores a significant yet underrepresented chapter in the Gorge's history, focusing on the second half of the nineteenth century. Specifically, this research examines changes in the land that resulted from building transportation infrastructure during this era, namely the development of portage, wagon, and military roads and in-stream navigational aids. Utilizing methods drawn from historical geography, this research employs a wide range of primary source materials, including journals, photographs, surveys, and construction records, to assess landscape change. Results from this study indicate a high spatial extent of landscape impacts resulting from transportation infrastructure put in place between 1850 and 1900. The clearing of floodplain forests, coupled with changes in the hydrography of the river channel brought about by the construction of the Cascade canal and lock, led to significant changes in ecological functions, including nutrient cycling and sediment retention. These results provide suggestions for restoration efforts in the Gorge and also hold important applications for historical interpretation in the contemporary National Scenic Area. There are also broad implications for researchers seeking a broader understanding of changes in western riparian landscapes during this period.
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