Remembering the Christmas Flood of 1964

(Corps of Engineers photo)

(Corps of Engineers photo)


Memories from Mark Allen, Security and Law Enforcement Office

I was just a kid but I recall the Christmas Flood of 1964 very well. Below are my memories from that time –

Mark Allen, Security and Law Enforcement (Corps of Engineers photo)

Mark Allen, Security and Law Enforcement (Corps of Engineers photo)

I remember going out to Sauvie Island with my family and seeing the water levels of the Columbia and Willamette rivers up near the top of the dike. As we traveled along Reed Road outside the dike I also saw the flooding had reached up to the middle of a second story window.We also made our way to Oregon City to see Willamette Falls but with so much water flowing downriver, there was just a ripple in the river where they used to be. The paper mill was under water and, as we stood there, we also watched several houses disappear into the lower end of the fall below.

There used to be a saw mill where the End of the Oregon Trail Museum is located today. Only its roof and old sawdust burner wigwam were above water.

We also drove to Government Camp up on Mount Hood. The place where we used to fish on the Sandy River was gone and the Zigzag River, a nice stream before the flood, was now around 100 feet wide on both sides of the river. Cabins were cut in half and hanging on the edges of the banks … with the surrounding area littered with appliances – sinks, toilets, ranges and refrigerators. It took years for the area to recover.

In Portland, we visited the water front along the Willamette River (before it was a park) and saw the river level reaching up to the rail tracks on the Steel Bridge. The rail tracks were raised and I saw a tug boat pushing debris through the opening to relieve pressure on the bridge. Then it went through the bridge, turned broadside to the river, and then capsized near the grain elevator. The crew was saved but it took months to raise the tug.

We also used to camp on the Calapooia River spending several weekends at a county park. There were only two trees left when we returned that next spring. It seemed the park had been scoured from the face of the earth – all that was left were the entrance gate, gray river rock, the two trees and a new spot for the river, now in a new location.

Willamette Falls was just a ripple in the water (Photo courtesy of Oregon Journal)

Willamette Falls was just a ripple in the water (Photo courtesy of Oregon Journal)

 

A view of Portland's eastside (Corps of Engineers photo)

A view of Portland’s eastside (Corps of Engineers photo)

 

Flooded residential areas near Oregon City, Oregon (Corps of Engineers photo)

Flooded residential areas near Oregon City, Oregon (Corps of Engineers photo)