A number of people provided information on this photograph, including Duane McLaughlin, Larry, Sherry and Chris Kaseberg, Terray Harmon, Gary Conley, Daniel, Irene Sullenger, L. Piles, Mark Roth and Mike Phillips.
The aerial photograph was taken Dec. 2, 1953, and is labled “By-Pass Route.” Interstate 84 and Highway 197 and The Dalles dam have yet to be built.
The photograph was scanned from a 5 by 7 inch negative from the archives of The Dalles Chronicle.
Mark Roth remembered the large island at the lower left very well, and spent a great many days boating the area as a kid. It had sandy beaches all around, and the channel between the island and shore was protected by the wind. At high water, channels could be boated through the island itself. The bulk of the island was used as fill under Interstate 84. Area residents were assured the island would return to its former state, but today it remain a series of small, isolated rocks.
Larry, Sherry and Chris Kaseberg wrote: “We think there are two wooden barges moored next to the island at the waterfront at The Dalles. They may be the same barges, called The Oregon Pines, later moored near Rufus before being towed to a site leased from the island’s owner, Mabel White, on the downstream end of Miller Island for demolition in 1972.
The Oregonian, December 5, 1972, in an article by George Lindsay, Oregonian correspondent, reads:
“Time runs out for barges that never carried cargo. Two of the largest wooden barges ever built are slowly giving way to wrecking bars.
“The 230-foot-long barges, built completely of wood, are two of six built during World War II for the U.S. Navy. They have been on various sandbars along the upper Columbia River for 25 years. Where they were built, and if they were ever used by the Navy, remains hidden.
“However, since arriving in The Dalles, they have never carried a cargo – but they often played a part in plans that never materialized.
“Bought as surplus and no longer considered commercially seaworthy by the present owner, Pacific Inland Navigation (PAC), they are being dismantled for their huge framing timbers and scrap iron.
“Capt. A. Leppaluoto, then president of Inland Navigation Co., brought the barges to The Dalles in 1947, having bought them surplus from the Navy.
“Capt. Leppaluoto says he hoped to develop dry commercial cargo runs for the barges. It never came. The were used once.
“Since then, most of the time, the barges have alternated their days either floating low and water logged during periods of high water, or lying tilted on sandbars during low water.
“Only once in 25 years has either barge been put to work, then in a way never envisioned by their designers. The barge was towed to a site just below John Day Dam during the dam’s construction. Anchored, it served as a floating dock for tugs and barges hauling sand and gravel for the dam and related highway relocation projects in the area. The dam completed, it was towed to the island, to be anchored where much of the gravel tied to its gunwale had been dredged. It is there that dismantling is taking place.”
Photographs illustrating this story show a crane and heavy equipment set up for salvaging the wood and iron, a view of the length of the barges, the wheel-house, and Kevin Kaseberg, 11, holding a rodent shield that was used to keep rats off barges, said the Kasebergs.
These two barges had been anchored downstream from the mouth of the John Day River for several years, and were moved to Miller Island when Mabel White provided an easement for the salvage operation. They were reportedly built about 1941 and had no engines; steam boilers were used to power a windlass and cables.
Carmen Grier suddenly disappeared from the job, leaving his tug and equipment. Government agencies took it from there. In the end, the barges were filled with bales of flammable material, lots of it, and burned with diesel, leaving the keels of both barges buried in gravel in the quarry at the west end of the island.
A second negative, taken from the same envelope, is seen below, and shows the mouth of Mill Creek.