About This Place
The Dalles ( /dælz/) is the largest city and county seat of Wasco County, Oregon, United States. The name of the city comes from the French word dalle (meaning either "sluice" or "flagstone" and referring to the columnar basalt rocks carved by the river, what the French-Canadian employees of the North West Company called the now-inundated rapids of the Columbia River between the present-day city and Celilo Falls. The population was 12,156 at the 2000 census and was estimated at 12,314 in 2009. Also in the same area was the Petite Dalles or Little Dalles, or Short Narrows, which is now also inundated.
The site of what is now the city of The Dalles was a major Native American trading center for at least 10,000 years. The general area is one of the the continent's most significant archaeological regions.
Lewis and Clark camped near Mill Creek on October 25–27, 1805, and recorded the Native American name for the creek as Quenett. The first use of the name Dalles, according to Oregon Geographic Names, appears in fur trader Gabriel Franchère's Narrative, on April 12, 1814, referring to the long series of major rapids in the river. By 1814 several overland groups of the land components of the Astor Expedition of 1810-1812 would have passed by and explored the vicinity of the rapids. In 1811 British fur trader of the Montreal-based North West Company (NWC) began traveling through The Dalles area. In July 1811 David Thompson of the NWC voyaged down the Columbia River, reaching the partially constructed Fort Astoria of the American rival Pacific Fur Company. When Thompson's party returned upriver a small Astorian party accompanied him as far as the rapids at The Dalles. The Astorian party went on to found Fort Okanogan. The War of 1812 led to the 1813 sale of Fort Astoria and the entire Pacific Fur Company to the North West Company.