~The History of Government Camp~


This little mountain village had its beginning with Sam Barlow in 1845 who, rather than pay the high cost of raft transportation  down the Columbia River, found a new route from The Dalles across the south side of Mt. Hood and into the Willamette Valley. Four years later a large army regiment, moving from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to Fort Vancouver, followed Barlow's route. They were forced to abandon wagons and supplies when they were hit with heavy snows. Thereafter travelers referred to the area as "Government Camp". An attempt to change the village name to Pompeii never gained public favor, and the village is still called Government Camp.

The first homesteaders, O.C. Yocum and William G. Steel, were the first to build a cabin and fulfill residency requirements. Yocum platted the area that became the core of the village. Soon a hotel and cabins begin to form the nucleus of this mountain community, serving Barlow Road travelers, mountain climbers and summer visitors.

Government Camp was primarily a summer resort prior to opening of the winter road in 1926. Portland's large Scandinavian population quickly established Government Camp as a recreation area for ski jumping and later downhill skiing. Winter visitors came in large numbers to watch exciting jumping events held by the Cascade Ski Club at the Multorpor jump hill. Within a few years skiing became a participatory sport as Summit, Multorpor and Skibowl ski areas were established. During the 1930's the Civilian Conservation Corps cleared the burned-over forest of snags and built a ski shelter on Multorpor mountain. These early ski areas continue to serve thousands of skiers today. The village's fate as a winter sports base was set when the US Forest Service built Timberline Lodge in 1937. Government Camp is linked to Timberline Lodge by an all-weather road and ski trails.

One hundred fifty years later, the snow that caused the US Army to camp in the area, is the reason Government Camp continues to exist.Year round skiing on Mt. Hood at Timberline Lodge draws thousands of summer skiers from around the world, in the months of June, July and August. Winter snow sports continue to attract large crowds, especially on weekends, and for night skiing under the lights of Skibowl, Timberline and Mt. Hood Meadows.

~Our Mountain, Mount Hood~

Lloyd Musser spent his 36-year US Forest Service career working in the shadow of Mt. Hood and now serves on the museum board and volunteers as museum curator.

At this time it appears the correct answer to the question, will the mountain blow up, is yes.  The real question is when, and no one has an answer for that question.


Based on the above heights and sources, we can only be sure of one thing.  That is the mountain is certainly higher that the 8,245 feet shown on a 1940’s souvenir plate on display in the museum.
The United States Coast and Geodetic Survey found the mountain to be 11, 253’ in 1916.  A new survey by the same agency in 1939 found the true height to be 11, 245’.  In 1958 the USGS placed the height to be 11, 235’.   Apparently mapmakers use whichever height they think most creditable.  A 1924 Forest Service map shows Mt. Hood as being 11,225’, in 1939 they show 11,253’ and by 1988 this agency raised the height 11, 245’.   The official State of Oregon map, produced by ODOT indicates Mt. Hood to be 11,240’.  Today, an Internet map site shows the mountain to be 11,239 feet.  
The height debate started when the Thomas Dryer party made the first actual ascent to the top of Mount Hood, in 1854.  Dryer reported in his newspaper, The Oregonian, the peak was 18,361’.  A Mr. Belden counter the next year that his calculations indicated the correct height to be 19,400’.  An army surveyor named Williamson measured the height to be 11,225’ in 1867.  This reduced height is much closer to the 10-12,000 feet height estimated by David Douglas, the Scottish botanist that explored Oregon in 1825. 
The height of Mount Hood is also a question with several answers.  Prior to the 1840’s most viewers believed the mountain to be at least 18,000’ tall. Mount Hood and other Cascade peaks appear larger than they actually are because of their isolated position and the gradual uplift from the surrounding landscape.


Fred H. McNeil in his 1937 book Wy’East, The Mountain, refers to the Mount Hood as the peak “that towers like a guardian of the Oregon Cascades”.  Oregonians who live in the shadow of Mount Hood and recreate on its slopes usually just refer to the peak as The Mountain, My Mountain or Our Mountain.  Yes, the peak that can be seen from much of the Oregon country is Mount Hood.
Capt. John Fremont referred to Mount Hood as his old friend, because it kept appearing over his shoulder as he explored Oregon in 1843.  Joel Palmer also must have felt that this mountain was his savior or guardian.  Palmer was able to find a route suitable for the Barlow wagon train, which was stranded, east of Government Camp. By climbing about a mile above timberline, Palmer could see a passable route over Bennett Pass, through Summit Prairie, into Government Camp, down Laurel Hill and on into the Willamette Valley.


Hall Kelly, the Boston promoter of Oregon called all the snow capped peaks of the Cascade Mountain Range guardian peaks. He also wanted to name the major peaks for US presidents.  He named Mount Hood, Adams and Mount St. Helens, Washington, because he thought is was taller than Mount Hood.  He did not really know because he had never visited the Oregon country.
Lewis and Clark spotted Mount Hood on October 18, 1805 as they passed from the Snake River drainage into the Columbia River basin near Hat Rock in Umatilla County, Oregon.  They referred to the mountain as Vancouver’s Mount Hood.  The same mountain is referred to in their journals as Fall Mountain or Timm Mountain, the later being an Indian term for falls.  These journal notations were used when the explorers were in the vicinity or falls and rapids near The Dalles on the Columbia River.  Spotting Mount Hood must have be a comfort to Lewis and Clark, as they had not been able to confirm their location on maps and charts since they left the Dakotas in April of 1804.  Mount Hood served as a course marker for the Corps of Discovery as they proceeded on to their intended destination, the Pacific Ocean.


Two French voyageurs working for the Hudson Bay Co. in 1818 referred to the mountain as Montague de Neige.  The French name was also used by Capt. Nathaniel Wyeth a Boston trader, exploring the Columbia River in 1832.


The short answer to the question “is that Mt. Hood” is yes.  The long answer is more involved.  The timeless Native American name was Wy’east.  Lt. Broughton of the Royal Navy spotted the mountain in 1792 while exploring the Columbia River, and named it Mount Hood to honor Lord Hood who had signed the orders authorizing Vancouver and Broughton’s voyage to the Pacific Coast.  Attempts were made over the years to assign other names to Mt. Hood.


It that Mount Hood? How tall is it? Is it going to erupt? These are the questions most often asked by visitors to the Mt. Hood Cultural Center and Museum.  The first two questions are rather easy to answer if one does not deviate from the standard docent script.  The question relating to potential volcanic activity requires a bit more than a yes or no answer.

By Lloyd Musser Our Mountain, Mount Hood

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