012.090 Rooster Rock State Park

The Rock

Rooster Rock from Old Wagon Road
Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Oregon. March 21, 2014
Copyright © 2015 A. F. Litt , All Rights Reserved

    Originally called Woutoulaat ... the crediting of the first ascent of the rock is rather a difficult one.  About 1910, a sailor from a Swedish ship undertook the climbing of the rock when challenged by other members of the crew.  When nearing the summit he lost his nerve and would neither go further nor back down.
    However, he was finally persuaded by companions from below to go onto the summit. He was too frightened by the experience to descend and it was necessary to shoot a line to him before he could be brought down.

Quote from Mazamas Journal Publication, Vol. XI, No. 13, December 1958, page 64-65, A Climbers Guide to the Columbia Gorge by Carl A. Neuburger. Quoted in Olson, 13.

The name is phallic in origin,[2] specifically, the column's [Rooster Rock] original name was "Cock Rock". The Chinook Jargon word for the rock was iwash, referring to penis.[3]


The tall, pointed monolith located far below [Chanticleer Point] at water level is known as Rooster Rock after being called "Chanticleer Rock" for several years.

Ken Manske, A Traveler's Guide to the Historic Columbia River Highway.  Gresham, OR: M&A Tour Books. (Chanticleer 1)

Chanticleer point was named by Mr. & Mrs. A.R. Morgan who purchased the property in 1912. They built an inn on the point with one of the most magnificent views in the world and named it "Chanticleer" after the rooster in the story "Reynard the Fox." The area took on the name of the inn and is still known as Chanticleer Point.

Ken Manske, A Traveler's Guide to the Historic Columbia River Highway.  Gresham, OR: M&A Tour Books. (Chanticleer 1)

...walk around the south side of the small boat moorage lagoon to access the rock pinnacle which is located on the west side of the lagoon. From the freeway walk north along a nice dirt path that soon angles directly over to the start of the popular South Face [climbing] route. Just before you reach the base of the cliff another steep dirt path wanders directly up to the seldom climbed East Face area. (Olson 7)

Please do not attempt to climb the rock unless you are very experienced, have the proper equipment, and know what you are doing.

The Cannery

Rooster Rock Cannery c.1900s
Photo shows lead to Reed Rooster Rock Fishwheel and Cannery isolated by the silt ridge outside Rooster Rock. Since 1867 when C.E. Watkins first photographed the scene, the silt reef formed and washed out several times. Present barrier shown here forced cannery to move to Ellsworth on Washington shore.

No. 71. Rooster Rock as seen from Columbia River Highway, Ore.
Photographer: B.C. Markham

Gorge View West From Crown Point, 1916
Clarence E. Mershon. The Columbia River Highway: From the Sea to the Wheat Fields of Eastern Oregon. Portland: Guardian Peaks Enterprises. 2006. 1st Edition. 109

Below, one of the better photos of the old cannery that I've seen...

OHD G-402 View looking east towards Rooster Rock and Vista House in Columbia River Gorge
Oregon State Archives
Posted on Facebook, July 3, 2014

"Our historic photo of the day is one of my new favorites taken in the Columbia River Gorge. This great photograph was taken at Chanticleer Point and captured a beautiful view of Rooster Rock and the Vista House. It also provides a view of how this area looked prior to the construction of what would become I-84. The long buildings in the cove near Rooster Rock were part of a salmon cannery that used to operate there. This is the first historic photo that I have seen which provides this view as most of the photos were usually taken from the Vista House. I hope you all enjoy this great photo and think about it next time you are driving through this part of the Columbia River Gorge. Have a wonderful and safe holiday weekend! Austin "

The Park

White Caps on the Columbia River
Rooster Rock State Park, Oregon. January 20, 2013.
A. F. Litt 2013

Lands for the park were purchased from private owners between 1937 and 1985 to provide public river access and protection of the Columbia River Gorge. However, development as a park was not possible until the new highway was built at water grade in the 1950s. The park is a Registered Natural Heritage site. Rooster Rock is situated at the west end of the park. It is said to be the rock mentioned by Lewis and Clark as the camping place for members of their exploring expedition on Nov. 2, 1805.

Acreage: 872.91

Annual day use attendance: 378,040


Is there a clothing optional beach at Rooster Rock? Yes but by design, the clothing optional beach area is completely separate and not visible from the clothing-required area of the large park. The two areas coexist in harmony.
Columbia River Flooding at Rooster Rock
West Disc Golf Course. Rooster Rock State Park. Columbia River Gorge, Oregon. June 5, 2011.
A. F. Litt 2013

1946 State Parks Report:

Rooster Rock is a "minor" state park that has not, up to this time, been directly identified with the Columbia Gorge series. It is situated near the river level and entirely away from the present highway, lying below, and a short distance west of Crown Point. It is described as ... containing 33.63 acres.

Its principal physical feature is a tall, shapely, basaltic monolith, long known as a prominent land mark. In his Oregon Geographic names, page 301, Lewis A. McArthur, says: "This is probably the rock mentioned by Lewis and Clark as their camping place on the night of November 2, 1805". If this site could be definitely, or even approximately determined, it would be quite appropriate to erect a marker at the designated place.

The tract was acquired by purchase on February 26, 1938, for right of way for the proposed river grade highway. It lies between the railroad and river and there are no park improvements of any kind, up to this time. (Langille 5)

#6090 - park area at Rooster Rocker, Columbia River Gorge
Oregon State Archives / Oregon Department of Transportation

CLICK HERE to continue exploring the highway.