Date of visit: May 12, 2012
Population: 1,144 (2010 Census)
The town of Cascade Locks is on the south bank of the river in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge. The river at this spot used to be very dangerous for boats since the channel contained numerous eddies, boulders, and rocky reefs, compounded by a swift current. In November 1878 construction of a locks was started, although it was plagued with problems at the beginning. The managing contractor, A.H. Ball died from exposure. Work was slowed by delays in receiving and assembling equipment and by severe weather: high winds and large masses of floating ice in winter followed by heavy rain and high water in the spring. Worker morale was low due to the primitive living conditions for the workers and the lack of medical facilities. Eventually the workers went on strike. Fed up, the Army Corps of Engineers canceled the contract in November 1879 and took over supervision of the construction.
By 1880 a town had started to develop thanks to the presence of the workers, the emergence of a fishing industry, and the summer tourists drawn to the scenic beauty of the Gorge. On November 5, 1896, residents and visitors cheered the opening of the locks. Although construction had taken 17 years, the economic benefits began immediately since the value of freight through the canal each year usually exceeded the entire cost of the locks construction. The locks were used for more than 40 years until they became obsolete when the backwaters of the Bonneville Dam drowned them in 1938.