The Touchet River is the largest tributary of the
Walla Walla Riverin southeastern Washingtonin the United States.
The upper Touchet was a traditional summer meeting place for trade and games for the Palus,
Nez Perceand Walla Walla tribes. The name Touchet derives from the similarly pronounced Sahaptin term for the river, "Tu-se" meaning roasting. Nez Percelegend tells that coyote roasted salmonat this river after breaking a fish dam guarded by the seven swallow sisters at Celilo.
USGScited two variant names, Pouchet River and Toosha River. [GNIS|1513402|Touchet River]
The Touchet River drains an area of approximately 740 square miles. It is 137 km (85 miles) in length.cite book|author=Cohen, Saul B. Editor |title=Gazetteer of the Word |publisher=Columbia University Press, New York|year=1962|id=ISBN 0-231-11040-5] Washington Road & Recreation Atlas, Benchmark Maps, Medford, Oregon, 2002 ] The average annual flow of the Touchet is 6.23 m³/s (220 ft³/s), not including diversions. [ [http://18.104.22.168/search?q=cache:S6Qq36PzbhgJ:www.eho.wa.gov/searchdocuments/1995%2520Archive/pchb%252094-192%2520final.htm+Touchet+River&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=67 Records of the POLLUTION CONTROL HEARINGS BOARD, State of Washington] ]
Its headwaters lie in the
Umatilla National Forestwhich is located in the Blue Mountains in Columbia County, southern Washington. It originates above the town of Dayton, Washington. It then passes through Waitsburgand Prescott before joining the Walla Walla at the town of Touchet, Washington.
The main Touchet River is formed by the confluence of the North Fork of the Touchet which originates in the vicinity of the
Bluewood Ski Area, and the South Fork of the Touchet which originates at Deadman Peak. The forks join approximately 3.2 km (2 mi) south of (upstream of) Dayton. The North Fok is approximately 40 km (25 mi) long while the South Fork is approximately 32 km (20 mi) long. Other tributaries include:
* Patit Creek, which joins the Touchet at Dayton
* Coppei Creek, which joins the Touchet at Waitsburg
* Whetstone Creek, which joins the Touchet at Prescott
The Touchet is known for its trout fishing, especially in the upper reaches.
steelhead, which like salmonare anadromous, and Chinook salmon) spawned throughout a large portion of the middle and upper reaches of the Touchet River drainage, the population is virtually nonexistent in the 21st century. The Nine Mile Dam, constructed in 1905 on the Walla Walla River below the confluence with the Touchet River, ended anadromous fish migration into the Touchet.
The Touchet River lay in the traditional range of the Palus American Indian tribe, marking their southern border with the range of the Walla Walla tribe. These peoples were of the Sahaptin-speaking group which traditionally inhabited the
Columbia Plateauregion of the northwestern United States.
Roots provided plentiful food along the Touchet Rivers. These included
quamash, camas, kouse, bitterroots, serviceberry(currant), chokecherry, huckleberry, gooseberries, rose berries and whortleberries, elderberries, wild strawberries, wild onions and balsamroot. Once Euroamerican immigrants began settling the area after 1858, Indian root grounds were displaced by agriculture.
Prior to the white man coming into the valley of the Touchet River, there was an established American Indian trail through the valley, the "Nez Perce Trail to Celilo Falls" or "Old Celilo Falls Trail", by which the Nez Perce (also part of the Sahaptin-speaking group) passed west to fish for
salmonat Celilo Fallson the Columbia River. As with other Sahaptin-speaking peoples, the Nez Perce were migratory, returning to the same locations year after year; Celilo Falls lay at the western end of their annual range. [cite book|author=Trafzer, C.E. & Scheuerman, R.D. |title=Renegade Tribe; The Palouse Indians and the Invasion of the Inland Pacific Northwest|publisher=Washington State University Press, Pullman, Washington|year=1986|id=ISBN 0-87422-027-0]
Lewis and Clark expedition
On their return journey in 1806, the
Lewis and Clark Expeditionfollowed the "Old Celilo Falls Trail", up the Walla Walla and Touchet River Valleys; they camped on the Touchet about 12 miles north of today's town of Touchet on April 30 1806[ [http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/LivingWith/Historical/LewisClark/volcanoes_lewis_clark_april_30_1806.html Lewis & Clark on April 30, 1806] ] . The Lewis and Clark Trail State Park commemorates their May 1 1806campsite on the Touchet River [ [http://www.parks.wa.gov/parkpage.asp?selectedpark=Lewis%20%26%20Clark%20Trail Lewis & Clark Trail campsite on the Touchet River] ] . The expedition left the Touchet River to follow a tributary, Patit Creek, at what is now Dayton, Washington. They camped ~ 3 km above modern-day Dayton on Patit Creek on May 2 1806, before following the trail across country to the Tucannon River. [cite book|author=Moulton, Gary E. |title=The Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition: March 23—June 9 1806 |publisher= University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, Nebraska |year=1991|id=ISBN 0-8032-2898-8 ]
The Whitman Mission catalyzed white settlement of the region, beginning in 1843 when 1,000 people, 120 wagons, and approximately 5,000 horses and cattle came to the Walla Walla valley [cite book|author=Evans, J. W. |title=Powerful Rockey: The Blue Mountains and the Oregon Trail, 1811-1883|publisher=Eastern Oregon State College, La Grande, Oregon,|year=1991|id=ISBN 0-9626772-0-5 ] . The initial settlers remained near the current city of Walla Walla and into the Touchet River valley. [cite book|author=Lyman, W. D. |title=Lyman's History of Old Walla Walla County, Embracing Walla Walla, Columbia, Garfield and Asotin Counties.|publisher=S. J. Clarke, Chicago|year=1918|id=ISBN none] .
The Lamar Cabin, built in 1863 of hand-hewn cottonwood logs from the Touchet River valley by George Dudley Goodwin, became the home of the bachelor brothers James and Joseph Lamar in 1872 (women were rare in the valley and many men remained unmarried). The brothers initially raised sheep and horses; in later years they, mirroring the transitions of many others in the region, cultivated dryland
winter wheat. This area developed into the town of Lamar when the Hunt Railroad was build along the Touchet River valley in 1888. The railway left the Touchet River and continued west at Lamar at the point where the Touchet River turns south to meet the Walla Walla. Although the town site is now virtually abandoned, the historic Lamar cabin is preserved to this day (see photo).
Near the head of the Touchet valley,
Dayton, Washingtonwas officially incorporated on November 10 1881.
List of Washington rivers
* [http://terraserver-usa.com/image.aspx?T=1&S=17&Z=11&X=15&Y=200&W=2 Map of the Touchet drainage]
* [http://www.wallawallawatershed.org/ Walla Walla Watershed information]
* [http://www.wwbwc.org/maps-data/basinmap.gifMap of the Walla Walla Watershed showing Touchet Drainage]
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