Home  •   Field Guide  •   Forums  •    Unread Posts  •   Maps  •   Find a Hike!
| Page | Discussion | View source | History | Print Friendly and PDF

Ives Island Add-on Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Site of Pacquet fishwheel, Ives Island (bobcat)
Carriage, Sams No. 2 Fishwheel, Ives Island (bobcat)
Pierce Island and Beacon Rock from Ives Island (bobcat)
Cottonwood savanna and Table Mountain, Ives Island (bobcat)
Narrow-leaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis), Ives Island (bobcat)
Recommended route around Ives Island (Water levels need to be lower than those shown on the map for you to make the trip) (not a GPS track) (bobcat) Courtesy: Google Maps
  • Start point: Hamilton Island Trailhead
  • End Point: Ives Island Pond
  • Trail Log:
  • Hike Type: Lollipop loop
  • Distance: 3.3 miles
  • Elevation gain: 30 feet
  • High Point: 55 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Seasons: September-October at low water
  • Family Friendly: Yes
  • Backpackable: No
  • Crowded: No



You can do this exploration of a publicly-owned Columbia River island only in the late summer or early fall when river levels have fallen low enough for you to wade the crossing between Hamilton Island and Ives Island. This loop is a worthy add-on to the Strawberry Island Loop Hike, or it can be done as a family outing all on its own. Ives Island, along with Hamilton Island just upriver and Pierce Island just downriver, is a remnant of the Bonneville Landslide, the massive slope collapse that exposed the innards of Table Mountain and Greenleaf Peak and dammed the Columbia River, giving rise to the legend of the Bridge of the Gods. The jury is still out on when the landslide actually occurred: relatively recently, to be sure, since it figures in native lore: some studies link the slide to the last great Cascadia earthquake in 1700; more recent reviews suggest a date around 1450. Walking around the island affords magnificent vistas to the track of the slide from the faces of Table Mountain and the Red Bluffs below Greenleaf Peak. You'll get a vista of other Washington Gorge prominences as well: Archer Mountain, Beacon Rock, Little Beacon Rock, Hardy Ridge, Hamilton Mountain, Birkenfeld Mountain, South Birkenfeld Mountain, Cedar Mountain, Aldrich Butte, and Sacaquawea and Papoose Rocks.

There's a human history on Ives Island as well. At low water, you can visit or view the remains of four fishwheels from the late 19th/early 20th century. The first industrial-scale fishwheel on the river was constructed by William J. McCord, Frank Warren, and William Sargent Ladd in 1882 on Bradford Island. These contraptions scooped tons of migrating salmon out of the river. Lines of lead and brace pilings show how the fish were channeled towards the wheel. Most of the wheels belonged to canneries and, around the beginning of the 20th century, the haul was so bountiful that canned salmon became the cheap meal of choice for the laboring class. The wheels, and a subsequent plague of unregulated industrial-strength gill netting, severely reduced the big salmon runs that had been such a bounty on the river. Fishwheels were outlawed in Oregon in 1926, and gill netting now abides by strict rules. Ives Island itself was named after Captain Sherman B. Ives, who gained title to it in the 1890s. Those who want to know more about the fishwheel era should consult Fishwheels of the Columbia by Ivan J. Donaldson and Frederick K. Cramer.

Obviously, Ives Island can be reached by boat at any time of year, and fishermen like to try their luck from its shore. Camping is permitted on the island, but not on neighboring Pierce Island, which is protected by the Columbia Land Trust. The island is forested in part by cottonwoods and willows. In September and October, you'll encounter plants that bloom between the high and low levels of the river, including sneezeweed, coreopsis, blanket flower, riverbank wormwood, and smartweed. Beaver are active in the area, and both elk and deer inhabit the interior of the island. Geese and ducks can be seen in the channels and inlets, ospreys fish the waterways, vultures and crows feast off salmon carcasses, and great blue herons are a common sight.

You would do well to consult tide tables before deciding what time of day to begin the hike. The nearest tide gauge is at Ellsworth (near the I-205 bridge over the Columbia): TideTables (MyForecast.com). There are variations of as much as six feet between the high and low tides in the fall.

From the Hamilton Island Trailhead, walk west along the Strawberry Island Loop Trail about 450 yards. You'll see Ives Island ahead and can cut down to the shore from here, passing through a mantle of licorice root shrubbery. Cross to the island by wading the cobbled channel at any point that seems shallow; at times, you may be able to keep your feet completely dry! You're going to make a clockwise circuit of the island, so stay left along the shore. Hiking higher up will keep you on sand rather than cobbles and make for easier walking. You'll see the rotted pilings of the first fish wheel, Sams No. 2 Fishwheel, on the shore. This wheel, about 28 feet in diameter, was brought in about 1900 by William Sams. The wheel carriage is still there. Take time to admire the views across to Moffett Creek and up to Munra Point. You can also turn around, as at most points on this loop, to get the panoramic display of Washington Gorge peaks. Walking down the shore, keep your eyes peeled for the site of the Sams scow remains (Sams No. 3 Fishwheel), just the nubs of pilings and a half-buried carriage, part of an operation that floated the wheel on a small hull, but which was in a poor location to channel a profitable number of fish. Ahead, you'll see the more obvious pilings of the Pacquet Fishwheel operation. Here the lead and brace piling channel that routed the fish to their doom can be clearly seen at low water as a parallel row of posts with a gorgeous vista of the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge as a backdrop. Up at the tree line, you'll note the "Ives Hilton", a little shelter with a wood stove.

Rounding the west tip of the island, you can plumb the waters for a possible crossing to Pierce Island, which spans much of the distance between here and Beacon Rock. The crossing here is fickle, even at the lowest water, so take care and pay attention to tide tables. In any given year, there could be a strong current and sudden deep water in the channel (See Tips for Crossing Streams). Farther towards the Washington shore, there are other possible crossings in calmer water, or you could simply swim the gap! Pierce Island has no fishwheel remains, but it does offer stunning closeups of Beacon Rock. The island was recently transferred by the Nature Conservancy to the Columbia Land Trust. You may visit, but not camp, on Pierce Island.

The west shore of Ives Islands soft and crowded with vegetation in places. When you reach the northwest tip of the island, you can see across to the remains of a fourth fish wheel, the Castle Rock Fishwheel, on the Washington shore near the mouth of Hamilton Creek. Hike up the north beach about 150 yards and cut inland towards a noticeable depression in the center of the island. Here, you'll find the sedge-rimmed Ives Island Pond, a refuge for herons and, judging by all the tracks, the local herd of elk. To get a flavor for the interior of the island, hike along the pond shore, looking back to a stunning view of Beacon Rock. Bear north again once you're out of the pond's depression, and bushwhack through a cottonwood savanna reminiscent of the East African plains! Table Mountain rears above. At the north shore again, low water may allow you to circle around an exposed gravel bar before you cross the channel back to Hamilton Island.

Fees, Regulations, etc.

  • $2 toll each way at the Bridge of the Gods
  • Camping permitted on Ives Island
  • Day visit only permitted on Pierce Island


Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this destination

  • Curious Gorge by Scott Cook

More Links

Page Contributors

Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.