John C Fremont

Metolius River

Kit Carson

John C. Fremont, Kit Carson, and Billy Chinook

copyright Guy Swanson


In 1843, the U.S. War Department sent John C. Fremont on a map making expedition to get ready for the homesteaders who would be coming out on the new Oregon Trail. He enlisted a little known fur trapper, Kit Carson, as a guide.

At the Dalles, Fremont, Carson and 20 men headed south to map a route to California. He enlisted Billy Chinook, an 18-year old orphan member of the Wasco tribe who was eager to learn more about Americans and their culture. As a child living with his uncle, young Billy had become an expert fisher and hunter,and when he was 12, the missionaries took him in, gave him white boys clothes and named him William McCendue.

Traveling west of the Crooked River to avoid problems with the Shoshone, the Fremont expedition came upon the Metolius river. Fremont, reflecting in his journal for November 30, 1853 says:

"Passing over a high plain......we arrived suddenly on the verge of the steep and rocky descent to the valley of the stream we had been following, and which here ran directly across our path.” The Metolius, first mentioned by name in Fremont's journals, bears the Shoshoni name for "water of the white fish or salmon water"

Heading west, they finally crossed where the river was about 4 feet deep and 100 feet wide. Fremont's journal reported :

"had already witnessed a full-blown river gushing from the base of a 6,000 foot peak and passed a tree choked pumice flat from whence a huge stream miraculously appeared, flowing the same volume of water at its birthplace as it did at it's outlet into the Deschuttes River".

They camped along the Metolius, possibly in the area of Fly Creek Canyon, and then headed toward what would become Camp Polk on Squaw Creek, near Sisters.

His journal celebrated Central Oregon, "the beautiful pine forest, the deep and swift Deschuttes, and the bottom lands of lush grass"

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