Before the upper Willamette was dammed, and before the sea wall was constructed, spring floods were a relatively frequent occurrence in the valley, and in Portland. Flood waters reached a high water mark of 25 feet, and Second Street in Portland, on June 24, 1876 (though the worst flooding in Portland occurred in 1894 when well over 30 feet of water inundated parts of the Park Blocks!).
The Morning Oregonian, on June 24, 1876, reported on the flooding with a list of Water Notes – some excerpts:
Dead fish are floating through Front and First streets . . .
Dead rodents are seen “steering upward with the flood.” . . .
The Albina ferryboat is doing duty for the railroad company.
An enterprising grocer on First street delivers goods in a skiff . . .
The roadways along the flooded streets are being improved. Quite sensible . . .
Adam Staender offers free baths to the public in general since he moved up stairs.
No trouble now to water your drinks. However, everybody insists upon “straights.”
LaChapelle’s small boats have been in demand – particularly so among our flooded merchants . . .
Manciet’s restaurants was closed, owing to the high water in the kitchen. The boarders at the Clarendon dine on the second floor . . .
“Keep you feet warm and your head cool” is a good old adage, but it won’t work worth a cent now. Hot heads and wet feet are in order . . .
At the residence of a family down the Columbia the fish are swimming under the kitchen stove and entertain the family while they take their meals. Steamboats cross lots at their place . . .
Last evening, to our dismay and great discomfiture, the water began to rise rapidly here. On no other theory can this rise be accounted for but the recent rain, which has caused the upper Willamet [sic] to send down her watery stores – just as if we didn’t have already enough more “chuck” now than we can conveniently drink. We will endeavor to keep our feet dry, and, like the good old lady, “Trust in Providence.”