History of Crow Butte
Crow Butte History & Cultural Significance
The U.S. Corps of Engineers developed Crow Butte Park in the ‘70s as part of the McNary Dam project. The Corps then transferred the Park to Washington state to operate. The state managed the facility for several years but was unable to continue operations due to budget constraints. After an association of local farmers managed Crow Butte on a volunteer basis for 18 months to help save it, Port of Benton heard about the park’s uncertain future and offered to help. The Corps of Engineers leased Crow Butte to the Port in 2007.
Benton County and Klickitat County helped fund capital improvements at the park for the first three years, enabling several upgrades. In the years since, the Port has made further improvements and added amenities using grants, County and Port funds.
Port of Benton’s decision to invest in the park followed meetings with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. Crow Butte Island is culturally significant to the local Tribes, leading to a ceremony on August 28, 2007, where the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation formally blessed the park.
Crow Butte is considered by local Tribes to be a traditional cultural property due to its use as a winter village, fishing area, and a place of other traditional practices from pre-contact to contemporary times.
These Places Have Been Named
The region is known as the Columbia River Plateau. Nĕi Wána, the native name for the Columbia, meaning ‘Big River,’ is at the heart of the tribal homeland. Mid-Columbia River peoples made this area around and including Crow Butte one of their permanent winter villages. (Interpretive Signage at Crow Butte)
“Crow Butte” Name Assigned
When homesteading began in the area in 1850, the Crow family was one of the first to come west. The site of their homestead is now under the waters of the nearby John Day Reservoir. During a 1941 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers survey, the name “Crow Butte” was assigned to the area. (Washington State Parks and Recreation Website)
Crow Butte Anthropogenic Island Created
The site of Crow Butte Park is Crow Butte Island – yet the island formation is anthropogenic. Before being an island, the area was a hill connected to the shore. When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built John Day Dam, the Columbia River waters inundated the site and wrapped around the hill and the island formed.
Crow Butte Park Opened
Washington State Operated Park
Crow Butte Park Transferred to Port of Benton
Funding Pledged by Benton & Klickitat Counties
Crow Butte Park Marina Improved
10th Anniversary Celebrated
Boat Slips Added at Crow Butte Park
Boaters now have 12 additional boat slips, including four larger slips, at the Crow Butte Park marina, bringing the total to 22. In 2017, the Port added the boat slips and installed another ADA access point to the marina. The Port received $641,555 through the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office for these improvements, which was matched by $146,945 in Port funds.