PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — An unknown vandal recently caused $6,000 worth of damage to Celilo Park in the Dalles, smashing porcelain toilets, sinks and metal fixtures inside the park men’s room.
The park, which is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, serves as a resource for campers, boaters, hobbyists, I-84 travelers and local tribes. The National Parks Service states that prior to the opening of The Dalles Dam in 1957, the park also featured Celilo falls, a horseshoe-shaped waterfall that was an important fishing spot for Native Americans for more than 10,000 years.
Portland District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Natural Resource Manager David LaDouceur told KOIN 6 News that the vandalism likely occurred sometime between the night of Feb. 11 and the morning of Feb. 12. A large chunk of concrete was also discovered inside the bathroom, which is believed to have been used to smash the fixtures.
“This kind of vandalism is a problem in our parks and hurts more than just our infrastructure — it hurts our pocketbook, which means, as taxpayers, it hurts your pocketbook,” the Portland District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stated on social media.
The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission states that the region between Celilo falls and The Dalles, known as Wy-am by America’s indigenous people, was once a major marketplace inhabited by half a dozen tribes that operated a vast Western trade network. During this time, roughly 5,000 people would gather in Wy-am to trade, feast, compete in games and hold religious ceremonies.
The waterfall was submerged after the opening of the dam. However, sonar tests have shown that the fall’s horseshoe-shaped rock formation remains intact below the water’s surface. Despite the loss of the waterfall, tribal members still fish the culturally significant region of the Columbia River to this day.
“For centuries, Indians caught the giant chinook and other food salmon that struggled to make their way upstream through the rocky barrier of tumbling waters and swift, narrow channels of the Columbia River known as Celilo Falls, or Wy-am,” the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission said. “During the spring flooding, ten times more water passed over this spectacular waterfall than passes over Niagara Falls today.”
A crime report was filed with the Wasco County Sheriff’s office in response to the damages. Anyone with information about the crime can contact the Wasco County Sheriff’s office non-emergency line at (541) 296-5454.