The tiny settlement of Wallula stands along the east shore of Lake Wallula, the Columbia River reservoir created by McNary Dam. Look for Two Sisters, twin basalt pillars that the Cayuse legends said were two sisters who had been turned to stone by that trickster, Coyote.
A plaque in Wallula commemorates one of the earliest garrisons in the Northwest. In 1818, the Northwest Fur Company established Fort Nez Percé at the junction of the Walla Walla and Columbia Rivers. The fort soon became a center for fur trade in the region. Fearing Native American attacks, the company built two strong outer walls and armed the men heavily; it was soon being called the “Gibraltar of the Columbia.”
In 1821, the British-owned Hudson’s Bay Company took over the business, later renaming it Fort Walla Walla. The fear of attacks intensified, and in 1856 the company abandoned the fort rather than risking capture. The fort’s commander ordered his men to dump the black powder and shot balls into the Columbia River to keep them out of Cayuse hands. Shortly after his men abandoned the fort, American Indian warriors burned it to the ground.
Two years later a new Fort Walla Walla rose, this time as a U.S. Army military garrison farther up the river. This fort would eventually become the center around which the city of Walla Walla grew. The original fort site later grew into the town of Wallula, but in the late 1940s, construction began on the McNary Dam downstream along the Columbia River. After its completion, the old town and fort site were inundated, and the town’s residents moved to higher ground.
© Ericka Chickowski from Moon Washington, 8th edition