Lewis and Clark National Historic Park
Follow the footsteps of the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery for a well-rounded glimpse into their mission, triumphs and challenges.
Six separate sites—two in Washington and four in Oregon—make up the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park at the end of the famous 1805 overland and river journey to the Pacific. Take the time to visit all six and follow the footsteps of the Corps of Discovery for a well-rounded glimpse into their mission, triumphs and challenges. Incorporate the outdoor activities the park offers and you have the makings of a fun and memorable coastal getaway.
The Corps of Discovery built Fort Clatsop at the end of 1805 as the winter home they would occupy until March 1806. If you visit no other site in Lewis and Clark National Historic Park, visit this one. The site today contains a replica of the original fort, an excellent interpretive center with exhibits and films, ranger-led programs and trails to get in a little hiking.
Fort Clatsop is south of Astoria. To reach the site from Highway 101, take the Fort Clatsop Road and follow the signs.
Fort to Sea Trail
The Fort To Sea Trail connects Fort Clatsop to Sunset Beach, covering territory the Clatsop Indians who aided the Corps once occupied. The 6.5-mile trail of moderate difficulty lets hikers experience Pacific coastal forest, meadows, lakes and dunes before reaching the Pacific. For a shorter route (four miles round-trip), hike from Fort Clatsop to the top of Clatsop Ridge and back. For the full-length trail, arrange transportation to meet you at trail-end at the beach.
Imagine the Corps driven ashore by a powerful November storm along the north shore of the Columbia. Weakened and with no fresh supplies, they weathered the six-day ordeal stranded at the base of a steep embankment, a short yet unattainable distance to the Pacific. Certain those days would be their last, Clark named the spot "that dismal little nitch." The name stuck.
Today, visitors traveling Highway 401 along the Columbia's north shore can stop at the Megler Safety Rest Area east of the Astoria Bridge for a glimpse of Dismal Nitch.
A short distance west of today's Astoria-Megler Bridge in Washington, the site of a Chinook village played a significant role in the Corps' journey to the coast. With its full panorama, it was a perfect point from which Clark could map the region. It also marks the spot where the Corps voted on where to make winter camp—north or south of the river. The democratic one-person, one-vote process included Sacagawea (a woman) and York (an African-American) long before either group secured a legal right to vote.
You can visit Station Camp adjoining Fort Columbia State Park along Washington's Highway 101 west of the Astoria-Megler Bridge.
An important element for survival was the availability of salt, a crucial ingredient in preserving meat. Fifteen miles southwest of Fort Clatsop, members of the Corps camped at the beach and rendered much-needed salt. Want to learn how? In summer, a Living History reenactment demonstrates how good quality salt was made. You can visit with costumed historical interpreters about life as an explorer in 1805.
To reach Salt Works from Highway 101, turn west onto Avenue G in Seaside, west to Beach Drive, then left to Lewis and Clark Way. The Living History reenactments are on the beach at Avenue U.
The Corps paddled up the Netul River, today the Lewis and Clark River. With the gentle river and surrounding wildlife-rich forest, they set ashore not far from what would become Fort Clatsop.
Today, Netul Landing has an interpretive pavilion and kayakers and canoers find plenty of easy paddling. In summer, rangers offer guided river tours. Hikers can take the Lewis and Clark River Trail, an easy hike along the river. Access Netul Landing 1.5 miles south of Fort Clatsop on Highway 101.
For maps and information about each site, visit www.nps.gov/lewi/index.htm
- Published in: Coast Explorer Spring 2012
- Click to see other items about: Astoria, History
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