Lewis and Clark on November 7th in 1805 finally make it all the way to the Pacific Ocean, but winter strikes right away even before they have a chance to build a winter fort.
Today we plan to visit Cape Disappointment where Lewis and Clark saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time and Fort Clatsop where they spent the winter. Chuck and I spent the night in Seaside, Oregon and the next morning got up and drove north on US 101 to Cape Disappointment, Washington which is just across the bridge from Astoria, Oregon. Crossing the four-mile-long Astoria bridge was very interesting. It is near the mouth of the Columbia River where it meets the sea.
There were hundreds of boats down below in the river, and they were obviously fishing for something. Of course, that piqued my fishing crazed husband’s interest.
We stopped in the village of Chinook on the Washington side to ask, and the ladies at the bait shop said that they were fishing for all kinds of salmon. This is the period of time when the salmon run. We asked what kind and they said all kinds–Chinook, sockeye, steelhead, silver, all kinds.
The ride on the north side of the river today is dotted with fishing villages, forests, and hills running down to the water’s edge. Today is clear and cool in the shade, a beautiful day to be outdoors.
Just east of the bridge is a place called Dismal Nitch. This is where Lewis and Clark spent some scary days toward the end of their journey to the sea. They were so close, yet not quite there. A rare winter storm hit in early November of 1805 and pinned them down in this little cove that Clark called “that dismal little nitch”. They spent days there cold, wet, and hungry. It is on SR 401.
This was also the home of the Chinook Indians. Their village was unoccupied at the time because they had relocated to the south shoreline of the river to their winter village. This was a bad omen for Lewis and Clark. They were planning to stay on the north shore in a place now called Cape Disappointment.
We visited Cape Disappointment State Park. At first, it was like entering canopied road with massive firs and spruces.
Then the views opened up to the river and the Pacific. They were beautiful, and the museum well worth our time.
Imagine Lewis and Clark’s delight upon finding this place and then their disappointment when they realized that it wasn’t a good place to spend the winter.
Located just within the mouth of the river on the north side is the port of Ilwaco, where we stopped to eat lunch. If there is one drawback for traveling in Washington and Oregon’s rural areas, it is the lack of vegetables for lunch. My body is too old to live on hamburgers, sandwiches, fish and chips. We seemed to find little else in rural Oregon.
Lewis and Clark spent ten days at Station Camp between Cape Disappointment and Dismal Nitch before moving on to the south shore of the Columbia where they built a small winter fort which they named Fort Clatsop after the Indians who lived there.
So like Lewis and Clark, we crossed the Columbia to the south side–they in their dugout canoes and us on our four-mile bridge.
A full-scale replica can be explored at Fort Clatsop National Park on the south shore. Here Lewis and Clark spent the winter of 1905-06. There are actors in period clothing to guide you through the experience.
They wrote in their journals, fished, explored the area, and got ready for the spring return. The woods are beautiful, and there are great trails for walking.
Chuck and I got to try our hand at writing with a quill as this was how they wrote in their journals. This would be a great place to bring the grandchildren.