Category: Pacific-Northwest

Fort Clatsop

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and the men of the Corps of Discovery (Lewis & Clark Expedition) wintered over 1805-06 at Fort Clatsop, located a few miles south of what is now Astoria, Oregon, along the Lewis & Clark River. Nearing the western terminus of its expedition to explore newly purchased territories of the Louisiana Purchase, the Corps traveled along the northern side of the Columbia River. Finding the Native American Indians troublesome and pesky in their attentions, the Corp crossed the river to set up its winter encampment. Little did they know that the Indians also wintered on the south side of the mighty Columbia.

Their stay was marked by the same miserable, cold drizzle that North Coast residents still endure. The men quickly grew tired of the monotonous diet of elk and dog. From Fort Clatsop, Clark and a party including Touissant Charboneau and Sacagawea ventured out to see a beached whale, the cause of much excitement among the local Indians, and possibly trade for blubber. By the time they reached the beach near modern-day Cannon Beach, Oregon, the whale had already been stripped. The site is now commemorated as Ecola State Park. The salt cairn where men from the Corp boiled seawater for salt is located just south of Seaside, Oregon. According to North Coast legend, Lewis & Clark encountered a fair-skinned red-haired freckled Indian, believed to be the descendant of the survivor of a Spanish shipwreck. When Lewis & Clark left for the return journey, they made a gift of the fort to the local Clatsop Indians.

The site of the fort is now a US national park and features a replica of the 50’ x 50’ fort, built in 1955 by the local community. Visitors to the 1250-acre park are free to wander through the fort and enjoy recreations of the mens lives and activities, including flintlock demonstrations. Little known fact: the replica is turned 90 degrees from what is believed to be its original orientation toward the river, in order to make it more inviting to park visitors.

Update In early October 2005, the replica fort was utterly and completely destroyed by fire. Investigators ruled out arson.

© 2001-2006, originally published Jun 03, 2001