Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Our Oregon Field Trip: Fort Clatsop

Map image from NPS
There's a number of reasons to visit Astoria, Oregon. Beautiful scenery, the Columbia River Maritime Museum, maybe go on a Goonies hunt. But for me, a big Lewis and Clark groupie, there are three historic sites to see when you go there. The first is the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Cape Disappointment State Park on the Washington side of the Columbia River. There is also the Lewis & Clark Salt Cairn Historic Monument in nearby Seaside, Oregon. And the third location is, of course, Fort Clatsop just outside of Astoria and part of the Lewis & Clark National Historic Park.

Fort Clatsop was the winter encampment of the Lewis & Clark expedition from December 1805 to March 1806. The Corps of Discovery, as the expedition was called, first sighted the Pacific Ocean from Cape Disappointment. However, the explorers thought they would have better weather on the Oregon side of the river. It was here that they built a small fort. The National Park Service has built a replica fort on the site. The members of the expedition hiked from this location to the beach in today's city of Seaside to obtain salt from sea water. Today, if you are feeling adventurous, you can hike the same trail from Fort Clatsop to the monument in Seaside.

When you visit, come early in the day as this is a popular destination. There is a nice little museum and gift shop in the visitor's center. Bring a jacket, even in the summer. Because Astoria gets on average 86 inches of rain a year, even in June we had a light drizzle in the morning. Also, it is a short walk from the visitor's center to the fort. At the fort you will find docents in period costume to answer questions and give short presentations throughout the day.

The history of the Lewis & Clark expedition is well known and readily available, so I won't duplicate that here. But before you make a pilgrimage, you might want to bone up a little bit. I would of course recommend reading Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose for a thorough and enjoyable background. And check out the Oregon Encyclopedia, a project of the Oregon Historical Society, for some related articles and historical records online

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