Plan your own Lewis and Clark adventure using these travel guides that are sure to bring the spirit of the Corps to life. How to use these guides
A Whale of a Hike!
Destination: Cannon Beach and Ecola State Park, a unit of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park
As the Corps of Discovery neared the Pacific, they noticed that everything seemed to get bigger: huge waves, towering trees, great numbers of ducks, gulls and salmon, long Indian canoes, tremendous rain and winds, an enormous bird (a Condor with a wingspan of nine feet) and a "mounstrous fish" — a 105-foot whale that had beached itself!
Take a trip to Cannon Beach and Ecola State Park to get an idea of the size of the things the Corps encountered.
To begin your day, visit the location near Cannon Beach where members of the Corps, including Sacagawea and her baby son Pomp, came to see the "mounstrous fish" — the 105-foot beached whale. This is the place where the ever-hungry party of explorers met the Tillamook and Nehalem Tribes. As you stand here, it is not difficult to imagine the scene 200 years earlier when the Corps members arrived, hoping for whale meat to bring back to camp. Though the Indians had already stripped away much of the meat, members of the Corps were able to bargain for about 300 pounds of whale blubber and a "fiew gallons of oil."
From the place on the beach where the whale once lay, look north to see Tillamook Head. The Corps members had to climb over this great crag of land — through dense woods filled with enormous trees, thick underbrush and "slippery stones" — to reach the whale carcass. Imagine their return trip, carrying 300 pounds of whale meat and gallons of oil!
More To Do and See:
Visit Ecola State Park: As you drive down the long, curving road through dense woods to Ecola State Park and the Tillamook Head trail, keep in mind that the Corps passed through these woods on their way to see the "mounstrous fish." This beautiful landscape was unlike anything they had experienced elsewhere on their 4,000-mile journey (or on their travels on the East Coast)!
Keep an eye (and a camera) out for the elk that appear suddenly out of the trees. These wonderful creatures remind us that the Corps decided to spend the winter in this area because they learned, from local Indian tribes, that there were plentiful elk (the food the Corps members liked best) available.
While at Ecola State Park and Indian Beach, enjoy camping and whale- and bird-watching on the beach. These are also great places for families to picnic. (Consider stopping by the grocery store in Cannon Beach or one of the sandwich shops.) Picnic tables and restrooms are available at both Ecola Point and Indian Beach. At Indian Beach, you can follow one of two short trails down to the beach.
Ecola Point and Indian Beach are also great places to try the whale activity (see "Activities to Try With Your Children" below). Imagine pacing off the 105-foot whale and marking it in the sand. Compare it to one of the driftwood logs on the beach.
Also, try hiking the 1.5-mile trail between Ecola Point and Indian Beach. For families with young children, part of your group can start from one side (Ecola Point), while the other part can drive to the end of the trail (Indian Beach) and start from there — then you can meet in the middle. Or simply walk all the way and retrace your steps. The view is spectacular going both ways.
The 4-mile round trip Clatsop Loop trail gives stunning views of the rugged Pacific Coast and an inspiring walk through towering trees. This trail starts at Indian Beach and is well signed. At the top (turnaround spot), a short walk to the overlook will give you a view of the Tillamook Lighthouse just off the coast. This hike involves an 800-foot vertical elevation gain so some may find it moderately strenuous.
You can also do the full hike over Tillamook Head (approximately six miles one way). One trailhead is at Indian Beach; the other is at the end of Ocean Avenue in Seaside. This is considered a strenuous, though very pretty, hike.
Visit Les Shirley Park, which is framed by the jawbone of a whale.
Haystack Rock is the most prominent landmark in Cannon Beach. Look for animal life in the tide pools at low tide. (Please don't touch! The creatures you'll find here are delicate and sometimes sting.) One of the tide pool docents in red jackets can help you discover fun facts about these tide pool critters.
Activities To Try With Your Children:
Because their task was to observe and record the things they found, Lewis and Clark counted and measured. They estimated Indian population, paced the length of dead whales, counted the numbers of abandoned native lodges, reckoned the height of trees and wrote down their observations.
You and your kids might enjoy using your measuring and estimating skills to discover:
How big is a 105-foot whale?
You will need: Ruler, pen or pencil and notebook
- Use a ruler to measure your foot. If your foot is one foot (12 inches), mark a beginning place in the sand and pace out 105 feet.
- Mark the point where you are done. (Also think about other objects you can use — besides your foot — to help you measure the length of the whale.)
- To get a better sense of how large a 105-foot whale is, compare the size of the whale to other objects. (How many car lengths? How many houses? etc.)
Note: Visit the two whale skeletons in Long Beach to find out if your estimating skills helped you get a sense of the size of the "mounstrous fish."
How tall is that tree?
This is an easy way to estimate the height of a tree. (Note: Two people will need to work together to do this.)
- Have one person measure the height of the other. Record the height.
- Have the other person stand at the base of a tree.
- Hold a short stick, pencil or ruler at arm's length. Step back from the tree until the person standing in front of it appears to be the same height as the stick.
- At this distance, use your eyes to estimate the number of stick-, pencil- or ruler-lengths it takes to reach the top of the tree. Record this number.
- To calculate the approximate height of the tree, multiply your partner's height by the number of lengths it takes to reach the top.
- E.g., Your partner is 5-feet tall; it takes 10 stick measures to reach the top of the tree. 5 x 10 = 50 feet tall.
These activities are adapted from The Lewis and Clark Expedition: Scientific Discovery, Educators Resource Guide, Fort Clatsop National Memorial and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Driving Instructions to Cannon Beach:
From Astoria (or Seaside):
Take 101 south to the first exit to Cannon Beach. At the stop sign turn right. About one quarter mile will be Les Shirley Park. Restrooms are available.
From Les Shirley Park:
Take the Ecola Park Rd. to Ecola Park. $3.00 admission. Restrooms. Indian Beach is inside Ecola Park.
Please Note: Parking during summer months and holidays is limited in Cannon Beach and Ecola State Park. Consider riding the Lewis and Clark Explorer Shuttle to town from other parts of the region. If you are staying overnight in Cannon Beach or Ecola, or if you drove, please leave cars parked and ride the Cannon Beach Shuttle which circulates frequently throughout town and to Ecola State Park. The park and ride lots are clearly marked and located right next to the Cannon Beach Visitor Center.