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
Joy, Misery and Decisions
- Dismal Nitch
- Station Camp
- Twilight Eagle Sanctuary
- Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge
"Ocian in view! O! the joy."
— William Clark, November 7, 1805
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times — for members of the Lewis and Clark expedition, that is. Journal entries describe joy at seeing what the Corps of Discovery believed to be, finally, their first sight of the Pacific Ocean. Unfortunately, Clark was not describing the ocean, but Gray's Bay. As it turned out, it would be many more days before the Pacific was truly in view. The journals about those days describe horrible weather, relentless storms, flood tides, enormous driftwood logs that threatened to smash their canoes, and bouts of sickness that left the Corps soaked, hungry and miserable.
Plan a "Sunday Drive" to visit historic sites along the Columbia. This is the point in their journey when the expedition thought they had accomplished their goal — reaching the Pacific. They believed they were done, ready to turn around and head back home. Instead, weather conditions, and the fact that they had not yet reached the ocean, caused a change of plans. The Corps would spend the winter here, but where? This question resulted in a historic vote and the eventual creation of Fort Clatsop.
As you travel the road along the Columbia, explore the many viewpoints and take advantage of the historical markers to learn more about the Corps' time in the aptly named Dismal Nitch, their struggle to cross the Columbia, and the decision making process at Station Camp that included Sacagawea, an Indian woman, and York, a black slave.
More To Do and See:
Visit Dismal Nitch, the historic site where the expedition was trapped by storms and dangerous tides; offers picnic tables and an interesting historic marker. (Parking is at the Megler Rest Area.)
The Twilight Eagle Sanctuary is an excellent location to observe birds and other wildlife living on the lower Columbia River Estuary. The viewing area has several interpretive panels about wetlands, bald eagles and the Lewis and Clark trail. A viewing platform overlooks acres of mudflats, tidal marshes, open water and islands. Located within Cathlamet Bay, east of Astoria, Oregon, just off of U.S. Highway 30.
The Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge along the Columbia River Estuary and Cathlamet Bay is the approximate location of Lewis and Clark's campsite of November 26, 1805. It offers wildlife viewing and water access for small watercraft.
Coming Attractions: In September 2005, construction will begin on a new park at Station Camp. Highway 101 will be realigned away from the riverbank to the east of historic St. Mary's Catholic Church, creating a 10-acre parcel of land with a small parking lot, restrooms and paths along the river. The capstone to the new park will feature educational materials about the Chinook Indians and the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Fort Columbia State Park is immediately adjacent to Station Camp (just north on Highway 101). Fort Columbia, also the site of an important Chinook Indian Village, was established as part of an extensive system of coastal defense batteries — first used during the Civil War — to guard the Columbia River.
Recently, archeologists have uncovered over 10,000 artifacts at the site of the new park which support the Chinook Tribe's oral history that this used to be a village where fishing and trading took place. These artifacts bracket the time that Lewis and Clark were in the area. To visit the site, drive north on Highway 101 from the Astoria-Megler Bridge to St. Mary's Catholic Church.
Fort Columbia has intact officers quarters that can be rented for the night, enlisted men's barracks, a restored theatre and the gun emplacements. A great place for a picnic lunch is on the grass in front of the officers quarters. And be sure to follow a nice series of trails that lead to the top of the adjacent ridge for great views of the Columbia River Estuary. Small pocket beaches provide protected places for families to play in the river (watch for waves and tides, though!) and for sea kayakers to launch. A $3 parking fee or annual Washington State park pass is required.
Activities To Try With Your Children:
Decision making was an important part of the Lewis and Clark expedition. The leaders often made choices about which way to go, whom to bring, what to leave behind and much more. One of the most important decisions the Corps had to make was where to spend the winter. They chose to let all the members of the Corps decide by taking a vote.
Just like the members of the Lewis and Clark expedition, your family has to make choices as you plan your trip. You also make choices as you travel from one location to another and find out things aren't quite as you had planned - as when the Corps thought they had reached the Pacific Ocean, but learned they really hadn't. As you prepare to take a trip with your children, talk with them about the decisions your family makes. Then plan your day's activities by discussing and deciding together:
- Where do we go first?
- Do we take tuna or ham sandwiches for lunch?
- Should we invite the neighbor boy or bring the dog?
- What is the best time to go?
- Where should we stop?
What if it turns out that you all don't agree on where to go, which pets should come along or the lunch menu? Or what if you all decide to visit one park, but when you arrive you find out it is crowded and some of you want to go to a different park? You might take a vote, let one person decide, rotate the decision maker, draw straws, etc. Just like the Corps of Discovery, you decide.
Driving Instructions to Twilight Eagle Sanctuary (from Astoria):
Take Highway 30 east from Astoria. After eight miles, follow the sign to Eagle Sanctuary. Turn left and travel one mile on the old highway. There is a sign and reader boards on the left. No restrooms.
From Astoria, take Highway 30 to Westport, about 23 miles. Follow the sign to the ferry. The ferry leaves at 15 minutes after the hour from 5:15am-10:15pm. Cost is $3 per car. You land on Puget Island and drive across a bridge to Cathlamet, Washington. No restrooms.
Megler Rest Area (Clark's Dismal Nitch):
From Cathlamet turn west on Highway 4 to the Megler Rest Area (Clark's Dismal Nitch), about three miles from the Astoria-Megler Bridge.