"Lewis & Clark--We followed the Expedition along the Columbia to the Sea

by The Editor

This is the second in Vittles series on following in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark.

In the next three years during the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial millions of Americans will follow some part of the Trail which led the way for the westward expansion of the United States.

The Expedition covered 3,700 miles which is now called the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Mostly unmapped wilderness in 1803, the Trail now encompasses 15 states.

We picked up the Lewis and Clark trail for the last part of their journey west at Longview, Washington. We had been at Rainier National Park and, while homeward bound, decided to follow the "Corps of Volunteers for Northwestern Discovery", the name President Thomas Jefferson gave the Expedition, on Highway 4 which parallels the Columbia river to its meeting with the Pacific Ocean.

It was early November when Lewis and Clark reached this part of the Columbia River. The Explorers had a difficult time here in their unstable canoes with days that often had fog or mist and, as they moved down river, choppy seas, rain and often violent winds.

On November 7, 1805 the Expedition camped at Pillar Rock and were awed by the wide expanse of water now in view for here the Columbia River is over 4 miles wide. Now there is Skamokawa Vista Park which allows visitors to enjoy that same view of the river's size. It was the first days of September when we followed in their tracks.

To stay close to the River we left Highway 4 for Highway 401 which closely follows from shore the route taken by the Expedition. Moving west the Expedition stayed on the north shore which is now in Washington State.

On their return the following year they stayed close to the southern side of the river which is now in the State of Oregon.

Our Journal tells of the day. "Our route was past possible views of Mt. St. Helens but the Mountain never did show herself through the fog and clouds. We did have a few peeks at blue sky and a perky road flag person told us 'isn't this a beautiful day?'. Nice days being in the eye of the beholder in this part of Washington State.

"We followed the Columbia estuary all the way to Fort Canby stopping at Megler Rest Area. It was at this spot where the Expedition spent five horrible days and nights trapped on the rocky shore menaced by high winds, big waves and constant rain.

"Fort Canby State Park was full so we settled in at a nearby Kampgrounds of America at Ilwaco. The Park and area was full of fishermen since there was a great salmon run currently taking place. We caught our King Salmon at a Longview supermarket and supped seasonably amid light rain showers."

It took a second trip by this Writer to Ilwaco and Long Beach Peninsula to explore Cape Disappointment, Fort Canby State Park and the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center located there.

On this second trip I flew to Portland, rented a car, and then followed Highway 30 skirting the south shore of the Columbia and the route Lewis and Clark took on the return journey in March 1806. Since I was in the region for a separate story time limits prevented me from visiting the Fort Clatsop National Memorial where the Expedition wintered from December 7, 1805 till March 22, 1806.

From Astoria I took the bridge that spans the four miles of the Columbia River to Washington State at Megler Rest and then on to Ilwaco.

Here I explored the trails of Ft. Camby Park, visited Cape Disappointment and toured the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center located there.

Also I visited the Ilwaco Heritage Museum which proved to be a wonderful educational experience highlighting the whole development of the region.

The Long Beach Peninsula is a place well worth visiting. Here is the mouth of the mighty Columbia River and the view from the Lewis and Clark Center as it empties into the Pacific Ocean is truly breathtaking. That same view shows an area that established a 200 year history of shipwrecks earning it the title "Graveyard of the Pacific".

Both Oregon and Washington have provided lavish printed booklets with photos, maps and excepts from the journals of the explorers as it proceeded down the Columbia River. You can contact the Oregon Tourism Commission at 800 547-7842, on the web at www.traveloregon.com.

The Washington State Business and Tourism Development is on the web at www.experiencewashington.com, telephone 360 752-5050.

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Last Update:6/10/03

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