After living in Montana we have spent a lot of time learning about Lewis and Clark’s journey to the Pacific Ocean with the Corps of Discovery. We have hiked the Lewis and Clark pass, visited the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls, and traversed many spots along their route west. So, we weren’t so sure how much more Lewis and Clark historical sites we would want to visit on our vacation to the west coast. However, it turns out that the Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks are definitely worth the visit.
Our first stop was Cape Disappointment State Park which offers gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River. There was so much to do at this park that we ended up coming back for a second day and didn’t even complete all that there was to do. The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at Cape Disappointment was very well done and offered many interactive activities for the Younger Fives. We really enjoyed the fact that the Interpretive Center focused more on the end of Lewis and Clark’s journey to the Pacific.
In addition to the Interpretive Center we really enjoyed the hike out to the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse and the trail down to the beach. The views were phenomenal and we could have spent an entire day looking out over the water watching boats, surfers, and birds. We never made it out to the second lighthouse on site (North Head Lighthouse) and might have to return for a third visit.
At the Interpretive Center we learned a great deal that made us eager to visit other local sites that the Corps of Discovery explored. These included Middle Village/Station Camp and Dismal Nitch. We really loved the informative signs at Middle Village/Station Camp that explained a lot about the Chinook tribes that lived and thrived in the area before explorers came to this coast. Dismal Nitch was a huge hit with the Younger Fives who tried to imagine what it would be like to be stuck on a small piece of land for 6 very stormy days. It must have been so frustrating for Lewis and Clark to be within site of the Pacific Ocean but be trapped along the river in the unrelenting rain.
From Middle Village/Station Camp and Dismal Nitch we made our way south across the Columbia River to Fort Clatsop where the Corps of Discovery spent the winter months before heading back east. After being out in the winds at Cape Discovery and Station Camp we could really understand why the more protected south side of the river was the chosen location of their winter camp. The kids enjoyed the replica fort and exploring under the huge trees of the park. The trail network extending from Fort Clatsop to the Pacific Ocean and along the Lewis and Clark River are really impressive. We had a great time birding along the Lewis and Clark River and enjoyed learning more about the logging industry in the area.
The sheer number of exploration and learning opportunities in such a small area definitely makes the Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks a must do when visiting the Astoria and Long Beach areas.