Celebrating America's most famous explorers who arrived here at the mouth of the Columbia in November 1805, Lewis and Clark National Park encompasses several of the West's most important historical places.
Visit the sites in any order you wish; the National Park Service recommends starting at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at Cape Disappointment State Park or at Fort Clatsop near Astoria. Both have gift shops and exhibits on the heritage of the region, as well as helpful rangers.
The most significant site on the Washington side of the Columbia is Station Camp, where the explorers spent almost two weeks. A center for Chinook Indian life for thousands of years, there currently is minimal interpretive information at the campsite in deference to Chinook ancestral remains discovered there.
During the 10 years before Lewis and Clark arrived overland at this spot, almost 90 trade ships from Europe and New England are documented to have crossed the Columbia River bar to trade with Native Americans, according to the park service. In 2005, archeologists found abundant physical evidence to support the importance of the site as one of the earliest Pacific Rim trade sites.
The park service says several significant events took place at Station Camp, including the decision to spend the winter across the river, in what is now Oregon. It was Nov. 24, 1805, and the explorers desperately needed to lead the Corps to a winter campsite, one rich with game and nearby friendly tribes who would trade for supplies. A majority of the Corps, including the Indian woman Sacagawea and the African American York, decided to cross the Columbia River to look for such a place.
Station Camp eventually will encompass about 280 acres and be operated by the Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks.
The National Park headquarters' phone number is 503-861-2471. Extensive information is also available on-line at www.nps.gov/lewi.