CORRECTION (published 10/29/03): The first paragraph in a story in last week's Chinook Observer about the newly-remodeled Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center should have read "With remodeling about 75 percent complete at the center."
CAPE DISAPPOINTMENT STATE PARK - With remodeling about 75 percent complete at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, visitors will be getting a whole new perspective on the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Cape Disappointment State Park Interpretive Specialist Ryan Karlson said last week that all the new exhibits and interpretive panels should be installed by next month. Official re-dedication of the two-year project at the center is scheduled for March 12. Funds for the project came from state appropriations and grants.
Karlson likens the newly redesigned center to a three-power microscope. The lowest resolution is at the beginning of the explorers' journey. Before the re-design, Karlson said, "You started at the mouth of the Missouri, read panels about Jefferson and Lewis and Clark, and off you went."
Now, the origins of the trip are available including an exhibit on the American Philosophical Society, Lewis's tutors and historic maps.
Visitors to the center will still follow the expedition along the Missouri River and across the Rocky Mountains, but interpretive panels have been completely redesigned with new fonts, new colors and new information, including mileage from the beginning of the journey. On the walls will be quotes by Thomas Jefferson. Also new are paintings by George Catlin and an etching of Fort Mandan from the 1811 edition of Patrick Gass's journal.
When visitors reach the bottom of the ramp, the resolution of the microscope gets bumped up a notch with larger and more interactive exhibits. Here is the story of the expedition in Washington state, with large landscapes and bigger text size in the panels. "This is designed to slow people down, let them play with the toys and view historic pictures of the river before the dams were built," Karlson said.
The touchable "toys" added to exhibits include plant presses containing specimens from along the trail collected by a botanist from the Burke Museum in Seattle, chunks of basalt, samples of fabric and a telescope and rifle that visitors can sight in on a landscape containing antelopes, geese and elk.
"They can see what an animal would look like at 100 feet and will be able to figure out how many people it would feed," Karlson said.
The existing pine canoe has been updated and now contains a smaller version and wooden blocks so people can "load" the canoe and learn how easily it could tip over, spilling all the contents into the river.
A new movie on the expedition is featured in the center's remodeled theater, by Odyssey Productions in Portland with additional information by park employees and members of the Chinook Indian Tribe.
The microscope clicks to its highest power in the next part of the exhibits, in the newly construction part of the center, with a day-by-day description of the voyage to the Pacific Ocean.
"This is where it really slows down," Karlson said. The exhibits depict "The Storm at Cape Swell, Nov. 8 and 9," when the expedition was in Grays Bay, and move to the five-day ordeal at Dismal Nitch, Nov. 10 to 15, complete with sounds of rain, thunder and waves and real alder trees.
Rounding a corner, symbolizing the explorers' attempts to leave Dismal Nitch, visitors will arrive at Station Camp, "The end of our voyage," according to Gass's journal. Visitors will be able to write entries in their own journals, leaving them or taking them along with them. "This is a reflection space," Karlson said. "They arrive and now they can relax" - just like the real corps members.
In the arrival area are replicas of items carried by members of the expedition, including Clark's writing box. An entire section of this exhibit is devoted to the Chinook Indian Tribe and includes a pool containing fish and weights, stone tools, baskets, and arrows. Tribal members are writing the text for these exhibits.
Also in this area is a replica of the dog Seaman's nose. Although still in the development stages, the "sniffer" is mounted on a barrel and when it revolves, a strong odor of salmon will come from the barrel.
This part of the exhibit will include more plant exhibits, Clark's pocket knife and one of three rock presses to be found throughout the "journey" that will emboss a paper guide visitors get at the beginning of the trip.
Also included are exhibits explaining the famous vote at Station Camp by expedition members, including York, a black slave, and Sacagawea, an Indian woman, about where to spend the winter. A "fire" at the Station Camp exhibit contains quotes on the decision about where to overwinter and a replica of the actual vote tally.
The exhibits then describe the explorers' return journey and their arrival in St. Louis, and includes a "wall of knowledge" with plants, animals and tribes seen and recorded by the corps members. Also included are biographies of members of the expedition and a discussion of the journals.
Visitors then will go up a stairway to the existing room with its spectacular view of the Columbia River bar and interpretive exhibits of the cultural and natural history of Cape Disappointment. "The building is designed as two interpretive centers," Karlson said. The Cape D exhibits include the history of shipwrecks in the area, a three-dimensional topographic map of the area to the Naselle River, the building of the North Jetty and its impact on the shoreline, bird and boat identification panels, the U.S. Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers and the old familiar Fresnel lighthouse lens.
"There's no Lewis and Clark up here," Karlson said. "This is all about the region."
Outside the center, work is moving along on a new upper parking lot for disabled visitors and a turnaround for tour buses. The new entrance will conform to ADA standards, Karlson said.