Hysterical Journey To Historic Places

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December 16th 2012
Published: December 16th 2012
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Fort ClatsopFort ClatsopFort Clatsop

From Astoria go south on Hwy 101 across Young's Bay to the route 104 interchange. Follow the signs eastward to the Fort Clatsop Historic Park. It is south of the airport.

The Corps of Discovery led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clarke finally struggled into the small bay at the mouth of the Columbia River on November 15, 1805. Plans for the expedition called for returning by sea aboard a ship that was to meet them at that location. Their long journey was unimaginably difficult and they arrived in an area that has the worst weather at that time of year on the entire continent. They arrived by canoe and paddled ashore to a headland on the north side of the bay, clamored to the top of it for a first view of the ship that was supposed to be waiting for them. It would have carried a crew of the only other white people they had seen in over a year. How hungry they must have been for the ship’s provisions, for a dry place to rest their weary bones, and for the fellowship of those sailors. Sadly the ship was not seen, it had been there patiently waiting for some time, and then had sailed away without them. They named that headland Cape Disappointment. The rain continued to fall and the wind continued to blow

This is the site where the Corps of Discovery parked their canoes at Fort Clatsop.
and they had no protection from it beyond a few sodden blankets. For sustenance they relied on pounded salmon taken in trade with the Chinooks, who inhabited the north side of the river, and on what waterfowl and venison they could shoot. Day after day the storms continued and prevented them from attempting to cross the bay. Still they had hope of meeting a ship and were determined to remain where they were at. When it became apparent that game, including elk, was more abundant on the south side of the river they decided to cross and find a location suitable for a winter camp where they could continue to watch for shipping. They couldn’t simply just cross the bay in their canoes. The water was too rough. They had go inland a ways until they found a place safe to cross and then come back down along the south bank. They located a site to spend the winter and on December 15 began building a place to more comfortably fort up. An entire month had passed since they first ascended the Cape Disappointment headlands across the river. They spent a joyful Christmas inside the walls of their new shanties, but so far they had not found wood suitable for roof puncheons. By the New Year the buildings were complete and snug, but were without chimneys except for the officer’s quarters. On January 1, 1806 they gave the name Fort Clatsop to their new home. Indians living on the south side of the river were Clatsop and became frequent visitors and trading partners. They spent the winter hunting, tanning skins, sewing new clothing, making salt, and keeping lookout for a ship. In March the game had become scarce and on March 23, 1806 the merry band loaded their canoes started east back up the Columbia River the way they come. The photo shows the reconstruction of Fort Clatsop completed after a fire in 2005 destroyed one used previously. The original fort had long since returned to earth.


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