Lewis, Clark and Fort Clatsop

One of the places we visited last week when Captain Cavedweller and I were on vacation was Fort Clatsop, where Lewis and Clark and their weary crew spent the winter.

Arriving in December 1805, the brave men from the Corps of Discovery were there until March 1806. The Fort was constructed on the banks of the Netul River (now Lewis and Clark River).

What you’ll find on the grounds today is a replica of the original fort as well as living history programs, an exhibit hall, orientation films, a bookstore, crafts and more. There are also trailheads along the river. Me, being me, decided the hike down to the landing was far enough and told CC if he wanted to do the 6.5 mile hike of Fort to Sea Trail, he was on his own. He decided lunch sounded way better than the hike. Excellent choice on his part!

A replica fort was built in 1955 largely from a floor plan that Clark drew on the elkskin cover of one of his journals. It was destroyed by fire in 2005 and another fort was constructed.

Some things of interest we learned through the orientation films and exhibits were that the group of men who traveled with Lewis and Clark were hand-selected for their bravery, intelligence, strength and skill. These men were the best of the best.

I hadn’t realized how much of their travels from Missouri was on waterways rather than across country. They interacted quite a bit with Indian tribes, were resourceful in their journey and were careful in their actions.

If you want to get a really nice look at the history of these two men and this journey, Discovering Lewis & Clark is an interesting resource.

Another thing that impressed me was their commitment to the project. They did what they set out to do.

Capt. Meriwether Lewis and Capt. William Clark both kept journals. The exhibit hall at Fort Clatsop offered insight into both of their writings and shared some quotes that were quite interesting. Clark was also very intent on drawing accurate maps. According to information shared in one of the orientation films, the measurements he recorded from Missouri to the Oregon Coast were only off about 40 miles. Fascinating considering the tools he had to work with over the vast miles they covered during the journey.

They men originally arrived on the Washington side of the Columbia River but after 10 days of trying to find a place to set up a winter encampment, they voted to cross the river. They found the site, which would become Fort Clatsop and began to build the fort, named for a local Indian tribe.

A few days after Christmas, Clark directed three men to travel to the ocean and form a camp to “commence makeing salt with 5 of the largest kittles…”

The group ended up in Seaside, Oregon, about 15 miles southwest of Fort Clatsop. Salt was obtained by boiling sea water “day and night” in kettles placed on an oven built of stones and fueled by trees and wood debris found along the shore. The men produced about three quarts a day of what Lewis described as “excellent, fine, strong & white” salt.  The reason for the need to make salt was a because the supply the group brought with them was nearly exhausted and they needed salt for both preserving and flavoring their food. About three bushels of the four produced were packed in kegs and taking on the journey home.

Here are some photos from the fort. Enjoy!

Replica table and chairs in the fort.
Fire used to heat beef grease for making candles.
Pouring wax into molds similar to those that would have been used in 1805/1806.
Sacagawea – her importance in the success of the trip was highlighted in several areas throughout the fort displays and exhibits.
Lewis, Clark, and a local Indian (and Lewis’ dog Seaman).
The detail on the statue was amazing. Look at the fringe on his coat.
Captain Cavedweller, of course, liked this particular exhibit that showcased some of the guns and accessories from the time period.
On the trail to the river, the landscapes were quite lovely.

If you ever find yourself on the tip of the Oregon Coast near Astoria, stop in at Fort Clatsop. It really is worth your time!

She Who Loves History!

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