Fort Clatsop
Lewis and Clark Trail from Fort Clatsop to the Clatsop Plains
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On December 28, 1805, Captains Lewis and Clark sent three men "to proceed to the Ocean at some conveneint place to form a Camp and Commence makeing Salt with 5 of the largest Kittles." [12] Two other men were sent with them to help carry the kettles . The route followed to the coast undoubtedly was one of the tracks opened by Clark earlier in the month. [13] The men selected a site for the salt works within the limits of the present town of Seaside, on the coast about nine miles south of the place where Captain Clark's trail touched the ocean. [14]

Starting with the entry for January 3, 1806, upon which day Sergeant Gass and a companion were sent out to the salt works, and continuing through the entry for February 21, when the salt makers returned to Fort Clatsop with their "salt and utensils," the Lewis and Clark journals contain a number of references to men passing back and forth between the fort and the coast .

Although the journals contain little information on the exact routes followed by these men, it is clear that the trail blazed by Clark continued to be used by some of these travelers. There is also evidence that the route was not considered entirely satisfactory. On January 28, for instance, two men, Howard and Werner, returned from the salt works after having been absent from the fort since the morning of the 23rd. They attributed their delay to the "badness of the weather and the difficulty of the road. [15] On February 21, Sergeant John Ordway complained bitterly in his journal of the unpleasantness of traveling this route in stormy weather, saying he was "'much fatigued and . . . verry Sick, and wet to my Skins waiding the Slashes and marshes." [16]

Indeed, the present-day reader gains the impression that the route opened by Captain Clark was so difficult that the men attempted to avoid using it whenever possible. For example, on January 3 Sergeant Gass and George Shannon were sent out to find the salt makers, whose exact location on the coast was then unknown at the fort. Gass states: "We proceeded along a dividing ridge, expecting to pass the heads of some creeks which intervene." [17] Quite clearly Gass was attempting to avoid the swamps and streams which made the western end of the blazed trail so troublesome to traverse.

On January 6 Captain Clark set out with a small party to see a whale which had been reported washed up on the shore near the present Tillamook Head. Instead of taking the trail westward, he employed canoes and opened a water route by way of Youngs Bay and the Skipanon River to the general vicinity of the point where his old route crossed the present Neacoxie Creek. [18] When, On February 18, Sergeant Ordway was sent out to help the salt makers bring their salt and equipment to the fort, he also started by canoe. However, high waves on Youngs Bay forced him to return; and the next day he and his companions renewed their journey by the land route. [19]

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Last Updated: 04-May-2004