Plan Your Visit
Where to begin your Lewis and Clark Adventure?
Step into the Fort Clatsop replica, at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, and you'll get a real sense of what the Corps of Discovery experienced more than 200 years ago. It looks, smells, and feels pretty much the same. In peak visitor season, rangers in buckskins offer demonstrations such as flintlock gun shooting, hide tanning and candle making.They're patient, friendly and used to lots of questions about the Corps. Check out the historic canoe landing and consider adding a short walk on one of the nearby trails. If it starts to rain, take a break inside the Visitor Center, which features excellent films, bookstore with children's books and games and other displays. Don't forget to ask to become a Junior Ranger! The activity book is free and loads of fun. The Lewis and Clark National Historical Park also hosts a number of free lectures and other special events throughout the year. See our calendar for all our events. Accessibility Information
Or Head to the recently remodeled Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at Cape Disappointment in Washington. Perched on a cliff 200 feet above the mouth of the Columbia River, the center tells the story of the Corps of Discovery's journey from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean. It's a wonderful stop for families, with interactive, child-friendly exhibits that let children try to pack a canoe without tipping it, follow a treasure hunt and check out what the Corps had for its inaugural meal (hint: it was served on china) to what it ate during the rainy winter at Fort Clatsop (roots and sometimes dog figured into the menu.)
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Then head over to nearby Fort Stevens State Park, which once had a bustling Clatsop Indian village, features miles of bicycle trails and the shipwreck of the Peter Iredale. The Peter Iredale, a 278-sailing vessel that ran aground in 1906, rests in the sand at Clatsop Beach, and is close at hand for exploring. Be careful of waves and the ship's rusty structure. Bring a kite along afterwards, because afternoon winds kick up pretty good.
For a small fee, you can park your car and head to the trails. Plan some time to stop and check out the wildlife or to have a beach picnic. Two small swimming lakes also feature picnic areas. Check ahead for fishing. With a license and a pole, the menu might just be trout! If you're planning an overnight stay, consider reserving a cozy yurt at the Fort Stevens Yurt Village or a campsite in the Campground.
You might consider extending your Lewis and Clark adventure at the Astoria Column, high atop Astoria. From this Astoria park, you can view the entire Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. Check out the Columbia River, 4 miles wide, and the Washington sites of Dismal Nitch, Station Camp, Fort Columbia and the river's mouth, bounded by Cape Disappointment to the north and Fort Stevens on Oregon's side. To the southwest, you will see Tillamook Head, part of Ecola State Park. The big mountain shaped like a saddle and visible to the south is Saddle Mountain and is the tallest peak in Clatsop County. Clatsop and Chinook Indians as well as other tribes recounted that the first people emerged from the spirit world from Saddle Mountain.
Most kids love to climb the 164 steps to the top of the Astoria Column, which was built in 1926 and has art depicting local history from 1790's to the 1890's. Before your youngsters set foot on the first step, outfit them with a balsa wood glider from the nearby Column gift shop.
Other places to take a walk:
If you are in downtown Astoria, check out the Riverwalk that hugs the city and runs the four miles from the Port of the Astoria to the East End Mooring Basin. The paved walkway is perfect for a family stroll (and strollers) or bike ride. It's flat and features great views as you pass by working canneries, downtown Astoria eateries and stores and the Columbia River Maritime Museum at 17th Street. The 17th Street Dock is home to two active U.S. Coast Guard cutters, as well as the Lightship Columbia. The historic Astoria trolley runs seasonally along the waterfront, so if your legs get tired, hop aboard and hear the friendly conductors tell about the sights.
The Long Beach Discovery Trail stretches 8 miles from Ilwaco, Wash., through Cape Disappointment State Park north to Long Beach. You can hike the entire trail or travel segments from one of the many trailheads. Portions of the trail are open to bikes. The trail segment in Long Beach is perfect for families. The paved trail has slight hills, perfect for walkers, strollers and bikers.
Great Places to Spot Wildlife:
Tide pool watchers won't want to miss the Haystack Rock tidepool viewing in Cannon Beach, a little south of Ecola and where Corps of Discovery members traded for whale blubber with Tillamook Indians. Haystack Rock towers 235 feet above sea level and was part of Tillamook Head about 10,000 years ago. Playful Tufted puffins nest on the rock from April through July. The Haystack Rock Awareness Program offers narration and tours of the protected marine garden. Call (503) 436-1581 for more information.
Check out the sunset … where else but at Sunset Beach! The Fort to Sea Trail that starts at Fort Clatsop and traces a route the explorers took, ends at Sunset Beach. There are restrooms, parking and a gentle, 1/3 mile trail to the beach from the parking area. You can also park and head back up the trail a mile or so to see the dune lakes and forests before settling in for a picnic and sunset.
Migrating Gray whales pass by our region twice each year - southward from the Arctic (December through February) and northward (March through April). See them from Fort Stevens State Park, Ecola State Park or, perhaps the best viewing, from the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at Cape Disappointment. There, trained volunteer whale "spotters" sporting binoculars are available too help.
Roosevelt elk, a mainstay for the Corps of Discovery, remain abundant. Here are three spots to view them in the early morning and early evening. Best viewing is October through April.: The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife maintains Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area, an excellent elk-viewing site. There is ample parking, viewing areas and an interpretive talk on 530 AM radio. To reach the refuge, enter the roundabout on the Astoria end of the new Youngs Bay Bridge and take Oregon Highway 202 for 22 miles. From Seaside, take Oregon 26 east to the Jewell Junction Highway 103 and follow Oregon 202 north.
If you want to see the barking and playful sea lions that swim the Columbia River close up, head to Astoria's East End Mooring Basin. It's hard to miss the big beasts, many of which have taken up residence on the mooring basin's dock. Don't get to close, but enjoy the view from the Mooring Basin parking lot or roadway leading to the boat area.
Other Places to Explore:
Tapiola Playpark is a cool new playground in Astoria. The 15,000-square-foot fun (and energy burning!) extravaganza includes models of many neat sites, including the historic Liberty Theater, the Astoria Bridge, the Flavel House and even Fort Clatsop. Parents can bring a picnic lunch or cup of coffee and lounge on the lawn or sit under a picnic shelter. A skateboard park is nearby, as is a basketball court and ball fields. Other great local parks include the Warrenton City Park near Fort Stevens, with a pirate boat and swings; the Broadway Park in Seaside and Les Shirley Park in Cannon Beach, near where the Corps of Discovery traded with Tillamook people for 300 pounds of whale blubber and oil.
Sandcastle building takes on a new meaning when hundreds of teams of builders come to Cannon Beach early each summer to compete in the annual Sandcastle Day. Masters come from around the world to compete, and it's a wonder to behold. Meanwhile, the SandSations Sandcastle Competition takes place yearly in Long Beach.
It's not so much a question of which beach to visit, but how to visit them all! If you're a wave rider, boogie boarder or surfer, consider Indian Beach at Ecola State Park in Cannon Beach. Boogie boarders will like the frothy surf near shore while surfers can paddle out and catch some waves.
The premier surfing spot just might be The Cove at Seaside. It's not for novices, but provides challenging water for experienced surfers and a thrilling site for surf watchers.
The beaches at Fort Stevens State Park, Seaside and Cannon Beach also promise good jumping waves and toe dipping. Washington's Long Beach offers similar good times. DO beware of riptides, undertows and sneaker waves at ALL area beaches. For more information on beach safety click here.
Water temperatures are cool - they hover around the 40s and 50s- so you'll see many locals in wetsuits year-round. There are several rental shops in Warrenton, Seaside and Cannon Beach that can help set you up with the right equipment.
The World Kite Museum and Hall of Fame, 303 Sid Snyder Drive S.W., Long Beach, Wash., celebrates the colorful flyers and its friendly staff can give you some tips on good, local kite flying. Summer hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., May through September. Winter hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday through Monday. Admission is $5 adults, $4 seniors and $3 for children. For more information, call (360) 642-4020.
The Astoria Children's Museum is quartered on the second floor of the Uppertown Firefighters Museum. They offer educational programming for young children with interactive play and hands on activities. For more information call them at 503-325-8669.
Did You Know?
The original Fort Clatsop rotted away by the mid-1800s. The average annual rainfall in the area is about 70" so untreated, unmaintained wood rots quickly.