Nature and Science at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park

View from historic canoe landing.
Lewis and Clark River.

NPS Photo / Nancy Eid

The park preserves a variety of ecosystems from coastal dunes, estuarine mudflats and tidal marshes to shrub wetlands, temperate rainforests and swamps. Situated within the Sitka spruce vegetation zone, its forests are dominated by conifer trees and carpeted with a great diversity of understory shrubs, ferns and wildflowers. Giant Sitka spruce more than 100 years old and up to 36 feet in circumference can be found here. Extensive wetlands in the park include fringing salt marshes on the lower Columbia River, the tidally-influenced lower Lewis and Clark River and many low-gradient brackish sloughs and marshes. Freshwater streams and springs are numerous in park forests, and freshwater ponds are found in various habitats. These wetlands provide valuable habitat for a diversity of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish.

The great variety of flora and fauna in the park reflects its diversity of habitats as well as its location on the Pacific migratory flyway and proximity to the Pacific Ocean. More than 140 species of vertebrates, including at least 46 mammals, 100 birds, 10 amphibians, 3 reptiles and 20 fish pass through or make their permanent home within the park. Over 250 species of vascular plants and 68 of bryophytes have been documented in recent surveys.

The park sits on the ancestral homelands of the Clatsop and Chinook peoples who have depended on the lush natural resources for their way of life. The abundant fish and diverse plants have provided the PNW peoples with food, medicine, and textiles.

The park's natural resources are significant from a historic as well as a contemporary perspective. During the winter of 1805-06, explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark described, sketched or collected more than three dozen of the region's plants, including evergreen huckleberry (Vaccinium ovatum) and salal (Gaultheria shallon), both new to western science. Their journal entries also documented 23 mammals, 28 birds and several fish, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates during the expedition's winter stay.

 
 
Young barred owls sits in a tree

Animals

The park's strategic geographic location and varied habitats are largely responsible for its high fauna diversity of more than 140 species

Salal berries and leaves

Plants

More than 250 species of vascular plants and 74 of mosses and liverworts have been documented at Lewis and Clark NHP

Amanita mushroom with bright red cap and a white stalk

Fungi

There is a high diversity of fungi in the park thanks to the wet and moderate climate and variety of habitats in the area.

Biologist test water quality next to a stream

Long Term Monitoring

Natural resources park rangers participate in long term monitoring of water, weather, plants and wildlife at the park.

Flyover view of the river, estuary and forest

Natural Features & Ecosystems

The park's habitat diversity ranges from coastal rainforest to riparian and estuarine marsh, shrub, and swamp wetlands.

Volunteers plant trees in an estuary habitat on a rainy day

Restoration Efforts

Lewis and Clark NHP has ongoing restoration projects for tidal wetlands, estuaries, dune prairie and forests.

Last updated: April 1, 2021

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park
92343 Fort Clatsop Road

Astoria, OR 97103

Phone:

(503) 861-2471
Rangers are available to answer your calls between the hours of 9 - 5 PST.

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