Much of the Corps' stay on the North Coast was spent securing sustenance for the winter and provisions for the trip home.
By the time they reached the lower Columbia River region, the Corps had run out of valuable salt for seasoning food, and, perhaps more important, preserving meat. Capt. Clark didn't care if his food was salty, but many other Corps members did. Good food meant good spirits, and keeping morale up during the rainy winter of 1805 was key. On the other hand, meat preservation was a matter of life or death for the Corps. Spoiled elk meat could make the Corps sick, and without meat for the return home, weakened with hunger.
To make salt, the Corps had to find rocks to build a furnace, wood to burn, ocean water to boil, fresh water to drink and game animals. Nearby rivers weren't salty enough, but a site 15 miles southwest of Fort Clatsop proved perfect. What's more, there were homes of local Clatsop and Tillamook Indians nearby, local experts who could help the Corps members.
Five men traveled to the beach site, built the camp and set five kettles to boiling, 24 hours a day, to produce salt. According to their records, they set out from Fort Clatsop on Dec. 28, 1805, and left the camp Feb. 20, 1806, with 3 ½ bushels or about 28 gallons of "Excellent, fine, strong & white" salt.
IF YOU GO: At the intersection of US Highway 101 and Avenue G, turn west to Beach Drive, then turn left to Lewis and Clark Way. Park where available without blocking private driveways. Walk west on Lewis and Clark Way to the Salt Cairn off of the Prom.
Last updated: February 20, 2017