Right along highway 101 on the north side of the Columbia River, east of Chinook, Washington, you’ll find Middle Village, the site of a significant Chinook village. Around 36 houses once stood here.
For thousands of years, the Chinook people lived here near the great river’s mouth, the ideal place to find plenty of sea food, game animals, materials for shelter and clothing, and trade with visiting ships. Yet, when the men of the Lewis & Clark Expedition arrived here on November 15, 1805, the Chinooks had already moved to their winter village and this settlement was unoccupied.
The expedition set up camp a short distance west of the village. They called the site of their encampment Station Camp, because it served as their primary survey station. The expedition spent just ten days at Station Camp, from which Clark produced his detailed and accurate map of the mouth of the Columbia River and surrounding area.
A few days later, on November 18, expedition member Reuben Field shot and killed a California condor on the beach. William Clark recorded its weight as 25 pounds, with a wingspan of 9 ½ feet.
They remained on the site until November 24, 1805, when Captains Lewis and Clark asked the group to vote, including York, Clark’s slave, and Sacagawea, the Indian wife of Toussaint Charbonneau, on where they would spend the winter. The majority chose to cross to the south side of the Columbia River, near modern-day Astoria, Oregon, to build winter quarters, which soon would be known as Fort Clatsop.
In 2005, archeologists found abundant physical evidence to support the importance of the Middle Village site as a Chinook trade village. More than 10,000 artifacts were uncovered, including trade beads, plates, cups, musket balls, arrowheads, Indian fish net weights and ceremonial items. European artifacts found here are from both before and after the Corps' visit in 1805, and attest to the vitality of Chinook social and economic life at the site.
Today, visitors can visit both Middle Village and Station Camp. Both sites are open during daylight hours, year-round and are part of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. Entrance to the park is $10 per person for visitors ages 16 and older and is good for 7 days. An annual pass to the park is also available for $35. For more information, go to: www.nps.gov/lewi.
Lewis and Clark NHT Visitor Centers and Museums
Visitor Centers and Museums along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail