Right along highway 101 on the north side of the Columbia River, east of Chinook, Washington, you’ll find Middle Village – Station Camp, the site of a significant Chinook village.
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 Expedition arrived here in November 1805, the Chinooks had moved to their winter village and this settlement was unoccupied.
On November 24, 1805, the Captains took a “vote,” or more likely a “poll” of everyone, including York, Clark’s slave, and Sacagawea, the Indian wife of Toussaint Charbonneau. The critical decision – where to spend the winter. The majority chose to cross to the south side of the Columbia, near modern-day Astoria, Oregon, to build winter quarters, which soon would be known as Fort Clatsop.
The Corps spent just 10 days at Middle Village, which historians have labeled as “Station Camp” because it was Clark’s primary survey station to produce his detailed and accurate map of the mouth of the Columbia and surrounding area.
In 2005, archeologists found abundant physical evidence to support the importance of the 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. The European artifacts are from both before and after the Corps' visit in 1805, and attest to the vitality of the Chinook social and economic life at the site.
The site is open daylight hours, year-round and is part of Lewis and Clark National Historic Park. For more information, go to: .
After leaving Dismal Nitch on November 15, 1805, Clark “found a butifull Sand beech thro which runs a Small [stream] below the mouth of this Stream is a village of 36 houses uninhabited by anything except flees […] this I could plainly See would be the extent of our journey by water, as the waves were too high at any Stage for our Canoes to proceed any further down.” The village described by Clark, while vacated for the season, was an important fishing and trade hub for the Chinook people, who had already occupied the area for thousands of years. The expedition encamped at this location for the next ten days. During that time they explored the north shore of the mouth of the Columbia by land. Clark surveyed the surrounding area, later producing a detailed map. On November 24, a vote was held to determine the location of their winter quarters. Opting to explore the coastal region south of the Columbia River, they departed the following day.
A Catholic Mission was briefly established at the site in 1848, then later a cannery and small settlement. St. Mary’s Catholic Church was built in 1904, and has been preserved as the most prominent feature of the site. Following about ten years of planning and development, Middle Village – Station Camp was dedicated in 2012 as a 280-acre component of the Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks. Primarily dedicated to commemorating Chinookan history and culture, the park includes a system of footpaths with extensive interpretive features and expansive views of the Columbia River.