As a mainstay of American History, explorers Lewis and Clark and their tales of exploring uncharted territory in a canoe are legendary. To learn more about their epic journey, Oregon offers several top spots including a reproduction of their original fort. Here are the top Lewis and Clark sites in Oregon.
Who are Lewis and Clark?
The famous explorers charted the western U.S. after the Louisiana Purchase. President Thomas Jefferson dispatched Merriweather Lewis and William Clark, both in their early 30s, to discover a water passage to the Pacific Ocean.
Starting in 1804, Lewis and Clark along with the other men of the Corps of Discovery, set out from St. Louis, Missouri, headed west to the Pacific Ocean. It was not until November 1805 did the Lewis and Clark Expedition plus Sacagawea and her baby reach the Pacific Ocean across uncharted territory.
Needing a place to spend the winter, they built Fort Clatsop at the mouth of the Columbia River. For three months, the Corps of Discovery sewed moccasins, hunted and made salt in preparation for the trip back. In March 1806, they left for St. Louis.
Lewis and Clark National Historical Park
As one of top Lewis and Clark sites in Oregon, Lewis and Clark National Historical Park at Fort Clatsop was first on our list to visit. Near the mouth of the Columbia River, this was the terminating spot for the expedition, they overwintered in the spot before returning.
With an introductory movie and an interpretive area, my kids got the basic history of the expedition, though they were familiar with the expedition. The Lewis and Clark National Historical Park includes several sites in the area though this spot offers the most to see and do.
Activities at the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park
The Lewis and Clark National Historical Park offers several activities for visitors.
The Lewis and Clark National Historical Park offers 14.5 miles of developed trails from the Clay Pit Trail to the Fort to Sea Trail. There is a variety of landscapes to discover on the trails from the beach to the forest to the creek.
Fort-to-Sea Trail offers a 6.5-mile path from Fort Clatsop to the Pacific Ocean. It retraces the route that the Corps of Discovery took from Fort Clatsop to the ocean and to Netul Landing along the river.
Guided Kayak Tour
During the summer, Park Ranger guide groups through the tidal waters of the Lewis and Clark River. This tour lasts three hours and requires a reservation in addition to park admission. For reservations, head to Recreation.gov.
National Park sites protect the animals within its boundaries. Wildlife spotting is a top activity at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park.
Visitors can find Douglas squirrels and banana slugs relatively easily. Though it is also home to eagles and osprey along with migrating ducks. In total, there are 44 differnt types of mammals, 75 bird species along with others.
One of the highlights of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park is the living history demonstrations during the summer. From June until Labor Day, history comes alive with costumed interpreters in the replica Fort Clasop. It is one of the Top Lewis and Clark Sites in Oregon .
Fort Clasop is the site that the Corps of Discovery hunkered down and spent the winter from December 1805 to March 1806. During this time they hunted game, harvested salt (for preserving meat) and tanned leather. The men also worked on their maps and journals, used to document their journey.
During our trip, we hiked to the replica of the wooden Fort Clatsop for one of its daily programs. We explored the fort to see how the Corps of Discovery lived, learned about fur trading and the woolen Hudson Bay blankets used in trading.
My boys were very interested in exploring the fort, including the blankets and bunk beds. Then to my boys’ delight, our costumed ranger loaded up an antique musket. With a blast of fire and a boom that rumbled through the forest, the ranger fired off the rifle. My boys wanted to enlist as explorers on the spot, instead we explored more Lewis and Clark sites.
Fort Clatsop with Kids
The Junior Ranger Program is the go-to program for families to learn more about a National Park Service site. It’s free and takes about two hours to complete. My kids love the badges that the Park Rangers present them after completing their booklets.
To earn the Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks Junior Ranger patch, grab an age-based booklet at the visitor center and complete required activities. The Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks Junior Ranger patches comes with rank patches based on the number of Lewis and Clark sites kids visit.
Complete seven activities in the Junior Ranger booklet and visit one site to earn the rank of Private. Visit two sites to earn the rank of Sergeant, three sites to earn the rank of Captain and visit four sites to earn the rank of President. Some of the sites are in Washington, across the Astoria Bridge.
Netul Landing and Netul River
The place where the Corps of Discovery pulled ashore. A trail from the visitor center is available and kayaking is popular along the Netul River.
Details to Visit the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park
It it located at 92343 Fort Clatsop Road in Astoria. The visitor center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. during the summer. It is $10 per person for a seven-day pass and kids 15 and younger enter for free, or adults can use an American the Beautiful Annual Pass or other NPS Pass.
Other Lewis and Clark Sites in the Area
Fort Clasop is in the forest, near the Lewis and Clark River and offered protection during the winter. Though the Corps of Discovery had run out of salt and needed to made more for their survival.
Shortly after arriving a group of men found a suitable site about 15 miles away from Fort Clasop at the Pacific Ocean to produce salt. After an wood fired oven was make, the men harvested ocean water. The water was boiled over the wood fire for 24-hours to produce salt.
The Salt Works area is located at US Highway 101 and Avenue G, turn off on Beach Drive, then left to Lewis and Clark Way. It is a small fenced area and lacks dedicated parking.
Fort Stevens State Park
Located about 7 miles away, Fort Stevens State Park is a 4,300-acre park with a military fort and ship wreck along with recreational acitivities. It features hiking and camping along with cabins.
Originally built in 1860s, this fort protected the mouth of the Columbia River. Located at Point Adams, it was used until WWII. It was made a state park in the 1970s. Those that area interested, the site offers gun batteries.
Fort Stevens State Park offers 15 miles of hiking trails and access to Coffenbury Lake. The site offers camping, including cabins and yurts along with a dump station, playground and bathhouse.
The shipwrieck, Peter Iredale is located on the beach and makes an interesting photo op. There is a parking area close to the site.
Located at 1675 Peter Iredale Rd. Hammond, OR, 97121. Parking fee $5.
Lewis and Clark National Historical Trail
As a 4,900 mile-long trail that spans 16 states, it retraces the route of the Corps of Discovery. Starting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, through Omaha, Nebraska, and it continues along the Columbia River to Astoria to retrace the route of the explorers.
Along with sites in Oregon the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail there are sites dedicated to Lewis and Clark in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Montana, Idaho and Washington.
Ecola State Park
Once the area to several groups of Tillamonk people along the Columbia River, this park offers 9 miles of shoreline. Captain Clark paddled past this area in 1806.
Located at Cannon Beach. It is a day-use park and open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Parking fee $5.
Museums dedicated to Lewis and Clark
Columbia Gorge Discovery Center
As one of the Top Lewis and Clark Sites in Oregon, visitors can explore this museum to learn about the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It also discusses the pioneers and emigrants seeking fortune along the Oregon Trail.
Located at 5000 Discovery Drive in The Dallas. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adult admission is $10, kids (6 – 16) are $5 with those 5 and younger entering for free.
- Cape Disappointment State Park— one of the main visitor centers and offers a full-service state park.
- Fort Columbia State Park—home to the Chinook Indians and the coastal defense fort.
- Dismal Notch—a landing spot for the Corps of Discovery along the Columbia River.
Know Before You Go:
- Be prepared for rain at any time.
- Limited food service at the park sites so pack a picnic.