As part of the 200th anniversary of the Corps of Discovery / Lewis & Clark Expedition, a series of artworks were undertaken along the Columbia River in Oregon and Washington. The fish cleaning table at the Baker Bay boat ramp is one of these projects.
The original fish cleaning table at this location was very primitive, and in 2006 a new table by renowned artist Maya Lin was put here, with a new deck underneath it as well.
The table is special as it records a legend of the Chinook First Nations people in its surface. It is made of basalt, and should stand the test of time. It says:
"Ages ago, an old man named Toólux (or south wind), while traveling to the north, met an old woman, named Quoots-hooi, who was an ogress and a giantess. He asked her for food, when she gave him a net telling him that she had nothing to eat and that he must go and try to catch some fish. He accordingly dragged the net and succeeded in catching a grampus, or as the Indians call it, a "little whale". This he was about to cut with a knife, when the old woman cried out to him to take a sharp shell an not to cut the fish crossways, but to split it down the back. He, without giving heed to what she said, cut the fish across the side, and was about to take off a piece of blubber but the fish immediately change into an immense bird that when flying completely obscured the sun and the noise made by its wings shook the earth. This bird, which they called Hahness, then flew away to the north and lit on the top of the Saddleback Mountain, near the Columbia River. Toólux and the old woman then journeyed north in search of Hahness, and one day while Quoots-hooi was engaged in picking berries on the side of the mountain, she found the nest of the thunder-bird, full of eggs, which she commenced breaking and eating, and from these mankind were produced. The thuner-bird came back, and finding its nest destroyed, returned to Toólux for redress but neither of them ever after could find the ogress, although they regularly returned to the north every year. It is probably this tradition which has caused the belief that the first salmon caught must not be cut across but must be split down the back, and then split in thin flakes. If it should be cut contrary to their practice than all the salmon would leave, and no more be taken that season."
" - The Chinook who live near the mouth of the Columbia River, and the Chehalis who live a little farther north, tell this story about their origin, as recorded by James Swan in 1857"
Hidden on the far side of the parking lot for the Baker Bay Boat Ramp, you will find an oyster shell trail leading into the bushes. At the end of this trail you will find a new observation platform with benches on it, positioned slightly over the waters of Baker Bay.
As part of the 200th anniversary of the Corps of Discovery / Lewis & Clark Expedition, a series of artworks were produced along the Columbia River by renowned artist Maya Lin. This new observation platform is one such work of art, including the new native plantings along the new trail leading from the parking area to the platform.
The platform provides a view somewhat upriver but mostly across Baker Bay to the town of Ilwaco and points along the Washington side of the river. The protected passage for boats headed to the port of Ilwaco (mostly fishing) lies right along the water by the observation deck.
The platform also includes a quote from one of the journals of the expedition, as well as a note from the artist about the location and the quote:
"Friday 15th This morning the weather appeared to settle and clear off, but the river remained still rough...went about 3 miles, when we came to the mouth of the river, where it empties into a handsome bay.
- Patrick Gass of Lewis & Clack's Corps of Discovery on November 15, 1805, as they arrived at the mouth of the Columbia River, a saltwater estuary where the dynamic mixing of fresh and salt water influences life over thousands of square miles, providing critical habitat for plants, animals and microorganisms."
Cedar trees were held in great esteem by the First Nations of the Pacific Northwest. Not only were these frequently the largest of trees in the area, they were also extremely useful. The bark of the western red cedar could be turned into clothes and other woven objects, while the wood was very useful for building the tribal long houses.
Once the trees were cut down, the stumps frequently nursed new trees that grew from the remains of the old.
As part of the series of art works created as part of the Confluence Project, which was part of the 200th anniversary of the Corps of Discovery / Lewis and Clark Expedition, a set of cedar driftwood taken directly from nearby Waikiki Beach were placed in a ghost-like setting in a grove of living trees. Then, a cedar stump was placed in the center of a circle with smaller trees around it. The cedar stump is already growing small trees out of its cracks.
According to the artist's statement, the six driftwood logs plus the center of the circle represent the six directions known to the First Nations people: North, South, East, West, Up, Down, and In.
As part of the 200th anniversary of the Corps of Discovery / Lewis & Clark Expedition, a series of artworks were undertaken along the Columbia River in Oregon and Washington. This boardwalk is one of several such works in Cape Disappointment State Park.
As a practical matter, the boardwalk serves as a solid surface on which to walk, between Waikiki Beach and the restrooms and parking area that serve that part of the state park. At the point nearest the parking lot, the boardwalk is cast into the concrete walkways that were already there.
However, if someone actually looks closely at the boardwalk, it is possible to find that the boardwalk is actually made up of milepost markers of the entire Corps of Discovery / Lewis & Clark Expedition. Where notable, there are quotes from the journals of the expedition, as well as remarks about the location, and sometimes other details such as notes of the wildlife and plant life. Tribal names of places are also included in some locations.
Mile markers on the boardwalk give the distance both to and from the Pacific, as the Corps of Discovery took a somewhat different route on the return trip. Some of the numbers are only relevant to some of the expedition, as those numbers record the various tributaries of the Missouri River including the side of the river on which they are located and the width of the mouth in yards (see photos 4 and 5).
The boardwalk material itself is also of note: the planks are made of oyster shell concrete with the engravings made in stone.
Located in a well sheltered inlet of Baker Bay, on the inland side of Cape Disappointment, this boat ramp can be a popular location during fishing season. The restroom facility has flush toilets, and near the boat ramp there is a fish cleaning table that is also a special work of art commissioned for the 200th anniversary of the Corps of Discovery.
There are floating piers next to the boat ramp so that that preparation work on the boat may be done much easier than at a ramp that doesn't have these.
There is a definite lack of pull-through parking spots for vehicles with trailers, so if you plan to park here it is best to be good at backing up.
There are also parking places that are for vehicles without trailers, and if you don't need a trailer spot then it is best to use one of those.
While today it is a state park, Cape Disappointment was originally known by its military name of Fort Canby, and up until the end of World War II this was regarded as a vital fortification for defense of the Columbia River entrance.
With the entire concept of warfare changing (the futility of attacking and occupying massive amounts of hostile land was mostly being demonstrated in several modern conflicts), and with new defensive weapons such as radar and sonar to detect enemy activities long before they arrived on the coast, there was no longer a need for large expensive fortifications. Thus, the conversion of this former outpost to a state park.
There are not a huge amount of fortifications that remain, as there are at some of the other fortresses in the northwest (such as Fort Casey or Fort Worden). However, there are some remains of this piece of history here as well. The largest of these fortress remains is underneath the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center (see my Lewis and Clark at the Columbia River Mouth tip. ) where you will find the entire foundation of the structure is actually the remains of some of these fortifications.
Currently, the remains of the old fortifications, primarily Gun Battery Harvey Allen, are open to exploration. HOWEVER, be very careful about exploring these places, as they have not been occupied for nearly 70 years - and even then they were regarded as old fortifications. Some of the decay is obvious, while some of it isn't so obvious. Witness, for example, the concrete under the stairs in photo 3, where if you look closely under the stairs at left you will see that small stalactites have formed due to the concrete slowly decaying over decades. Handrails are completely gone in many cases, and in many other cases never existed due to such niceties not being regarded as vital safety precautions when this facility was built in the decades before World War II. If you look at the conditions of the doors in the photos, you will see that even the huge and thick armored doors on the munitions storage rooms have decayed severely given 70 years of non-maintenance.
This is a paved parking area that is only slightly across the line into the state park. This trailhead serves four trails:
The Discovery Trail passes through the north side of the park, and from this parking area north it is a paved trail suitable for bikes. It goes all the way to the north side of the city of Long Beach. A short walk through the forest leads to a hiking-only trail that goes directly out to the beach. (Please don't walk across the grass that is clinging to the dunes east of the beach. Please use the trail. The grass is vital habitat for some of the beach wildlife, including some critically threatened bird species.)
The other direction of the Discovery Trail is not paved from this park eastward to the town of Ilwaco, but it is a reasonably wide trail and has a decent surface. This part of the Discovery Trail crosses over a wetlands area that sometimes has bird life in it.
To the south, there is a paved trail that continues on the other side of route 100. It is not named.
The Westwind Trail heads up the hill from the parking area on a staircase and heads towards a lighthouse and the forests and rocky coast to the southwest.
The parking area is paved, but is fairly tight quarters and not a place I would suggest for larger vehicles. There is a turn-around at the far end of the parking area, and it is from this location that the paved portion of the Discovery Trail takes its path northward.
The only restroom facility at this location is a single room pit toilet.
The Long Beach Peninsula passes through the north edge of Cape Disappointment State Park. This is a paved trail that leads from the northern edge of the town of Long Beach south into the state park, and then through a gap in the rock outcroppings into the town of Ilwaco.
As the north end of this trail is in Long Beach, please see my Long Beach Discovery Trail tip for information on the north end of the trail.
On its north end, the section of the trail located in Cape Disappointment State Park is much like the section that is in Long Beach: the trail passes through the grassland dunes that form the eastern side of the Pacific Ocean beach. However, off in the distance you can see the large forested rocks that form the core of Cape Disappointment State Park and its much different topography. (see photo 1)
As the trail gets further south, it passes through coastal scrub fir forest, and then enters the much more serious forests (see photo 2) of the giant rock that forms the hill on which most of the park sits. However, there is a narrow gap between some of the rocks, and here the trail wanders between the rocks and remains quite level compared to the rest of the surrounding sections of the park. At the end of this section of the trail, it enters the Beard's Hollow trailhead area of the park.
Here, there is a standard-issue pit toilet facility, and a three-way division in the trail. If you go straight through the parking lot, you will find that there is a paved bike trail that continues on the other side of the road. BE CAREFUL as there is a blind curve on this road and it is hard to cross it safely. This segment of trail only goes a little further south.
It is also possible to cross the wetlands on a boardwalk and then climb the hill on the opposite side. This is the official route of the Discovery Trail, but it is not paved for road bike use past this point.
The third option is to head uphill on a wooden staircase. This is the Westwind Trail that heads over to the North Head Lighthouse and connects with other park trails.
None of these trails is especially long.
Right next to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, you will find the Cape Disappointment light house. This is the oldest functioning light house on the west coast, having been completed in 1856.
As it remains in service, tours of it are not offered as they are of the North Head Light House. However, there is a viewpoint trail called the Cape Disappointment Trail that leads over to the base of the lighthouse to allow a reasonably close inspection of the outside of the lighthouse.
The trail from the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center parking lot to the light house is fairly short, but it is quite steep.
There is a Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center inside Cape Disappointment State Park, but the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park includes a number of scattered locations in Oregon and Washington.
So, I have titled this tip "Lewis and Clark at the Columbia River Mouth" as it will primarily discuss the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, but also make mention of the other places so that fans of Lewis & Clark and the Corps of Discovery will be led to those places as well.
Admission to the Lewis & Clark interpretive center is currently $5 for adults. The pathway through the center takes the visitor from the days of the Luisiana Purchase to the formation of the Corps of Discovery, and then from the Atlantic to the Pacific with the exploring party. There are many quotes from the journals, and reasonably contemporary drawings and paintings of the locations as possible. When you get to the bottom of the ramp that forms the entrance and journey to the Pacific, there are several exhibits featuring reproduction scale craft used by Lewis & Clark, examples of tools used, and efforts at explaining the difficulty of traveling at that time. There are some interactive exhibits, including a sample of how to fire a musket and the mechanical workings of this type of firearm.
There are several items in the displays that are thought to be from the original expedition, or are possibly from the expedition. This includes one axe head, and two smaller tools. Other examples are very well done reproductions.
A 16 minute movie plays every 20 minutes automatically in the auditorium in the bottom floor of the museum.
The exit to the museum displays features non-Lewis & Clark type material that is relevant to the entrance to the Columbia River in more developed times. Much of this is related to the marine navigation issues posed by the Columbia Bar, which is visible from the huge observation windows in this part of the Interpretive Center.
The location of the center is on top of a hill facing the Columbia River bar, and is reasonably close to where Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Dicscovery would have spent a few days before heading across the river to make winter quarters provision. The exact location of their time here in Washington is most likely at the base of the hill which is not publicly accessible due to a Coast Guard station being located there.
Weather at this point can be very interesting, and is usually windy. Sometimes it is clear, but much of the time visibility is very limited.
Look closely at the foundation of the interpetive center: it is built on historic gun fortress remains that once guarded the entrance of the Columbia River, but was determined to be surplus to the needs of national defense after World War II.
There is some discussion of the native cultures encountered by the expedition, with one display case devoted to the local area, and including some examples of their fine craft work.
As the center occupies a hidden spot on the hill, there are two parking places: one for the general public, and the other for handicapped access, as the trail up the hill from the parking area is short and steep - though it is paved.
Other Areas of Interest to Lewis and Clark followers:
Near Astoria there is Fort Clatsop, which is about 5 miles south of Astoria on highway 101. This is a replica of sorts of the winter fort that Lewis and Clark and the expedition built near this location. Unfortunately I can't offer too much advice about what is there now as there was an extensive vandalism problem, including burning the whole thing to the ground several years ago. I think they've got everything sort of back the way it was, but it is hard for me to know that I am offering accurate advice since I know that a lot has changed since I visited there, and that virtually every single piece of what is there now wasn't there when I last visited Fort Clatsop.
Also please see the web site for the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail:
The Interpetive Center has a nice map available of all the various places relevant to Lewis & Clark in the area.
Getting to this lighthouse requires a bit of a hike. But it can easily be seen from both the visitors center and the Waikiki beach.
This was the first lighthouse built in the area. First discussed in 1843 it took until 1856 to complete due to shipwrecks of the building materials and difficulties with the lens. They found an old one from New Jersey- a first order Fresnel- that became the first warning to ships bound for the Columbia River to avoid the cliffs of Cape Disappointment. When it was replaced in 1898 it was used in the North Lighthouse. It is now on display in the visitors center.
The trail from the parking lot is 1.5 miles rt. You can also take a trail from the visitors center which connects up with the parking lot trail.
"Travel down through the woods, making a brief stop to take in the small and beautiful beach known as Dead Man’s Cove before making a very steep ascent on the old Coast Guard Road up to the lighthouse. It’s about 0.7 miles from the center to the lighthouse; about half downward winding trail and half steep Coast Guard road." http://www.funbeach.com/attractions/cape-D-hikes.html
There are plenty of opportunities for wildlife viewing. At the right time of year whales can be seen from any of the several lookouts. We saw deer and sea birds. You may not come to see them, but it is a nice reminder that they have been living in this area long before man invaded their space. Enjoy their presence as a sign that we share the world with many forms of life.
This is a great visitors center with wonderful displays and information regarding the journey of the Corps of Discovery. This spot marked the end of their trip at the mouth of the Columbia River. They had found the Pacific Ocean via land. What a momentous work that was. Here are displays of the boats they used, the wildlife they found, the natives they met, the men and woman who journeyed with them. Here was the poignant story of Sacajawea who adamantly insisted that she be allowed to go to see the ocean.
Be warned however. The walk from the parking lot to the center is steep and for someone impaired very long. There is a drive up option if you have an handicapped sticker,,,,still no parking on top though so someone will have to walk up regardless.
This is a small military base used during WWII to protect the mouth of the Columbia River. There isn't much left. The Lewis and Clark Interpretive center is built on top of it and life has moved on from the guns of the 20th century. Along with Ft Stevens on the south of the river the guns placed here were thankfully never used, though Ft Stevens was fired on. It is still an interesting walk through.
After Lewis and Clark set up camp at Station Camp, Clark and some of the men left the boats behind and walked to the ocean. They passed by McKenzie Head and made camp before going the last stretch to the long beaches of the peninsula. There is a nice monument near their campsite. There is a trail up the mountain and if you feel like following in their footsteps continue on the Discovery trail to Long Beach