1805: to the Pacific - the End of the Voyage by Water
Finally, the Lewis and Clark Expedition made it around Point Ellice (or "Blustering Point," or "Point Distress," as they called it) and established a final camp on a "beautiful Sand beach" east of the present-day town of Chinook.
On November 15, Clark wrote, "I landed and formed a camp on the highest spot I could find between the height of the tides, and the slashers in a small bottom; this I could plainly see would be the extent of out journey by water."
Lewis and Clark called this location "Station Camp." After traveling more than 4,100 miles up the Missouri River, over the Rocky Mountains, and down the Snake and Columbia rivers, members of the Corps of Discovery finally reached the end of their voyage by water.
Others in the party also noted the importance of this site:
"We are now in plain view of the Pacific Ocean. We are now of the opinion that we cannot go further with out canoes, and think that we are at end of our voyage to the Pacific Ocean."
Joseph Whitehouse, November 16, 1805
"We are now at the end of our voyage, which has been completely accomplished according to the intent of the expedition."
Patrick Gass, November 16, 1805
Near Station Camp, a Chinook "village of 36 houses" stood unoccupied. The Chinook people had already moved to their winter houses along protected rivers and bays to the north. For 10 days, Expedition members had learned how challenging the weather could be, and probably fully understood the benefit of moving to a more protected location for the winter.
Today, Station Camp State Park is located within a few hundred feet of the historic campsite. The tiny one-acre park memorializes large events. When you visit, use your imagination to recreate the 10 days the Corps of Discovery spent here exploring, surveying, establishing latitude and longitude, bartering with the Chinook Indians, and deciding where to spend the winter.
Hiking to Cape Disappointment
On November 18, 1805, William Clark took 11 men on an excursion to the ocean. Following the curving edge of Haley's Bay (present-day Bakers Bay), they explored, mapped, examined, and recorded what they saw.
In the bay, Clark wrote about a California Condor, "Rubin Fields killed a buzzard of the large kind near the meat of the whale we saw: 25 pounds measured from the tips of the wings across nine and a half feet, from the point of the bill to the end of the tail three feet 10 and a quarter inches, middle toe five and a half inches, toe nail one inch and three and a half lines, wing feather two and a half feet long and one inch five lines diameter, tale feathers 14 and a half inches, and the head is six and a half inches including the beak."
The Vote for Winter Camp
Sandy beach strewn with driftwood and bordered by lush hillsides leading into the Pacific Ocean at Cape Disappointment.
Having explored Cape Disappointment and completed their mission of reaching the Pacific Ocean, it was time to begin the long trip home. An important question loomed: should they begin the eastward voyage now and winter somewhere up the Columbia? Or should they cross the river and search for a suitable location for a winter camp near the mouth of the river? On November 24, 1805, the captains called for a rare event - they asked the opinion of each member of the expedition, including Sacagawea, an American Indian woman, and York, an African-American slave.
Patrick Gass noted, "At night, the party were consulted by the commanding officers as to the place most proper for winter quarters." Clark summed up the vote by writing "our party induced us to cross the river and examine the opposite side."
By early December, they found a suitable location and soon established a winter camp they called Fort Clatsop. During the wet winter at the mouth of the Columbia River, they traded with the local American Indians, hunted elk, made salt from sea water, worked on journals and maps, and prepared for the return voyage.