Imagine standing at a place where Native American people encountered the Lewis and Clark Expedition on its westward journey.
On Oct. 16, 1805, the Corps of Discovery arrived at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers, the site of today's Sacajawea Historical State Park. They camped for two nights amidst a thriving community of Native American cultures.
As most Washingtonians know, a Shoshone woman named Sacagawea* was instrumental in the Expedition’s success. Not only did she work alongside the men, she was an interpreter and an emissary of peace between the white explorers and Native American tribes.
Central to the park named for her is the Sacajawea Interpretive Center. Open April 1 to Oct. 31, (call 509 545-2361 for hours), the museum features interactive exhibits on the Corps of Discovery, Sacagawea and the Sahaptian-speaking tribes of the region. Stroll the green, tree-shaded grounds, and read the seven story circle installations by internationally known artist Maya Lin.
Once you’ve absorbed this fascinating history, head for the beach. Depending on the season, hundreds of birds flock to these inland waters, and boaters enjoy the two rivers, while kids play on the lawns and parents relax.
As evening falls, stand on the riverside, and picture the area as it must have been in 1805. If you weren’t a Lewis and Clark buff before, you may find your curiosity piqued by this interesting park.
Sacajawea Historical State Park is a 257-acre day-use park at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers.
*Recent scholarly research and study of the original journals indicate that both the preferred spelling of this historical figure’s name is “Sacagawea,” and her name is spoken with a hard "g" sound. Because the park has been known as Sacajawea for many decades, the "j" spelling is retained. Elsewhere in brochures, exhibits, and programs, the "g" is used - Sacagawea.
Discover Pass: A Discover Pass is required for vehicle access to state parks for day use. For more information about the Discover Pass and exemptions, please visit the Discover Pass web page.
The park offers one kitchen shelter with electricity and a large barbecue grill, one kitchen shelter without electricity, and 130 unsheltered picnic tables. One of the shelters can accommodate up to 200 people. For information or reservations, call the park office at (509) 545-2361.
1.2 miles of hiking trails
0.5 mile ADA-accessible hiking trail
Water activities & features
70 feet of moorage
200 feet of dock
Two boat ramps
Personal watercraft use
Two horseshoe pits
The park has many outdoor self-guided interpretive displays, as well as framework representations of Native American dwellings. Along with the on-site Sacajawea Interpretive Center, the park provides guided tours by a park interpretive specialist. For times and dates, call the park at (509) 337-6457.
The park has two boat ramps and 200 feet of dock. The boat launch is in a small, protected lagoon.
Launching a boat at a state park requires one of the following: • An annual launch permit (Natural Investment Permit); or • An annual Discover Pass and a daily launch permit; or • A one-day Discover Pass and a daily launch permit.
A daily watercraft launching permit at a special reduced rate of $5 and a trailer dumping permit for $5 may be purchased at the park.
Annual permits also may be purchased at Washington State Parks Headquarters in Olympia, at region offices, online, and at parks when staff is available.
The park provides 70 feet of moorage. Moorage fees are charged year-round for mooring at docks, floats, and buoys from 1 p.m. to 8 a.m. Daily and annual permits are available. For more information, call (360) 902-8844.
Latitude: 46° 12' 0.36" N (46.2001) Longitude: 119° 2' 25.79" W (-119.0405)
Sacajawea is a day-use park, but it does have one Northwest Discovery Water Trail campsite. The water trail campsite is available on a first-come, first-served basis. It accommodates eight people and may only be used by those arriving by boat when traveling down the river (support vehicles are permitted). Groups larger than eight people may contact the park at (509) 545-2361 for more information. Overnight moorage is allowed year-round, but no restroom facilities are available October through March.
During the last Ice Age, the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers looked very different. Rushing floodwaters were slowed by the narrow opening at Wallula Gap, backing up to form a huge temporary lake. Repeated floods covered the area under as much as 800 feet of water in a temporary slack-water basin now known as Lake Lewis.
For thousands of years, the site of Sacajawea State Park was a traditional gathering, fishing and trading place for Native peoples. Sahaptian-speaking Indians came to trade and to catch and dry fish for winter. Some people remained through the winter at this popular gathering place.
On Oct. 16, 1805, the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery Expedition arrived at the confluence of the two rivers and stayed for two nights. They explored the area and traded with the Native people before paddling down the Columbia River to the Pacific Coast.
The park was eventually named for Sacagawea, the Agaiduka Shoshoni Indian woman who accompanied the Expedition as a working member of the party, an interpreter at times and an emissary of peace. The name of this historical figure used to be spelled and pronounced Sacajawea, explaining the name of the park. More recent scholarly research suggests the name was spelled and pronounced with a hard g – Sacagawea, hence the difference in spelling.
The Northern Pacific Railroad established a construction site at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia rivers in 1879. The site quickly grew into a town, which the railroad company named Ainsworth. The town peaked with a population of 1,500 people, but after Northern Pacific moved its construction work to other locations, the town disappeared. Today, most of the original town site is within Sacajawea State Park.
In 1927, Thomas and Stacie Carstens donated an acre of land to the Daughters of the Pioneers of Washington — Pasco Chapter to help preserve the original Corps of Discovery campsite. The women hand carried buckets of water to care for trees they planted to mark the location of the campsite and led the effort to erect the monument that still stands today.
In 1931, the women deeded the land to the state, and the land was designated as a state park.
With support from the local communities and the state, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) constructed a museum at the park in 1938. The Sacajawea Museum was built to display Native American artifacts from the tribes of the Columbia Plateau. The museum, now known as the Sacajawea Interpretive Center, and three other WPA buildings are still in use.