Fort Canby (now known as Cape Disappointment) bears the distinction as the state’s first military installation. Constructed in 1852 to guard the mouth of the Columbia River, it was part of the defensive triad that included Fort Columbia and Fort Stevens (located on the Oregon side of the river.) The confluence of the Columbia and the Pacific Ocean was a historically significant destination that attracted Native peoples, European explorers, and the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition. This state park preserves some scattered remnants of the fortification, the oldest functioning lighthouse in the state built in 1856 (Cape Disappointment Lighthouse), and North Head Lighthouse. One of the park’s significant attractions is the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center that is sited on the bluffs overlooking the merging waters of river and ocean. It was near this point on November 7, 1805, that Lewis and Clark first glimpsed the Pacific Ocean.
Fort Canby State Park is located on the Washington side of the Columbia River, two miles southwest of Ilwaco off US Hwy. 101.
Eager to return to the United States after their long journey, Lewis and Clark were forced to wait nearly six agonizing weeks (from May 14 to June 10, 1806) for snow in the mountains along the Lolo Trail to melt. During this time, many of the Nez Perce visited the expedition, and Lewis takes full advantage by making many notes on their manners and customs. He also administers medicine to many of the sick members of the tribe, who were brought to him for help. Finally, on the 10th of June, the expedition departs Long Camp. Their first stop on the way home is the quawmash fields where they intended to acquire as much meat as possible before attempting to re-cross the Bitterroot Mountains.
The Lewis and Clark Long Camp is marked by interpretive signs along U.S. Highway 12, 1 mile east of Kamiah. The campsite itself is located two miles distant on the Clearwater River on privately owned land.
If the trek from St. Louis to the Mandan villages, against the current was difficult for Lewis and Clark, the portage around the Great Falls of the Missouri was next to impossible. The Great Falls are a stretch of the Missouri River where the channel drops some 400 feet over 10 miles. In order to circumvent this obstacle, the men of the Corps of Discovery would have to haul all of their belongings piecemeal over an 18 mile land trail. It took the men eight trips and roughly thirty days of intense physical labor to get all of their equipment past the falls. The captains had anticipated the portage would take only a week. Today, the falls have been modified by dams that generate hydroelectric power for the city of Great Falls. Portions of the portage route are visible from the Giant Springs side of the River. In addition to the portage route, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center is located in a bluff overlooking the Missouri River. The Interpretive Center features exhibits on Lewis and Clark as well as specifics regarding the portage around the Great Falls.
The Great Falls of the Missouri are subsumed within the town of Great Falls. From U.S. 87/89, follow the 10th Avenue exit.
Arriving in St. Louis in December, 1803, Lewis and Clark were busily engaged in acquiring the final supplies needed for the voyage. It was their intention to make a winter camp at La Charrette, on the Missouri. The local Spanish authority, however, would not allow them to enter the Louisiana territory as he had not yet received official documents transferring title of the territory. The Captains were therefore forced to make camp on the east side of the Mississippi River, at the mouth of the Wood River. This camp was named Camp Dubois, and is also known as Camp Wood. The expedition spent the winter months training, preparing for the journey and running afoul of the Captains, as discipline during the first winter was lacking. The actual campsite has been destroyed by river channel migration. A monument to the camp is located in Lewis and Clark State Memorial Park.
Location and Directions
Links: Lewis and Clark State Memorial, Camp Dubois, Illinois
Lemhi Pass is located along the Continental Divide, at 7,323 feet above sea level. It was here in 1805 that Lewis and Clark passed out of the boundaries of the Louisiana Purchase Territory. They also got their first glimpse of the headwaters of the Columbia River, that would carry them to the Pacific Ocean. Today, the Lemhi Pass area remains much as it did when Lewis and Clark were in the area. Development has been kept to a minimum, and as a result, plant and animal life are abundant. Signs and markers interpret the activities of Lewis and Clark during the summer months.
Location Map and Directions.
After Lewis and Clark held council with members of the Otoe and Missouri Nations, high on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River, Clark noted that the site was “well calculated for a tradeing establishment”. Based upon this recommendation, Fort Atkinson, the first military post west of the Mississippi, was constructed by the Yellowstone Expedition in 1819. The fort was originally named Camp Council Bluff, as it was built adjacent to the site of Lewis and Clark’s council. The name was eventually changed to Fort Atkinson, in honor of Colonel Henry Atkinson, commander of the Yellowstone Expedition. Fort Atkinson was in use from 1820 to 1827, and housed a garrison of 1,000 men. The garrison protected the western fur trade as well as overland traffic along the Platte River Valley. Fort Atkinson was the starting point for many of the early expeditions to the southwest and such settlements of Taos and Santa Fe. Fort Atkinson was abandoned in 1827 as southern trails grew in importance. After abandonment, Fort Atkinson succumbed to the need for farmland, and was destroyed. Local preservationists came to the aid of the fort in 1963 when the land was purchased and a restoration drive began. Today, after many donations, Fort Atkinson has been reconstructed, including the stone blockhouse and north, south and west walls which include the barracks. Bastions at the northwest and southeast corners have also been reconstructed.
Blockhouse at Ft. Atkinson taken by Steve Parrish
Location information and directions.
Links: Fort Atkinson