Cape Disappointment Light House Waves Crashing Washington Coast

Stormy on the Oregon Coast

We are experiencing a true-life situation; similar to the Lewis and Clark Expedition at nearly the same location (of course, our living conditions are much more refined). The waves are high and the weather is stormy on the Oregon Coast.  We are further west than where Lewis and Clark built Fort Clatsop and closer to the coast. The entire area is either in a pine forest or too swampy for living.  

Lewis and Clark, after floating the Columbia River westward to the Pacific Ocean arrived on November 8th, we are here about three weeks earlier in the year. Lewis and Clark started their route back to the east after four months of rain, on March 22, 1806. They had targeted departure two days earlier but were delayed due to poor weather. We head south along the Oregon Coast starting Saturday probably in the rain.

Cape Disappointment Light House Waves Crashing Washington Coast.  This is a big wave I think that the splash is about forty feet high.  This is the kind of thing you get when it is stormy on the Oregon coast (even though technically Cape Disappointment is in Washington.
Cape Disappointment Light House Waves Crashing Washington Coast. This is a big wave I think that the splash is about forty feet high. This is the kind of thing you get when it is stormy on the Oregon coast (even though technically Cape Disappointment is in Washington.

The number one thing Lewis and Clark most remembered about their stay was the rain, for us, it has been raining since we arrived and expected to continue after we leave, after that the rains will really pick up until next spring. It is usually stormy on the Oregon coast all winter. Perhaps not as wet as Washington, further north but wet enough just the same.

Fort Clatsop

Lewis and Clark made the fort on land recommended by the Clatsop Indians and spent the winter here. In 2006 the National Park Service rebuilt a replica of the Lewis and Clark fort after the first replica, built in 1955 was destroyed by fire. The replicas were made according to drawings Clark made of the forts.  Clark’s notes also pinpoint locations along the north shore of the Columbia River by compass readings to landmarks, which prove their presence at this location.

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Lewis notes that they crossed the Columbia River, to the south side, before setting up the fort and used some materials to construct the fort that was previously used by the Clatsops.  The exact location disappeared in the years following occupation, the trees rotted and some materials were reclaimed by the Clatsops after their departure and the forest growth made the location disappear.

Lewis didn’t start the fort build until December 7, 1805. The fort wasn’t complete until Christmas. Even though this is very fast for a pretty big fort and house, I bet it was delayed by the weather, it gets stormy on the Oregon coast. departure, the fort was gifted to the Clatsops and used for many years after as a trading post. The location is only known by stories. The descendants of the Clatsops say that their stories fix the location of the fort at or near the replica.

What are we doing here? Well, Fort Stevens, where we are staying, is at the point furthest north on the Oregon Coast and we will be staying on the coast, driving south for the remainder of the month. So as it is said, start at the beginning, and you can’t get further north in Oregon than this.


Fort Stevens

Fort Stevens is also the only place on the U.S. mainland that attacked the Japanese during World War II. A Japanese submarine came up the Columbia River, following fishing boats, and opened fire at the first target they saw. Had they known that this was a huge gun battery dating back to the civil war that had super thick walls; perhaps they would have chosen an easier target.

Other than damage to the baseball field, the only damage was to some telephone wires. The response from the fort was to turn out all the lights, to remove the targeting from the submarine’s gun. The submarine responded in kind, lights out, and the big guns at Fort Stevens were never employed. The submarine floated back out to the ocean during the night and got away cleanly.


Astoria, the city furthest north in Oregon is named after New York financier John Jacob Astor (Waldorf Astoria Hotel) and was founded in 1810 only five years after the Lewis and Clark expedition. At that time, the Astoria and Fort Clatsop were at the far reaches of the fur trade.

This area, not part of the Louisiana Purchase, which only extended to the continental divide, was technically British, who controlled the fur trade, until 1815. In 1815 the Treaty of Ghent pushed the border further north, but in this area, none of this mattered, the only people other than the natives, whoever ventured into the area were fur trappers and fur traders. The Oregon Trail migration changed all this and British control melted away based on the number of immigrants from the “states”.    

Cape Disappointment

Yesterday we ventured into Washington to visit the lighthouses on Cape Disappointment. It was stormy on the Oregon Coast and on the Washington Coast.

Lewis and Clark camped at Cape Disappointment prior to crossing the Columbia River to winter at Fort Clatsop. However, the name (Cape Disappointment) has nothing to do with Lewis and Clark.  The mouth of the river was first mapped by the Spanish in 1775, however, English Captain John Meares named the location when he could not find the river mouth. Cape Disappointment had and has a real fog problem, and the cliffs, where the lighthouse are pounded by surf. Even on a marginal day, yesterday the surf was very impressive. 

Here is a link to the google map for the area.

Link to our 2019 Route

Link to our route Oregon and California Coast

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