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Fort Clatsop Unveils New Facility, New Chapter in Oregon Coast and Lewis & Clark History

Published 11/16/23 a 2:57 p.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Fort Clatsop Unveils New Facility, New Chapter in Oregon Coast / Lewis & Clark History

(Warrenton, Oregon) – By December 2, 1805, the Lewis and Clark Expedition were already on the Oregon coast and the Washington coast, traversing both sides of the river and camping and hunting on either side. In five days, they would finally set up camp at what would be Fort Clatsop.

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Now, 218 years later, that fab historic attraction cuts loose with a bit of a party, marking another milestone on December 2. The Fort Clatsop Visitor Center at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park opens up its new front-end facility, the new entrance that is not only more accessible but energy efficient, moving the north Oregon coast attraction well into the 21st.

It takes place at 2 p.m. and it's free. Here, park leaders will talk briefly on the occasion and welcome visitors to the new facility.

What's old is new again on the Oregon coast.

There is much of the visitor center that is rather historic in itself, even if rather inadvertently so. Constructed in 1963, Fort Clatsop's visitor center has most of the original restrooms, walls and windows, all done about five years after the park was established. Thirty years later – in 1991 – more was added, tripling the size of the center. That included a theater and exhibit hall, funded through a public and private partnership.

Some 30 years later, now more has finally been accomplished. There's a new entrance hall with soaring beams and high windows.

“What you might not notice is that we also have replaced the smaller, single-pane office windows with energy efficient models and updated an antiquated heating and cooling system building wide,” said Visitor Services Program Manager Jill Harding.

More in on the way, she said.

“Starting late winter, and into spring, we’ll continue the project with new seating and acoustic panels in the theater,” Harding said. “Funding for the project has come from federal dollars and is designated as deferred maintenance.”

On December 2, their park partner, the Lewis & Clark National Park Association, will provide cake and punch during Saturday’s event. Also onhand: the bookstore will be open, full of educational and fun holiday goodies, as well as year-round goods.

“We’re happy to present the improvements to the public,” says Visitor Services Program Manager Jill Harding. “By improving our accessibility and updating our energy efficiency we are being good stewards of public money and this place.”

The site of Fort Clatsop and its replica are pretty much where historians believe it was originally. Back then, no settlers in the area bothered to memorize the spot – which was essentially rotting timber shortly after Lewis & Clark left. There has been some small controversy about its exact location over the decades. Yet subsequent anthropological digs have found further evidence supporting this was the exact spot.

Fort Clatsop Fun Facts:

In early 1806, some of the Corps of Discovery left their Astoria-area Fort Clatsop and hiked over Tillamook Head. Imagine scrambling up this steep hill, with no trails visible, nothing to make your trek more comfortable in the least. They arrived at future Cannon Beach to look into getting some supplies from a beached whale local tribes were harvesting. The place is called Ecola Creek, the local indigenous word for whale.

These days you're luckier. There's even shorter hiking routes to take rather than the full, four-mile route. Starting at the Cannon Beach side, begin your jaunt at Ecola Point in Ecola State Park and hike 1.5 miles to the parking lot at Indian Beach. Continue on another 1.5 miles from there and you'll get to Tillamook Head's point to find an old World War II radar bunker, a primitive camping spot for hikers as well as enjoy breathtaking views of a rugged beach and the offshore lighthouse.

A unit of the National Park Service, Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Fort Clatsop is located southwest of Astoria, Oregon, three miles off U.S. Highway 101. The Park also maintains the Lewis and Clark Salt Works site near the Promenade in Seaside, Oregon.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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