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Lewis & Clark Return to North Oregon Coast, Live on the Beach

Published 08/12/20 at 5:44 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Lewis & Clark Return to North Oregon Coast, Live on the Beach

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(Seaside, Oregon) – If you’re a couple of thousand miles away from home after having hoofed it all the way to the Oregon coast and then you run out of salt – what do you do?

If you’re the dudes in Lewis & Clark’s party, the Corps of Discovery, salt wasn’t just an additive to food, it was a vital part of the mission that allowed you to preserve meats. The crew (including one woman and a baby) needed it to survive. By the time they got to the very wet and dreary Washington and Oregon coast, their supplies of salt were running low. They had to prepare for the journey home.

“So the members of the Corps of North Western Discovery did the only thing they could: make their own salt,” said the Seaside History Museum’s Tita Montero.

Thus, coming through time from the past, comes the special living history event Lewis & Clark Salt Makers. The nearly-two-decade tradition will take place on the beach west of the Avenue U and Prom intersection on September 12, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and September 13, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Corps arrived here in early November of 1805, first puttering around the southern Washington coast. They soon found a spot just east of present day Warrenton and built Fort Clatsop, where they spent the winter here, leaving in early 1806.

On December 28, 1805, Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark sent forth a special detachment from their winter quarters at Fort Clatsop, according to the museum. Five men traveled overland from the Fort to the future Seaside part of the north Oregon coast, searching for the best location for making salt.

On January 1, 1806, the fifth day of their search, the five found the perfect spot (where Lewis & Clark Way currently is and the site commemorating their salt-making efforts). Here, they boiled salt water for nearly two months, dealing with the muddy, wet conditions of a Pacific Northwest winter before finally making it back to Fort Clatsop.

The reenactment of this event has been connected to the Seaside Museum for over 15 years. Once again, it continues with third person interpretation provided by members of the Pacific Northwest Living Historians (PNLH). PNLH interpreters will create and share the experience of the Lewis & Clark exploration group, bringing to life the salt camp which those explorers established 214 years ago.

It’s the perfect outdoor history museum this year, with plenty of social distancing now added.

Visitors to the program will enter the camp and find members of the PNLH busy making salt, as they boil sea water over a fire just as the men of the Lewis and Clark expedition did in 1806. The interpreters will also share the history and stories of the legendary expedition with everyone who comes to the beach.

Lewis and Clark Salt Makers is a free interactive learning opportunity for the whole family. This event is sponsored by the Seaside Museum and presented by the PNLH. The project is made possible through a grant from the City of Seaside Tourism Advisory Committee, funded by room tax dollars. The program is also supported by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Seaside Public Works Department, and The Tides Vacation Condos.

Mandated COVID 19 precautions will be enforced, requiring face coverings and social distancing.

For more information, call the Seaside Museum at (503) 738-7065.

Preserving Seaside’s History since 1974, the Seaside Museum and Historical Society is a non-profit educational institution located at 570 Necanicum Drive, Seaside. Due to COVID 19 precautions, the Museum is closed until further notice.

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