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Legendary Oregon Coast History Comes Alive with Lewis 'n Clark Reenactment in Sept

Published 08/15/23 at 4:31 p.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Legendary Oregon Coast History Comes Alive with Lewis 'n Clark Reenactment in Sept

(Seaside, Oregon) – There was a time when salt was worth its weight in gold in the early U.S.A. At least when it came to the Lewis and Clark Expedition, this was true as they were settling in for the winter along the proto-Oregon coast. (Photo Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

In the winter of 1805, Lewis, Clark and the Corps of Discovery arrived at the Pacific Coast, in need of salt to continue their journey in a few months time. Salt, which had last been obtained in St. Louis as they first set out, was used in preserving meat for this arduous journey.

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So just after their Fort Clatsop was completed, a handful of men were sent south to the sea to collect salt.

On Saturday and Sunday, September 9th and 10th, the Seaside Museum creates the Lewis and Clark Salt Makers event, held at the end of Avenue U, on the beach. The program will be held Saturday, September 9th from 9 am – 6 pm and Sunday, September 10th from 9 am – 3 pm.

Members of the Pacific Northwest Living Historians (PNLH) will recreate and share the experience of that exploration group, bringing to life the salt camp which those explorers established more than 200 years ago. They will set up camp and a working replica of the sea water-boiling structure used back then, recreating the feel of the actual endeavor.

Lewis and Clark Salt Makers has been an annual event now for more than two decades, with the historical reenactment becoming a bit of Oregon coast history itself. It even helps to release interesting bits of information not always known, such as the fact that in his own journals Captain Meriwether Lewis called the group Corps of Northwestern Discovery.

On December 26, 1805, Lewis and Capt. William Clark sent forth a special detachment from their just-completed winter quarters at Fort Clatsop. Five men traveled overland from the fort to the coast, searching for the best location for making salt. On January 1, 1806, the fifth day of their search, these men found the perfect spot and set up camp: the beach of present-day Seaside, Oregon. They proceeded to make salt by boiling sea water for nearly two months, all while enduring the wet winter weather, before they returned to Fort Clatsop.

Visitors to the program will enter the camp and time-travel a bit. There was no running down to the local convenience store on Highway 101 for salt back then, over 200 years ago. Here, you'll 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.

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Lewis and Clark Salt Makers is a free, interactive learning opportunity for the whole family.

Courtesy photo

A portion of this project was made possible through a grant from the City of Seaside Tourism Advisory Committee. This program is also supported by the Sandy Cove Inn, Owsley Wood services, and United Site Services.

Not far down the Promenade, there's Lewis & Clark Way, which hosts the actual spot where the troupe boiled ocean water. The replica of their rock “oven” (saltworks) and a monument sits there, which was discerned back in the late 1800s by talking to tribal members who had known exactly where it was.

Call 503.738.7065 for more information.


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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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