A crowd of visitors listen to a guide dressed in interpretive clothing at the gates of Fort Clatsop, a log fort in Oregon

Exploring Fort Clatsop, Oregon

After making it to the western coast of Washington, Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery needed a place to overwinter before heading back to St. Louis. At the advice of the local Clatsop Indians, the Corps found a suitable site for their encampment south of the river, about five miles from present-day Astoria, Oregon. There, the crew built the log fort in which they would live for the next four months. When they left in March of 1806, they gave the fort to the Clatsops, who eventually used it as part of their fur trading operations.[1]

Fort Clatsop is now part of the Lewis and Clark National and State Historic Parks, and it makes an excellent stop for any road trip along the Oregon Coast.

Fort Clatsop has a very informative little museum about the Corps of Discovery, including replicas of their boats, clothing, and food options. My favorite artifacts were the facsimiles of William Clark’s journals, which had incredible drawings of the flora and fauna they discovered on their journey. There’s nothing like an old explorer’s journal to make me wish that I had been born in a time and place when there was still so much of the world left to be discovered.

Journal of William Clark with a drawing of a fish
I wish the doodles in my journals were this classy.

His journals also talk about how cranky and disgruntled the crew got during their long, wet winter at the Fort. They tired of their elk-based diet, distrusted their neighbors, and generally grew bored and restless. I found their complaints both humorous and relatable.

By the middle of the 19th century, the log structure had disintegrated in the wet climate of the Pacific Northwest. A replica of Fort Clatsop was constructed in 1955 using Clark’s journals as reference. (Ironically, the original took only 3.5 weeks to build, but the replica took 18 months!) After that replica was damaged by a fire in 2005, the current structure was built in 2006. A guide in period clothes gave us a great introduction to the history of the fort, and then we were free to explore to our heart’s content. The fort isn’t very big (so it’s easy to see how cramped quarters would have everyone feeling cranky…), and both the fort and the museum only took us an hour or two to explore.

  • Fort Clatsop
    Lewis & Clark National and State Historical Parks
  • Official Site
  • Price
    Adults: $7 for a 7 day pass
    Kids under 15: Free
    $35 for an Oregon Coast Pass, good for 12 months
  • 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)
    Rating

Have you been to Fort Clatsop?

I’d love to hear your story, too! Share your memories in the comments below or over on my Facebook page. And if you haven’t been to Fort Clatsop, be sure to save this to your travel board on Pinterest so you don’t forget to include this gem on your next trip to the Oregon Coast. Thanks!

A crowd of visitors listen to a guide dressed in interpretive clothing at the gates of Fort Clatsop, a log fort in Oregon

Flashback Field Trips are a series of posts about adventures I had before I started Jest Kept Secret. While these adventures may be a few years old, they still deserve a chance to be highlighted. You can read more posts about both domestic and international travel here

This trip to the Oregon Coast was researched planned by my sister, Kate, so she gets all credit for the itinerary. Read more about our trip here.

[1] Wikipedia: Fort Clatsop

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