Historic Views of Lewis and Clark on the Pacific Coast
By Cyndi Mudge
Published: 03/01/2012  Updated: 08/08/2019
Gary Hayes

When American explorers Lewis and Clark visited the Pacific coast over 200 years ago, they described inspiring views. Many of these famous vistas remain little changed from those experienced by the expedition.

In 1806, when Captain William Clark led an expedition party from their winter encampment at Fort Clatsop across a towering headland between what is now Seaside and Cannon Beach, he paused at one point to describe the view, "...from this point I beheld the grandest and most pleasing prospects which my eyes ever surveyed," he wrote. Clark was standing on top of Tillamook Head and he went on to describe the dramatic breaking waves on the offshore rocks.

That view and many others the explorers described in their journals have changed little over the past 200 years. With a little imagination today, you can picture the dramatic raw beauty the explorers experienced at these viewpoints.

When they first arrived at the coast, the Corps of Discovery spent 18 days along the Washington shores of the Columbia River and coast. Members of the Corps, led by Captain Clark, explored the coast north, up as far as modern day Long Beach. You can follow in their footsteps by exploring the Discovery Trail between Ilwaco and Long Beach, through ancient forests and emerging at the sea at Beard's Hollow.

Atop Cape Disappointment, the expedition looked out to the Pacific. The jetties built later on both sides of the river have altered the coastline here, expanding it west over the years. Continuing north to Long Beach, the trail is punctuated with monuments and interpretive displays that help tell the story of this historic expedition.

At Fort Clatsop on the Oregon side of the Columbia River, the replica of the winter quarters built by the Corps can give a true sense of the cold damp winter the explorers spent here.

Craving salt to flavor their bland and quickly spoiling food, the explorers sent a party to the coast at present day Seaside, where, for nearly two months the explorers camped, continually boiling seawater to make salt. The view from Seaside's oceanfront promenade looking toward Tillamook Head now includes million dollar homes and beachcombing tourists, but with a little imagination you can picture the scene they experienced.

Indian Beach at Ecola State Park has changed little since the explorers passed that way on their trek to find a reported beached whale. Clark describes the cove at Indian Beach in his journal, writing, "... great number of irregular rocks are out and the waves come in with great force." The explorers were surely awed by the view and so are travelers today.
Historic Views of Lewis and Clark on the Pacific Coast