Ilwaco Reveals Confluence of History & Culture
Published: 12/03/2009  Updated: 06/20/2019
The historic Port of Ilwaco is home to both working and pleasure craft, as well as numerous shops, restaurants and galleries.
The historic Port of Ilwaco is home to both working and pleasure craft, as well as numerous shops, restaurants and galleries.  Photo by Bruce Peterson

In its historic location at the mouth of the Columbia River, Ilwaco, Washington was at the center of some of the region's most important historical events.

Tucked behind Cape Disappointment at the mouth of the Columbia River, Ilwaco sits at the confluence of history and cultures. This was the harbor where trading ships would bargain with the local Chinook Indians for sea otter pelts in the 1700s. Lewis and Clark passed through here on their historic voyage in late 1805.

Today, the Port of Ilwaco offers a beautiful setting for waterfront shops, galleries and restaurants with abundant nearby attractions. The harbor is a real working port complete with commercial fishing boats, pleasure crafts and seafood processing plants. Stroll along the waterfront and witness the hustle and bustle of maritime activities as you browse art galleries, specialty stores or stop for a meal. There are both casual cafes and fine dining restaurants here. You can also get your caffeine fix or linger in a wine bar.

The port features a Saturday Market from May through September. Downtown Ilwaco features the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum and at the west end of Main Street SW is the trailhead for the Discovery Trail. This scenic hike crosses over Cape Disappointment and emerges at the ocean at Beard's Hollow. The entire trail leads 8.2 miles to the town of Long Beach. Cape Disappointment State Park now dominates much of this historic headland and is just five minutes away by car. The park is home to two lighthouses: North Head Lighthouse built in 1898 and Cape Disappointment Lighthouse built in 1856. Both are among the most accessible on the Pacific coast. Atop Cape Disappointment, the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center tells the story of the famous expedition and offers scenic views of the famous Graveyard of the Pacific, so named for the hundreds of shipwrecks that occurred in these treacherous waters. For more information on Ilwaco or Cape Disappointment, contact the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau at (800) 451-2542.
Ilwaco Reveals Confluence of History & Culture