The winter quarters of the
Lewis and Clark expedition in 1805-06, Fort Clatsop is located south
and west of Astoria, on a rise just west of the Lewis and Clark
Corps of Discovery arrived in the Columbia River estuary in late November 1805
and initially landed on the Washington shore at a point just downstream from
the north end of the present-day Astoria-Megler bridge. This place, which the
explorers called Station Camp, proved to be an undesirable place to spend the
winter. The area was open an exposed to the frequent rain and wind. Also, there
was little game in the area, and the expedition needed elk and deer not only
for meat but for skins, as their clothing was rotting in the perpetual dampness
of the lower Columbia in fall and winter.
favored returning to The Dalles for the winter, but that was out of the
question as the season was late, the weather was deteriorating and the captains
hoped to encounter a trading ship in the estuary in order to replenish their supplies
and obtain trade goods for the return journey to the East. Their best hope of
encountering a ship was to stay in the estuary.
corps voted — all members had the opportunity to vote — to spend the winter on
the shore of the Netul River (that is the name Lewis gave it; the river since
has been renamed the Lewis and Clark River) at a site located by Lewis in early
December. Work began immediately, and by December 10 the foundations were laid.
By December 14 the walls were up, and the roofing was finished by December 24.
The captains moved into their room on December 23, and the remainder of the
corps on the 24th and Christmas Day.
Lewis and Clark initiated democracy and a form of government in the Northwest
by conducting the first public vote, and also, in Fort Clatsop, establishing
the first military post in Oregon. Fort Clatsop was not the first military post
in the Northwest, however, as Spain had established a fort at Nootka Sound on
Vancouver Island in 1789.
name of Fort Clatsop comes from that of the local Indian tribe, which Lewis and
Clark mention in their journals. Clark called them the “Clot sop Nation.” The
fort included a stockade about 50 feet square built around two parallel cabins
separated by a parade ground. One cabin
contained three rooms, each with a fire pit, and the other contained four
rooms. Two of these had firepits, and
the room shared by the captains had a fireplace and exterior chimney.
began immediately and was completed on Wednesday, January 1, 1806. About three
months later, on Sunday, March 23, the Corps abandoned the fort to begin the
return journey to the United States.
the reconstructed fort is the Fort Clatsop National Memorial and is operated by
the National Park Service. There is a fee for entry. The fort burned on Oct. 3,
2005, apparently the result of a stray ember from one of the fire pits at the
site. Following the fire, the replica fort was rebuilt at the same site.