Cape Disappointment State Park
Lewis and Clark National
92343 Fort Clatsop Road
Astoria, OR 97103-9197
(503) 861-2471 ext. 214
WELCOME to Cape Disappointment
State Park (WA)
After missing the entrance to what was later
named the Columbia River, English explorer John Meares dubbed the
massive headland jutting out into the Pacific Ocean �Cape
Disappointment.� That was in 1788. Almost 20 years later, Capt.
William Clark and members of the Corps of Discovery explored the
headland in their final push to the Pacific Ocean.
Today Cape Disappointment State Park offers 27
miles of ocean beach, two lighthouses, hiking trails, camping and the
Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.
Perched on a cliff 200 feet above the mouth of
the Columbia River, the center tells the story of the Corps of
Discovery�s journey, focusing particularly on their Pacific Coast
stay. It�s a wonderful stop for families, with interactive exhibits
that let children try to pack a canoe without tipping it, follow a
treasure hunt and check out what the Corps had for its inaugural meal
(hint: it was served on china) to what it ate during the rainy winter
at Fort Clatsop (roots and sometimes dog figured into the menu.)
During winter and spring, trained volunteers
come to the center to help visitors spot passing Gray whales on their
migration. You can also learn about the nearby North Head and Cape
Disappointment Lighthouses. Cape Disappointment Lighthouse is the
oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast. The lighthouses both
function to protect mariners from the rough and ever-changing Columbia
River Bar in the treacherous area known as the Graveyard of the
There are several short hikes nearby, many of
which follow routes that Capt. Clark and the Corps took to explore the
ocean beach below. The park produces a helpful guide, �Hiking Trails
of Cape Disappointment State Park� available at the Lewis and Clark
The world renowned designer Maya Lin is working
with Washington State Parks to redevelop a portion of Cape
Disappointment as part of her Confluence Project.
The park offers breathtaking views of the
Pacific Ocean and Columbia River, with old-growth forest, lakes,
freshwater and saltwater marshes, as well as streams and tidelands
along the ocean. Three vacation rentals are available.
Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center:
Open year-round from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission into the
center is $3 per adult and $1 per child ages 7 to 17. Children ages 6
and under enter for free.
North Head Lighthouse:
Open seasonally to visitors (tours cost $1 per person). No Federal or
State passes. Call the park office at (360) 642-3078 for hours and
The Colbert House Museum:
Open May 26 through Sept. 30 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday through
In 1788, while in search of the Columbia River,
English Captain John Meares missed the passage over the river bar and
named the nearby headland Cape Disappointment for his failure in
finding the river. In 1792, American Captain Robert Gray successfully
crossed the river bar and named the river "Columbia" after
his ship, the Columbia Rediviva. Only a few years later, in 1805, the
Lewis and Clark Expedition arrived at Cape Disappointment.
The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse was
constructed in 1856 to warn seamen of the treacherous river bar known
by then as "the graveyard of the Pacific." This is the
oldest functioning lighthouse on the West Coast.
In 1862, Cape Disappointment was armed with
smoothbore cannons to protect the mouth of the Columbia River from
enemies. The installation was expanded to become Fort Canby in 1875.
The fort was named after General Edward Canby, who was killed in the
Modoc Indian War. The fort continued to be improved until the end of
World War II. Gun batteries still sit up top the park.
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