Fort Clatsop

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Fort Clatsop

Fort Clatsop was the encampment of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the Oregon Country near the mouth of the Columbia River during the winter of 1805-1806. Located along the Lewis and Clark River at the north end of the Clatsop Plains approximately 5 mi (8 km) southwest of Astoria, Oregon, the fort was the last encampment of the Corps of Discovery before embarking on their return trip east to St. Louis. The site is now protected as Fort Clatsop National Memorial. .


The fort was named after the local Clatsop tribe of Native Americans. The Corps of Discovery moved into the fort on December 25, 1805. The original stockade was a small cramped wooden structure, more of a barracks than a defensible structure. By their own accounts, the Corps members were largely miserable during the damp cold winter on the Pacific Coast. Whereas the previous winter on the Great Plains they spent a great amount of time interacting with the local Native Americans, at Fort Clatsop their interaction with the local Clatsop was not social and was limited mostly to small-scale trading. The fort was opened to trading only 24 days during the entire winter.

The expedition's journals do not give a precise layout of the fort, and the two floorplans drawn Sergeant John Ordway and Captain William Clark differ. Clark's floorplan is the accepted version due to his rank and role in the construction work.

The area they had settled in was on the lands of the Clatsop tribe, one of the Lower Chinookan peoples. Prior to the expedition's arrival, the Clatsop had frequently traded with other European traders and explorers visiting the area by ship. Because of their prior experience with traders, the Clatsop were shrewd at valuing the expedition's "indian trinkets". Despite this, the tribe interacted frequently with the expedition, trading goods, services, and information.

The camp site was selected by Captain Lewis and construction took place over the month of December, with the expedition moving in by Christmas Day, 1805. They remained there until March 23, 1806, when they abandoned it for their return home.

The original fort decayed in the wet climate of the region but was reconstructed in 1955 from sketches in the journals of William Clark. The site is currently operated by the National Park Service as the Fort Clatsop National Memorial. As of September 2004, Congress has passed a bill authorizing the new Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, which will include the Fort Clatsop National Memorial, the Salt Cairnes in Seaside, as well as Cape Disappointment State Park and the Megler Rest Area in Washington.

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