Fort Clatsop

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, 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 part of Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks. replica of the fort was constructed for the sesquicentennial in 1955 and lasted for fifty years; it was severely damaged by fire in early October 2005, weeks before Fort Clatsop's bicentennial. A neat new replica, more rustic and rough-hewn, was built by about 700 volunteers in 2006; it opened with a dedication ceremony that took place on December 9.


Fort Clatsop was named after the local Clatsop tribe of Native Americans. Construction of the fort began on December 9th and the captains moved into their quarters (still unroofed) two days before Christmas 1805. [ [ Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation ] ] 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 (in present-day central North Dakota) they spent a great amount of time with the local Mandan tribe, 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 by 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 at the fort for three months, until March 23, 1806, when they departed on their return trip home.

The original Fort Clatsop 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.

2005 fire

In the late evening of October 3, 2005, a fire destroyed the replica fort. Federal, state, and community officials immediately pledged to rebuild it. A 9-1-1 operator's insistence that the fire was no more than fog over the nearby Lewis and Clark River delayed firefighters’ arrival by about 15 minutes, possibly impacting their ability to save part of the structure. Investigators found no evidence of arson. The fire started in one of the enlisted men’s quarters, known as the candle room, where earlier in the day there had been an open hearth fire burning. [cite news
title=Dispatcher to 9-1-1 caller: It’s just fog

The replacement was completed in December 2006. [ [ NPS: Fort Clatsop Replica Rebuild] , National Parks Service] In spite of the tragedy, the fire renewed archaeological interest in the site, as excavations had not been possible while the replica was standing. Additionally, the new replica was built utilizing information on the original fort that was not available for the 1955 replica. The 2006 replica also features a fire detection system. [cite news
title=Fort Clatsop rises from the ashes


External links

* [ Lewis and Clark National Historical Park] - National Park Service
* [ History of Fort Clatsop] - National Park Service
* [ Fort Clatsop & N. Oregon coast] - The Seattle Times - Travel - 05-April-2007
* [ "The Lewis & Clark Expedition: Documenting the Uncharted Northwest Name," a National Park Service Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) lesson plan]

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