Historic Preservation: Fort Clatsop

A photo of the inside of Fort Clatsop.

In the National Park Service, May is Historic Preservation month! As a National Historical Park, part of Fort Clatsop’s mission is to preserve not only the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the many Indigenous peoples, and the landscape, but the replica of Fort Clatsop itself.

As the re-creation of Fort Clatsop is constructed of wood in the middle of a temperate rainforest with an average yearly rainfall of at least 70 inches, and in a zone where our proximity to the Pacific Ocean keeps the average temperature often above freezing in the winter (so that bugs often don’t die off) it is easy to see why decay may set in. Rotting of the wood of the fort is simply unavoidable. As fungus and insects whittle away at the wood, it eventually comes to the point where it needs replacing.

Luckily for us, the skilled maintenance division here at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park is up to the task of May’s monthly theme. If you visit us here at Fort Clatsop you’ll likely notice the new Western Redcedar roof as well as new Douglas Fir gates among other fixes. While it may look out of place for now, worry not, as in our climate it weathers quickly and it won’t be long before it matches the rest of the fort to give it an historical appearance!

Workers restoring the inside of Fort Clatsop.

In the meantime, why not enjoy the Fort on a rainy day and experience the drip-free interiors the new roof now provides?

According to the NPS website: “Historic preservation is a conversation with our past about our future. It provides us with opportunities to ask, ‘What is important in our history?’ and ‘What parts of our past can we preserve for the future?’ Through historic preservation, we look at history in different ways, ask different questions of the past, and learn new things about our history and ourselves.”  Find more information on Historic Preservation at nps.gov/subjects/historicpreservation/index.html

To contribute directly to local historic preservation, consider becoming a member of the Lewis and Clark National Park Association (LCNPA). Donations and membership funds go directly to support both the physical preservation of Fort Clatsop through aid purchases of lumber and other supplies as well as the preservation of stories, people, and culture through education. By supporting LCNPA, you support the preservation of the past for a better future.

Have you visited…? A new series launches

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park (LCNHP) is the home site of Fort Clatsop’s 2nd replica. What many visitors don’t know about us is that we’re much more than just Fort Clatsop! There are a myriad of other sites that are either managed by LCNHP or by State Parks, connected by Lewis and Clark’s time here on the coast and going by the name “Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks.” Among these are sites such as:

  • Clark’s Dismal Nitch
  • Netul Landing
  • Middle Village / Station Camp
  • Fort Stevens State Park
  • And many more!
A map of the northern Oregon and southwest Washington coastline with NPS locations marked.

On top of these locations, there are also 14.5 miles of hiking trails
split between 5 unique trails located within the units of LCNHP.
These include:

  • The Fort to Sea Trail
  • The Netul River Trail
  • The Kwis Kwis Trail
  • The South Slough Trail
  • The Clay Pit Pond Trail

Are all of these names familiar to you? If not don’t worry. Instead, you may wish to stay tuned and make sure to catch our next newsletters. From here on out we are going to be covering the many sites, trails, and more that Lewis and Clark National Historical Park has to offer. We’ll be exploring the history and current offerings that make each site unique, inspiring you to visit your local National Park and State Parks. In our next issue we’ll be taking a look at Netul Landing. We hope you’ll check back in then!

Have you been to many of our sites already and want a way to display this achievement or want a great way to remind yourself of the sites you still need to visit? For a limited time only you can buy our Lewis & Clark National and State Historical Parks poster for just $5! Item #159, available both in store and online at  FortClatsopBookstore.com.

Chinook Wawa: Preserving a Language

Book cover of “Chinuk Wawa: As our elders teach us to speak it.”

On March 6, 2022, Oregon Public Broadcasting posted an article titled “Linguists and an Oregon family work together to preserve an Indigenous language.” It’s a heart-warming read about the preservation of the Kalapyua language, a language where the last ‘first language’ speaker of it passed away in 1971. What’s then heartbreaking is the fact that at one point in history over three hundred languages were spoken across the modern-day United States and now many of those have now been completely lost. Locally to us there is an ongoing effort to keep what’s called Chinuk Wawa (Chinook Wawa, shawash-wawa, or simply jargon by some) alive and strong, a language that is  important culturally and has direct historical tie-ins to the Lewis and Clark Expedition’s arrival at the mouth of the Columbia River.

If you’ve ever travelled overseas, you may have run into a situation of finding yourself somewhere where you didn’t know the local language, but still needed to buy supplies for your trip. For many years before Lewis and Clark’s arrival here on the coast fur traders had stopped at the mouth of the Columbia River to barter for sea otter and other fur pelts. With no mutual language shared between either group, trading was difficult; left to interpretation, sign language, and body language. However, as groups interacted more, Chinuk Wawa would be born. It’s known originally as a Pidgin, a language used to communicate, but not a first language for any individual, although later it would become a staple of many bilingual individuals. The language solidified itself as a combination of  55% Original Chinook, 7% Nuu-chaa-nulth, 10% English, 10% French, and 18% other.

Today the language is being actively practiced, supported, and taught by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, a federally recognized group that consists of over 30 Tribes and bands ranging from northern California to southwest Washington including the Chinook. They have published numerous educational materials, curriculum, audio and video recordings, and books on the subject including a complete dictionary. This material and more was used in partnership with Lane Community College to begin an entire course series on learning Chinuk Wawa, where over 70 students have mastered it to meet the graduation requirements of the Oregon University System.

You don’t need to plan to go back to college to broaden your horizons and commit to learning a new (old) language. As mentioned above, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde has been publishing a variety of material to help you succeed. You can visit their website directly at https://www.grandronde.org/  to read more about the history of Chinuk Wawa and see it in use. If you have a smartphone, either Apple or Android, they have recently created an app for Chinuk Wawa that can be a great place to start your journey. It’s free to install and includes a dictionary of common phrases and words combined with pictures that help to demonstrate the meaning behind them. It also includes many of the published pieces of audio and visual images to help listen to the language being spoke, and a collection of photographs of historical places and people. When you’re ready to put your skills to the test it even features quizzes that review the included words and phrases. Download the app off Google Play or the Apple App store by searching “Chinuk Wawa.”

At the Fort Clatsop Bookstore you can also find some of the other resources for learning this language, including the Chinuk Wawa Dictionary, and the Learners Booklet with audio CDs. Both tools are available at the store located in the Visitor Center, or online at Fortclatsopbookstore.com.

At Fort Clatsop we are dedicated to the preservation of history and culture, but it is not something we can do alone. To keep a language alive there must be more than just plaques on a wall in a museum, there must be real people like you actively speaking the language. We often preface our events and meetings here at the Fort with a land acknowledgment, a statement recognizing the land our National Park is on is the ancestral homeland of the Clatsop and Chinook. It is important to acknowledge, but better to engage, to help, and to make sure that the language, and all of those who have used it from past to present, are remembered.

Nature Matters: Monitoring Clatsop Plains Elk

Presented by Emily Scott.

Elk are a quintessential figure of the Pacific Northwest, and a relic of cultural, historical, and ecological significance within the Clatsop Plains. Beginning in 2008, Lewis and Clark National Historical Park and its partners implemented a research plan which gathers key information on Clatsop Plains elk herds. These data are integral for a sound understanding of local elk ecology and have direct implications on management decisions aiming for balanced preservation of elk and human interests. This seminar by Scientists-in-Parks Steward, Emily Scott, will help you get to know your ungulate neighbors by describing this research, what it reveals, and what it could mean.

Nature Matters is brought to you on the fourth Thursday of each month by Lewis and Clark National Historical Park in partnership with the North Coast Watershed Association. Join us in the Lovell Showroom on Thursday, May 26th. Doors to the Lovell Showroom open at 6pm with food & drinks available via the Taproom window. All ages welcome and never a cover.

WHERE: Lovell Showroom, 1483 Duane Street Astoria, OR 97103

Local Fat & Firewood Fuel Winter Living History

A park volunteer in 18th century clothing watches an open pit fire.
VIP Jim Wilson tending the fire

Part of LCNPA’s ongoing Aid to Park supports Living History programs during the summer and our special Winter Holidays interpretation activities in late December.

Rangers staffed the Fort in period costumes showcasing activities the Corps of Discovery would also have done, like rendering tallow (fat) to make candles. Park Ranger Sally Freeman worked with local resident Bill Young to coordinate our firewood purchase. Bill even delivered and unloaded the ½ cord right to the Fort. Thanks Bill!

We buy the fat locally as well, from Warrenton’s Main St. Market where the staff sets aside fat trimmings for us to bulk purchase a couple times a year.

Shown above is VIP (Volunteer in Parks) Jim Wilson who goes the extra mile for visitors all year long. Your membership donation keeps park support local.

Thank you, members!

A beaver fur, river otter fur, coastal indigenous  styled hat, and various other trade goods on a table.
An assortment of valuable trade goods and items used by the expedition.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition’s Winter Stay on the Northwest Coast

I have not seen one pacific day

William Clark. December 1st, 1805
A black and white sketch of the front of Fort Clatsop.
Fort Clatsop

As we are now in the season in which Lewis and Clark’s crew stayed here on the Northwest coast it’s only fitting we give a quick recount of their ventures. Their time at Fort Clatsop is one that is often not more than a few pages in books that account for the entire expedition, but there are notable events that take place here on a day-to-day basis.

On Dec. 7th, 1805, the party would arrive at a site scouted earlier by Captain Lewis. Here, 200 yards from and 30 feet above the river, covered in “lofty pines,” and featuring a nearby fresh water spring, would be the site of Fort Clatsop. Clark, impressed, immediately writes “this is certainly the most eligable Situation for our purposes of any in its neighbourhood.”

The Corps stayed 106 days, from December 7th 1805 to March 23rd 1806. Ninety-four of these days would be raining or snowing, six would be cloudy, and only six days would be sunny. The expedition wasn’t used to this sort of winter, a winter where rather than everything freezing and preserving meat rotted quickly.

A winter where the constant wet conditions meant their clothes rotted off their backs and the fleas never died. For all intents and purposes it would be a much more miserable winter than their winter in North Dakota where the temperature went frequently below zero. The Corps had to get quickly build the fort for shelter to survive, and by New Years Day Lewis would write that their “fourtification” was now complete.

Their winter here was more surviving than thriving, but through the efforts of their teamwork they would manage to keep themselves going. Even this far out, the expedition never lost its sense of military coordination and discipline. There were drills to be performed and a chain of command to follow. Orders would be posted for what each squad of men would be doing, whether it was hunting, gathering firewood, or performing some of the members’ more specialized tasks. Men like John Shields wouldn’t have hunted or gathered firewood as much, but instead would be busy repairing armaments and tools. Joseph Whitehouse was an excellent tailor, and would’ve been one of the main members to work on clothing. Everyone though would be making moccasins during their stay here when they had downtime, and in total they’d make somewhere in the range of 338 pairs of moccasins for the winter and their return journey. One final specialized team would be dedicated to the creation of salt at current day Seaside, a necessary ingredient for meat preservation.

The local Clatsop people would visit often to trade and talk with the Corps members. Wapato, a root vegetable resembling a small potato, preserved berries, dried fish, and whale fat were valuable food assets to trade, and supplemented the diet of about 130 elk and 20 deer the expedition shot and ate during their stay. 

Although the expedition would complain of high prices for trade deals this had come about not so much due to avarice on the Clatsop’s part but instead on the part of the many trade ships that had been coming for decades prior to the expedition’s arrival. Fur trading vessels were frequent here on the coast, and the expedition even had brought a letter of credit with them in hopes of trading with any ships that arrived during their stay. Unfortunately for the now low-on-trade-goods expedition, the trading ships had already been setting a standard for what goods were worth and further unlucky was the fact they had missed the last trading ship of the season by but a few weeks – for no trading vessel would want to be here at the mouth of the Columbia in the winter.

Throughout the stay there was much illness in camp, hard labor and poor diet no doubt being a big contributing factor. Injuries ranged from cuts and bruises to back injuries that caused members to be bedridden for days on end. And then there was the aforementioned rain, the constant drizzles and downpours that dampened spirits and extinguished fires. This led to a sentiment I believe was shared by much of the camp when on New Years Day Captain Lewis writes in his journal:

“our repast of this day tho’ better than that of Christmass, consisted principally in the anticipation of the 1st day of January 1807, when in the bosom of our friends we hope to participate in the mirth and hilarity of the day, and when with the zest given by the recollection of the present, we shall completely, both mentally and corporally, enjoy the repast which the hand of civilization has prepared for us.” (Meriwether Lewis, January 1st, 1806)

The Captains knew of the Rocky Mountain snow that blocked their return trip from Fort Clatsop, and originally had written on Jan. 16th, 1806 “it would be madness for us to attempt to proceede untill April” (Lewis). And yet despite their own knowledge and advice, the Pacific Northwest weather had won, and on March 23rd the expedition gave a final farewell to Fort Clatsop and began its voyage back upriver. The Fort, and lists of names of the expedition members, was entrusted to the local Clatsops. The fort was reportedly used for a few years while one of the lists of names made its way back to the United States through trading vessels on their way to China.

Their time and experience on the coast can perhaps best be summarized by what William Clark wrote on December 1st, 1805: “…Since we arrived in Sight of the Great Western; (for I cannot Say Pacific) Ocian as I have not Seen one pacific day…” And considering the rain, the snow, the gusts of 65 MPH winds, and the days we’ve already had below 30 degrees in December alone I am very inclined to agree. There is often nothing pacific about a winter on the coast.

To read more about the expedition’s time on the Columbia River, check out David Nicandri’s River of Promise which gives a great look at their journey and the people they meet right here in the Pacific Northwest. This book and many others are available at the Fort Clatsop Bookstore inside the visitor center, and online at FortClatsopBookstore.com.

Traveling Trunk Program

Education no matter where your school is!

Although small in-person field trips are now back up and running, it’s understandable that classrooms may be unable to come see us in person still, especially those that are in other states! Our education team offers a wide range of traveling trunks that can be loaned out to your classroom for a small use and shipping fee depending on the distance from our park. Currently we have three unique trunks to explore with two grade ranges for each: a 3rd to 5th and 6th to 8th grade range. Each trunk includes a detailed curriculum guide with activities and suggestions.

The trunk focusing on Scientific Discovery includes equipment for modern use and display, books, resource guides, posters, and more. This trunk focuses on the natural science portion of the expedition and is a great way to tie history and science together.

For a trunk that focuses on the expedition itself and its time here at Fort Clatsop, look no further than the Fort Clatsop Explorers trunk. With buckskin clothing, a candle mold, flint-n-steel fire starting kit, powder horn, trade items, Jefferson peace medal, examples of furs, books, posters, and more, this trunk is a definitive Fort Clatsop experience in a box (rain and cold not included)! If you’re looking for assets to help with a lesson on American history or the Lewis and Clark Expedition itself you’ll find items here to help students learn.

The Clatsop and Chinookan Culture of the Lower Columbia River trunk is an invaluable tool for teaching about the culture of the local indigenous people. Their connection with not only the Lewis and Clark Expedition but also the fur trade has cemented them as playing an important role in early United States history. With replica tools, informational packets and more you’ll be able to teach with respect, and spread knowledge of how the local people thrive in a climate that the expedition considered to be very difficult.

The traveling trunk program has been a popular success with schools nationwide. If you’d like to consider it for your teaching plans or just want more information, visit https://www.nps.gov/lewi/learn/education/classrooms/travelingtrunks.htm or click on “Education” from our partner’s homepage at www.nps.gov/lewi to find out more and make a trunk reservation today!

Education at Fort Clatsop

A Q&A with Our Education Team

With the pandemic bringing new and ever evolving challenges for the safety of students and staff, the world of education has been a field that’s rapidly evolving and adapting. Fulfilling the educational mission here at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park (LEWI) hasn’t been easy, but our amazing partners in the education department at LEWI have risen to the challenge again and again.

We want to give our partners a chance to share some of their experiences during the past two years and how they will continue to help educate students, as well as highlight some of their achievements. To this end, the education team, ­Education Specialist Cathy Peterson, and Education Technicians Izzy Sanchez and Zachary Stocks, were able to share some insight through a virtual interview.

Question: What is the education mission here at LEWI?

As shared by Cathy Peterson, the goal and mission of the park education team are the following:

Goal: To develop stewards of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park sites, and of the full spectrum of heritage in the Columbia Pacific Region. 

Mission Statement: Through its education program, LEWI will become an educational resource and outdoor classroom for educators and students of the immediate area and beyond. This will lead to greater understanding and protection of natural and cultural resources both inside and outside national parks.


Question: What have been some of the ways you’ve been able to connect with students who cannot physically visit the Park?

Zachary Stocks: When the pandemic prevented in-person learning at school and at the park, we reimagined our Life at the Fort field trip as a virtual-first program. We’re proud to have been able to pivot towards online visitation and still provide quality educational offerings for students. In many ways, it challenged us to be more aware of our interpretive techniques. We found the video conferencing platforms required us to be clearer and louder in our delivery, to provide additional lighting, and to describe where we are and what we’re doing for those unable to see us. In this way, our field trips became more accessible to all students than ever before.

Izzy Sanchez: When we shut down in the Spring of 2020, it was a surreal moment of, “wow, this is really happening,” Once our Education Technician at the time left and I moved in to pick up duties, our team really dug into Distance Learning. We evaluated what we had and communicated with teachers how we could navigate connecting with schools that were operating at home. We jumped in doing a Life at the Fort program, which includes a fort tour, costumed ranger program, and a flintlock demonstration. Doing all this and talking to an iPad in a professional setting was odd. It felt good to be able to give students a break and bring light education moments during their long virtual school days. We caught a rhythm and continued promoting this experience to local and out of state educators. We have received an immense amount of positive feedback. We can connect with small or large groups. Of course, the challenges of being compliant and still delivering great information are hurdles we face. We have a great team which can get through the tech and communication issues. I couldn’t be happier with the team’s effort in connecting with students!

Q: Approximately how many students have you been able to connect with virtually since the start of the pandemic?

IS: During the 2020-2021 school year our education team delivered 21 virtual programs and connected with 947 students, and 20 teachers and adults.

Q: Now that some restrictions have lightened, how many in-person field trips are expected for the upcoming winter and spring season?

ZS: In person field trips have already resumed! We have welcomed three schools for onsite field trips since October.  We are optimistic that we will see an uptick in small group field trips here at Fort Clatsop this spring. Local schools will probably be the first to return to their annual visits to the park, along with homeschool and private school groups from around the region.

Q: What do some of the different field trips look like?

Izzy Sanchez: Field trips do not look too much different from what we did pre pandemic. What’s changed is the number of students we allow to visit, keeping numbers under 30 total. Visitors from schools are to be masked, and there will be a ranger with the three rotations in our Life at the Fort program. Our stations run at 30-minute rotations, with a plant ID activity, fort tour/program, and exhibit seek and find. It wraps up with a flintlock demonstration and the schools can leave, eat, or shop in the bookstore after. Our Class of Discovery is on pause for now. We imagine that local educators will be first to know when that restarts.

Q: Will there be anything out of the norm for those in-person field trips, or any other difficulties you’ve had to work around? 

ZS: We are continuing to monitor the emergence of new COVID-19 variants, and all in person field trips still require face masks and social distancing. For now, we are only providing guided field trip experiences to groups of less than 30 persons. Those who come though will receive largely the same Life at the Fort field trip they know and love, with a fort tour, lesson-based activities, and a flintlock weapon demonstration.

Q: Tying in with the education mission, what are your thoughts on why the
work you do is important? 

IS: What I feel is important is bringing
people to parks or now, parks to people.
Our parks are a safe place to learn, explore,
and reflect. We are stewards who have the
responsibility to interpret or develop materials to give the best experience people can have. After brutally being inside during the pandemic, the connection people need with the outdoors is a big healing component.

Q: Do you have any interactions you’d like to share that have reminded you of why education, and the work you do, is important?

ZS: Virtual programming allowed us to reach several groups this year from far beyond our area –Virginia, Arkansas, Texas, and Idaho to name a few. We had a wonderful program with an elementary school in Hawaii that was taking their students on a “road trip” across the United States with visits to many National Park sites along the way. The students were so eager to learn and asked wonderful questions about our Indigenous neighbors and our unique climate and wildlife. It was a wonderful reminder that the work we do can open new worlds to people, even if we only see them for an hour.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

IS: I would like to thank everyone who supported our efforts to stay connected with students and educators. It has been a fun step toward hybrid learning. I hope we can continue to grow, as far as our reach. It would be amazing to work with a school overseas!

There you have it! The education team at LEWI works hard to be able to assist teachers and work with students. It is always an honor to be able to work beside them and offer aid with their educational mission. We thank them, and we thank you for supporting us here at the Lewis & Clark National Park Association, too. Along with other projects, many of the proceeds from our bookstore sales go to helping the education team with their ventures and your support of us directly goes into helping improve and expand the education program at LEWI.

As always you can help support LCNPA and the work done at LEWI by shopping in our bookstore, open seven days a week from 9-5, or online at FortClatsopBookstore.com, where you can find categories of items such as books, tools, and collectibles popular with school groups and educators too.

National Park Service Launches App


Have you heard the word about the new National Park Service App?
Many of the big-name parks have had individual apps for years, but others
typically haven’t had the time or resources to create one of their own.
Although this is the official app for all 420+ parks it’s important to
note that it is up to each individual park to create content for their park on
the app. Therefore, your experience with the content on each park may
differ and of course is being constantly updated too. In general each park
is aiming to give you the following features:

  • Interactive Maps: Including points of interest, signage, waysides, etc.
  • A list of all park tours with information on each.
  • Amenities at different park sites.
  • Things to Do lists: All the awesome variety of things you can do at the park.
  • News, Alerts, Updates, etc.
  • And one of the best features of the app is its focus on accessibility. If your device has a screen reader and you touch on a point of interest it will offer a full audio description of that location, object, or sign!
  • All of the above is available to download for when you don’t have service on the trails.

If you want to try it out for yourself the app can be downloaded for
free from the App Store on IOS and Google Play on Androids. You
can find direct links too from the official site. Then come on out
to Fort Clatsop to try it!
When you open the app just search for “Fort Clatsop” and you’ll find
us, or if you’re nearby we’ll appear at the top automatically. Our park has
comprehensive details on our hiking trails, locations in our park, signage,
and even two self-guided audio tours.
Our first audio tour has you embarking on a voyage of discovery
learning about the historical homelands of the Clatsop people and of
Lewis and Clark’s time here, bringing you to all of the major must-see
spots here at the Fort itself. Our second audio tour, Restoring Nature,
brings you down the Netul River Trail from the Visitor Center to Netul
Landing. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask a ranger.
Hopefully this new app adds to your adventure and enhances your
experience at one of your great National Parks. Go and enjoy the outdoors!

Eyes on Air Quality with New Park Purple Air Monitors


As wildfire seasons seem to keep getting longer and hotter across the west, smoky skies have caused increasing concerns around air quality and health. Wildfires from as far away as Canada can cause smoke to linger over communities in Northwest Oregon. Smokey air from wildfires is full of particulates that are not only unhealthy for humans, but can harm wildlife as well. National Parks across the country have been installing Purple Air monitors to keep staff and visitors informed of local air quality so that we can all make informed choices to protect ourselves. The Purple Air website,
is very easy to navigate, and you can use it not only to determine the real time air quality for your local community, but as a tool to help you plan your vacations as well. There’s a very user-friendly app that you can download to your phone.
Many purple air monitors are owned and installed by individuals. If you’re into air quality & would like to contribute to community science in a meaningful way, you can install your very own monitor in your own backyard and share that data with the world!