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

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 or click on “Education” from our partner’s homepage at 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, 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!

Chronolog Stations Enable Community Scientists


Since the 1880s, over 70% of historical tidal wetlands in the Columbia
River estuary have been lost due to human impacts such as diking, land
conversion for agriculture, and urban development. Beginning in 2006,
the National Park Service has been actively restoring areas along the Lewis
and Clark River contributing to the recovery of the Youngs Bay watershed
and endangered salmon stocks. In the 44-acre site, Colewort Creek, a
bridge replaced a culvert and tide gate to ensure salmon could once again
return to the Lewis and Clark River floodplain. Excavated channels and
native plantings have improved and increased wildlife habitats. These and
other restoration projects throughout the Lower Columbia River are
enhancing the estuary so native runs of wild fish can thrive. With these
efforts, we are doing our part to recover the abundance and diversity
known for time immemorial by Indigenous people here and experienced
by the Corps of Discovery during its stay.
There are two Chronolog stations in the park; on the Lower Slough Trail
and the Netul Trail both facing towards the Colewort Creek Restoration Site.
Visitors place their cellphones upright in the bracket at the station, snap a
photo and then email the photo following the instructions on the sign. Once
submitted, they receive a reply with a time lapse of the site made up of other
visitor photos. By submitting photos at these Chronolog sites,
community scientists can assist park managers track landscape
changes over time.
Visit to view the project and explore the
Chronolog stations, and to learn more about the tidal wetland restoration projects at
Lewis and Clark NHP, view this interactive story map

Volunteers in Action


Lewis and Clark National Historical Park is thrilled to announce that park
volunteer Bob Zimmerling is the winner of this year’s “George and Helen
Hartzog Enduring Volunteer Service Award” for the National Park Service’s
Pacific West Region! Bob has been a Volunteer in Park (VIP) at Fort Clatsop
since the mid-1980s when his family included a Newfoundland dog named
Godfrey. Godfrey was a cooperative reminder of Meriwether Lewis’ dog,
Seaman, and his role on the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
For decades Bob has consistently shared his well-behaved and perfectly
groomed Newfoundland dogs with the park. He volunteered with high-spirited
Dolly for about 10 years; now sweet and shy Deacon is his handsome sidekick.
Each year when the staff plans for the annual Seaman’s Day, Bob is one of the first
Newfoundland handlers to confirm that he will help. Bob checks the park
calendar to see when tour groups will be arriving and matches his schedule to
work some of those busy periods along with other random times. He is careful to
prevent his dog from taking the spotlight from a ranger who needs a group’s
attention. When a group arrives and is getting off the bus and milling around, they
may encounter a pleasant man volunteering with his Newfoundland dog and
explaining how this dog is like Seaman. Once the tour orientation begins, Bob and
the dog have stepped aside to rejoin the group at the fort where people enjoy
meeting, asking about, and photographing the living history canine.
Bob has worked in this park longer than anyone else and he and his dog
graciously participate in park trainings and follow park procedures faithfully. He is
willing to try new projects such as the popular second-grade classroom Read with
a Ranger literacy program that he and Dolly pioneered with an education ranger.
Bob is a joy to be around and everyone who works with him for any length of time
soon considers him a friend. The park is grateful for Bob’s service and pleased
that such a deserving person was selected for this award.

Thank you summer volunteers!

Volunteers contribute greatly to the success of the park each season.
Here are some highlights that PUNctuated this summer: Doug and Sharon Packard and Mike Wheeler buoyed the kayak program. Rene’ Marsh, Amanda Bidema, Sharon Packard, and LaToya Val Ndir kept us in stitches by hand-sewing living history costuming and emblems onto volunteer uniforms. Laura Denny, Brian Wilson and Julie Skopal rooted for the success of the native plants in the park’s nursery, rain garden, and ethno

botanical gardens. Beth Turner, Bryan McClintic, Amanda Bidema, and Dennis and Aaron Adams know there is something special aboot the park trails and they help keep them nice by checking trail conditions, communicating with hikers, and performing light maintenance. Jack Chapman, Jessica Hayes, and Bob Zimmerling helped us to paws and reflect on the role of Lewis’ dog as they shared their Newfoundlands on Seaman’s Day. Judi Lampi, Glen Hess, Mike Smith, Jim Wilson, and Sharon and Doug Packard seemed to enjoy the nature of their work as they shared natural and living history programs with visitors. Judy Doyle, Mike Smith, Diana Morimoto, Mary Jo Hess, Doug and Sharon Packard and Jim Wilson never wore out their welcomes as they helped with visitor center operations such as checking passes, collecting admissions, conducting tours, and helping junior rangers.
These and other summer volunteers helped the park accomplish so much more than would happen without their work.
This is a good reminder that volunteers don’t get paid… only because they are priceless!

Summer Youth Engagement


Park education staff met with approximately 150 Astoria elementary and middle
school students over three days early in July to run mini-camps in person at the
South Netul Landing park unit. This was in lieu of a virtual camp, and at the
request of schools that have federal funding for summer enrichment programs.
Northwest Youth Corp (NYC) interns, and Youth Conservation Corps (YCC)
lead, Adam joined Education Specialist Cathy, and rangers Zachary and Izzy, to
provide five activities a day for different age groups. COVID masking and
distancing protocols were in place. Staff practiced and evaluated each activity and
used materials that otherwise would have been used for camps. It was a success!
Summer students from Hawaii enjoyed part two of their “virtual” road trip to
Pacific Northwest parks. This is the second year that we have served them
virtually. Approximately 15-30 students and instructors participated.
Six Upward Bound students and one staff through a Clatsop Community
College program hiked the Fort to Sea Trail. Training preceded the five-hour
experiential hike. Everyone had a great time being outdoors and in person with
students, and under safe protocols.
The Dragonfly monitoring project session at the Sunset Beach pond collected
valuable data. The crew included YCC and NYC interns.
Other NYC crews hosted at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park (LEWI)
included: American Sign Language crew who worked at LEWI and with
Clatsop-Nehalem Confederated tribe at Neacoxie pulling invasive plants;
Rainbow crew, busting Scotch broom out at Yeon/Sunset Beach Education
Center; and in August NYC Tribal Steward crew.