Cape Disappointment State Park
Fort Canby Travel Blog› entry 4 of 7 › view all entries
From Long Beach, we drove south to Ilwaco and then out west a few minutes to the coast to the Cape Disappointment State Park. There are two light houses here, the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse which stands guard over the Columbia River bar built in 1856, and the North Head Lighthouse, built in 1898, on the headland just north of the other lighthouse. We stopped at the North Head Lighthouse first and did a short hike into see it. The hike was beautiful in the misty morning. Tall firs, patches of alderwood and lots of ferns covered the hillside. The lighthouse is supposed to be open for public tours; however it was closed that morning.
Our next stop was the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. It is in a magnificent setting overlooking the mouth of the Columbia River as it pours into the Pacific. The exhibits detail the trip from St. Louis through to this point on the globe.
The exhibit has the flags of the five nations that have controlled this territory -- Russia, Spain, Britain, France and the USA. It also has a lot of information about native species and native peoples.
I really liked the exhibit -- it brought back a lot of memories for me of studying the Lewis and Clark Expedition in junior high back in Wyoming History Class -- particularly the part about joining up with Sacagawea!
Outside the Center there is a lot to see. The Columbia River pouring into the Pacific is amazing. You can see the bar, the jetty's and both lighthouses. You can also see sea lions in the waters below, deer on the hillside, bald eagles soaring above, and lots of bird colonies on the rocks below. There is even a sign about the odor of the Cormorant Bird Colony entitled "What's that Smell?" Evidently it is a question the park rangers were asked a lot!! It is a nature lover's paradise! Lots of greenery and plants in bloom too.
The waters here are supposedly some of the most dangerous in the world -- and many fishermen and boats are lost here each year. It has the nickname of the "Graveyard of the Pacific" due to the dangers lurking here. The danger is enhanced by the rivers volume, the ebb tide, and dangerous rogue waves that occur here. I read that over the past couple hundred years, nearly 2,000 vessels and 700 lives have been claimed by the waters here. Hence the reason for the lighthouses -- but also for the Cape Disappoinment Coast Guard Station and the US Coast Guard Motor Lifeboat School.