Coast Range Winter
On 29 November, Clark and the main party abided impatiently at Point William, today's Tongue Point, in the rain and wind while Lewis and five men set out to explore the south bank of the Columbia. On 5 December Clark fretted, "Capt. Lewis's long delay below, has been the Sorce of no little uneasness on my part of his probable Situation and Safty," but later that same day Lewis relieved his friend's fears, appearing with the news he had found a suitable place to spend the winter.
Two days later, a slight improvement in the weather permitted the company to paddle past present-day Astoria, Oregon, and onto a river the Clatsop Indians called Netul–now known as Lewis and Clark River. Among the trees opposite the river's sharp bend at left center, they began building their log huts on 10 December and moved in–fleas and all–on Christmas Eve. Today a reconstruction of Fort Clatsop stands at the original site–sans those historic fleas.
During their time at the coast, the Corps saw only six sunny days; the rest brought clouds, fog, rain, and a little snow. Fifty-three were partly clear. That's a normal winter on the west slopes of the Coast Range.
When the expedition left Fort Clatsop on 23 March 1806, the captains gave their fort and furniture to Clatsop Indian chief Coboway. "He has been much more kind an hospitable to us," Lewis wrote gratefully, "than any other Indian in this neighbourhood."
From Discovering Lewis & Clark from the Air
Photography by Jim Wark
Text by Joseph Mussulman
Reproduced by permission of Mountain Press