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One of my favorite benefits of homeschooling is the ability to take as many field trips as my budget will allow. Field trips to historical sites make history come alive in ways that just can’t be beat.
When we first moved to WA, I felt like there wasn’t much in the way of historical field trips available. I was used to the plentiful historical attractions of VA. Where would we go if we couldn’t go to Mount Vernon, Williamsburg, or Jamestown?
It turns out there ARE historical locations in this part of the country, I just have to search a little harder to find them.
We recently went on a little road trip to combine a field trip with a night of camping. I’m not a fan of camping, but I do adore my kids (who LOVE camping) and field trips so I took one for the team.
Fort Clatsop, Oregon
Fort Clatsop is a National Park located in Astoria, Oregon. Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery spent four rainy months in this spot after reaching the Pacific Ocean. We have been reading Meriwether Lewis: Off the Edge of the Map and were excited to see their fort.
There is just something magical about walking around a historical site and realizing that we are standing in the same spot as people from our history books.
We headed out to explore the park as soon as we paid our admission fee. The original fort burned down, but we were able to check out the reproduction. Meriwether Lewis took detailed notes about their campsite though, so historians believe the reproduction is very accurate.
The fort itself is somewhat small. The simple design and basic construction reminded us of Jamestown. It is basically made up of two rectangular buildings with a small courtyard in the middle and a fence around the perimeter. Each rectangular building was divided into three rooms. Half of the rooms were filled with bunk beds and occupied by the Corps men.
Lewis and Clark shared one room, one room housed Sacajawea’s family, and the final room was used for storage. I’m sure it made for cramped quarters.
I know how stir crazy my family gets during the Pacific North West rainy season!
William Clark wrote “rain as usual last night, and all day to day moderately.” I know what that feels like.
Outside of the fence there was a kitchen area. One section was used for preparing the wild game they hunted. Another section was dedicated to cooking over an open fire.
The kitchen area was very close to a natural spring, which seem to be plentiful in this part of the country. One advantage of the long rainy season is that it created an abundance of fresh water. This spring kept the Corps of Discovery hydrated.
The Corps brought whiskey on the journey, but by this point in the adventure their whiskey jugs were empty. Water was all that was available to drink and they were thankful for it.
We headed into the small museum after walking around the fort grounds for a while.
Hannah and Ben really enjoyed a interactive display board about the various animals Lewis and Clark discovered in this region of the country. They touched the various pelts and tried to identify the animal.
We read that Lewis and Clark gifted Native American tribal leaders with coins so we were excited to see a replica. The coins were larger than we had expected.
Kids can earn a National Park Jr. Ranger badge at Fort Clatsop, but my children chose not to take part in the program. While I would love it if they took advantage of this wonderful program, I don’t push it.
In education, I try to only push until I meet resistance. When I hit that point, I stop pushing. I want them to view learning as a life long activity and I want them to enjoy visiting historical landmarks. They enjoyed walked around the fort and exploring the museum and that is good enough for me.
Cape Disappointment, Washington
We camped at another Corps of Discovery landmark – Cape Disappointment in Ilwaco, Washington. Thankfully there were cabins so we didn’t need to rough it in a tent in the rain. Clark and about one-third of the Corps of Discovery arrived at Cape Disappointment on November 18, 1805.
Cape Disappointment is absolutely gorgeous. The beach is rocky and full of driftwood. My entire family was in awe because it is incredibly different than the East Coast beaches.
The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center resides in the Cape Disappointment State Park, set up on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We had planned to visit the center, but never made it.
We walked so far around the park the first day that we all fell asleep ridiculously early…and subsequently were wide awake by 6 am. The Interpretive Center didn’t open until 10 and it was pouring rain so we decided to get an early start on the drive home.
Not in Oregon or Washington?
One of the awesome things about studying Lewis and Clark is that there are field trip sites all across the country. If you are really ambitious and have tons of time, you can even retrace their steps across the country. This site lists all of the historical landmarks related to Lewis and Clark’s infamous journey.
Check out my full review of Meriwether Lewis: Off the Edge of the Map!