fun things to do with kids in cape disappointment lewis clark washington   Travel for Kids
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Cape Disappointment State Park

Cape Disappointment
On November 7, 1805, Lewis & Clark's Corps of Discovery reached the Pacific at Cape Disappointment. “We were camped under a high hill when the morning fog cleared off. Ocean in view!” They spent days exploring the area, describing the animals and local Chinook Indians, but decided not to make winter camp here. At Cape Disappointment, kids can follow in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, exploring the headlands and beach.
Tip: Read our blog post " Lewis and Clark at the Pacific Ocean" about Fort Clatsop Oregon, where the Corps spent the winter.
Cape Disappointment is so named, but not because Lewis and Clark reached the Pacific without finding a Northwest Passage. In 1788, Captain John Meares was unable to sail through the entrance to the Columbia River and named the headlands after his dashed hopes.
  Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center – The center has excellent exhibits and hands-on activities about the expedition from start to finish, each phase illustrated with first-hand accounts from each member of the Corps of Discovery. Kids can load a canoe so it doesn’t tip over, choose provisions to eat along the way, sight a rifle to hunt animals for food, use language skills for words in the different Indian languages, plus check out replicas of the dugout canoes used on the trip west.
      Outside the center are telescopes and views of the mouth of the Columbia River. It’s always been a difficult passage for boats to get by the treacherous sand bars to navigate up the Columbia River. Keep your eyes peeled for container ships, fishing boats, dredgers, tugboats and rescue boats.
      From the center, walk .75 mile through lush forest to the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, the oldest working lighthouse on the West Coast. Half the trail is in dense forest, and kids will feel like the Corps of Discovery explorers.
Living history day
  Waikiki Beach – When we visited the beach, they had a living history day, “Clark’s Campsite.” Eight guys, dressed in period clothing, had set up a traditional campsite from 1805 – kids can ask questions to the members of the expedition. We inadvertently startled a live deer that one expedition member had in his rifle sights (fortunately he didn’t shoot us for scaring away the deer, which would have been much needed food for the original expedition).
    The beach itself is a flat sand beach, with room to run around, lots of driftwood to make forts, and picnic tables.
    Camp at the beach – Cape Disappointment State Park has camping sites, close to the beach and hiking trails. Also, if you don’t want to rough it, there are yurts and cabins also. Click here to make a reservation (very popular in summer).
    Hiking trails – There are miles of hiking trails in the state park, some which follow the routes of the Corps of Discovery. Take short hikes from the Interpretive Center down to Waikiki Beach (.6 mile) or the stroll up an old road to the top of McKenzie Head (from McKenzie Head, Clark and his men saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time). For longer hikes, walk from the McKenzie Head parking lot up the North Head Trail or from Beard’s Hollow, take the Westwind Trail, both trails end at North Head Lighthouse.
North Head Lighthouse
  North Head Lighthouse – The lighthouse, established in 1898, is still a working lighthouse – the beacon light is visible for 17 miles out to sea. This section of coastline is particularly treacherous for ships (the area is known as “Graveyard of the Pacific,”) due to high waves and shifting sand bars.
      Take a tour of the lighthouse, climb up the stairs for stunning views of the rocky coastline and check out the modern beacon light. Tours are daily in summer, weekends the rest of the year, for kids 7 and up. Tip: Wear closed shoes, no flip flops allowed for climbing up the stairs.
      Tip: For a memorable experience at land’s end, stay overnight in the lighthouse keeper’s residence (all the comforts of home and ghost stories). Call 360.642.3078.
kids books
Lewis and Clark for Kids  

Illustrated history and timeline of the Lewis and Clark expedition, plus 21 activities – stitch a pair of moccasins, make a buffalo mask, drum or dance rattle, recipe for dried fruit, set up a tipi, hoop and pole game, learn sign language and trail signs, and more. Good for older kids. (Chapter book, illustrations)


How We Crossed the West
Rosalyn Schanzer

Excellent overview of the Corps of Discovery expedition to search for a river route across the United States. In 1804, the expedition started up the Missouri River, and in November 1805, they successfully navigated down the Columbia River and reached the Pacific Ocean. Action-filled illustrations, in Lewis and Clark’s own words. (Picture book)


How We Crossed the West - kids books Lewis and Clark
What Was the Lewis & Clark Expedition
Judith St. George, Tim Foley

Exciting history of the two-year Lewis & Clark expedition through the roughest country in the West, navigating dangerous rivers, meeting hostile Indians, enduring hunger, endless rain, blizzards, grizzly bears and more. (Illustrated chapter book)


Who Was Sacagawea?
Judith Bloom Fradin, Dennis Brindell Fradin

Illustrated biography of Sacagawea, the young Shoshone woman on the expedition. She endured all the hardships, served as a guide, found food essential for their survival, and achieved her wish to see the great waters, the Pacific Ocean. (Chapter book)


who was sacagawea?
The Crossing
Donna Jo Napoli, Jim Madsen

The youngest member of the Corps of Discovery was Jean Baptiste, the baby son of Sacajawea. Travel through mountain passes, ride the river, sleep under the stars, through the eyes of a child. Gorgeous illustrations capture an amazing landscape and exciting journey. (Picture book)


Joseph Bruchac

Captivating novel of Sacajawea, the voyage from her point of view. “When did I first see the captains? It was the Moon when the Leaves Fall from the Cottonwoods. Word about their travels had spread like a fire across the dry autumn grass of the prairie.” (Chapter book)

Also easy reader Sacajawea: Her True Story


More children's books on other Washington pages
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