Part III: Fort Clatsop
by Bill McMillan
On Christmas of 1805 the Lewis and Clark Expedition moved into their winter quarters near the mouth of the Columbia River named for their neighbors, the Clatsop tribe. 32 men, one woman, one baby, and one large dog were confined to the 50 x 50 foot log enclosure of the fort until departing for the journey back to St. Lewis on March 23rd of 1806. The long narrow cabins provided less than 740 square feet of living space on each side of a central “courtyard.” All suffered from incessant colds, and maybe influenza, throughout the winter. Sgt. Patrick Gass infamously indicated:
From the 4th of November 1805 to the 25th of March 1806, there were not more than twelve days in which it did not rain, and of these but six were clear.
Gradually adjusting to the perpetual rain, the expedition members fell into activities as needed to thwart the forest gloom of cedar and “pines” variously described as 200-210 feet high and 6-12 feet in diameter, but one of which was estimated 300 feet high and measured at 39-42 feet in diameter that was along today’s Lewis and Clark River. For the two expedition leaders, it was a particularly important period in which descriptions of the animals and plants they had collected or observed were discussed and recorded. Although many specimens were lost, 178 species of plants and 122 species of animals previously unknown to science are generally attributed to them.