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a view of the North Head Lighthouse from a visit in 2010.
Cape Disappointment State Park
Closest available address
244 Robert Gray Drive, Ilwaco, WA 98624
Day use park = daylight hours. Museum is open 10-5, except some holidays.
Best time to visit
Cape Disappointment State Park is a 1,882 acre park located at the southwest tip of Washington state on the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean. Formerly a military post, the park is now part of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park complex of state and federal parks.
Cape Disappointment was named by a British mariner who in the late 1700s sailed nearby but was unable to find the entrance to the Columbia River. Lewis and Clark ventured this way in 1805 on their epic journey to the Pacific Ocean. During the Civil War, the US military established Fort Canby at Cape Disappointment to protect the Columbia River from Confederate raids. Additional forts were built at Fort Columbia and in Oregon at Fort Stevens. Fort Canby was an active military post until the end of World War II when it was deactivated due to obsolescence.
The park has striking sea cliffs and great views of the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean. Camping is popular, but there are also two rental houses near the North Head Lighthouse. The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center was built on a gun emplacement from World War II and is by far the most interesting attraction here. It includes an extensive timeline of displays that follow the Lewis and Clark expedition and a small maritime museum as well. The North Head Lighthouse, which is the oldest in Washington State, is a short walk from a parking area and is also worth checking out for the views. For a small fee you can climb to the top but there was little to see inside. The Bell's View Trail is a short easy hike with a decent overlook of the Pacific Ocean. A more difficult trail to the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse offers views of the Columbia River. The park has a variety of attractions and most people will enjoy it. It is pleasant to visit for a half day or for a longer camping outing. This link has information about area activities including free concerts in the summer
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Fort Stevens State Park
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