Facts about Fort Clatsop

Lewis and Clark Picture

The picture is of a floor plan of Fort Clatsop which was found in the journals of William Clark. The site and location of Fort Clatsop was chosen for a number of important reasons:

  • High, flat ground with easy access to trees for constructing Fort Clatsop. It was also was near a fresh water spring
  • There were plenty of elk which provided food for the Corps of Discovery, fat for making candles and hides for making clothes and bedding
  • The men killed more than 130 elk, 20 deer, and many small animals during their stay
  • It was near the Pacific Ocean which enabled the men to obtain salt, it was also near the mouth of the Columbia River and  it was also in close proximaty of the friendly Clatsop tribe

Fort Clatsop Plan

Plan of Fort Clatsop

Lewis and Clark Expedition: Facts about Fort Clatsop

1. The above picture shows a floor plan of Fort Clatsop which was found in the journals of Captain William Clark.

2. The men of the Corps of Discovery had many skills including carpentry and blacksmithing and these abilities were invaluable when building Fort Clatsop and making furniture for the cabins. The construction was made of horizontal logs and picket fences. The roofs of the cabins would have been covered with anything that would prevent them from leaking.

3. The Dimensions: The dimensions are clearly marked as 50 x 50 feet. The complex consisted of 1 row of buildings with three rooms and another row of buildings that consisted of 4 rooms. Between the two rows of cabins was a small parade ground.

4. The construction took just over 3 weeks to build. It began on December 7, 1805 and they stayed until March 23, 1806.

5. The men of the Corps of Discovery were billeted in the rooms. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark shared a room. One room was used as a storage facility for stores and provisions.

6. Fort Clatsop was built facing south and there were two gates (a main gate and a water gate) which were shut and secured at sunset. A sentry box was built next to the main gate.

7. Fireplaces would have been made from either stone or mud brick and lined with clay.

8. Floors: William Clark’s journal mentions a puncheon (rough plank) floor.

9. The fresh water spring was located 75 yards from the fort complex.

10. The winter quarters housed the 33 members of the Lewis and Clark expedition who had reached the Pacific coast. They included Captains Lewis and Clark, 27 enlisted personnel, York, Captain Clark's servant, Toussaint Charbonneau, his wife Sacajawea and baby Baptiste.

11. Members of the Clatsop and Chinook Native Indian tribes visited Fort Clatsop on almost a daily basis taking the opportunity to trade. William Clark described them as 'close bargainers'.

12. The Corps of Discovery spent a total of 106 days at Fort Clatsop. According to Chief Cliff Snyder of the Chinook Tribe there were only 12 days without rain during their stay.

13. During their stay the men suffered from influenza, colds, rheumatism, and other different ailments. Their physical strength had been drained during their long, arduous journey had be severely drained.

14. As the winter spent at Fort Clatsop was subject to almost constant rain the men spent much of their time indoors. Time was spent on the care and maintenance of their weapons, making clothes for the return journey and making candles.

15. Clark and Lewis and other men of the expedition who kept journals updated their entries and spent time making additional notes on the plants and animals in their immediate vicinity. They also had the time to write good descriptions of the wildlife and were able to draw excellent sketches.

16. Captain William Clark took the opportunity to work on the maps he had drawn during the journey.

17. On March 23, 1806 the Lewis and Clark expedition left Fort Clatsop began their journey home.

18. A replica of Fort Clatsop can be visited at the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park

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