Cape Disappointment State Park
Located two miles southwest of Ilwaco, Washington in Pacific County, Cape Disappointment (formerly known as Fort Canby State Park) is one of the Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks. And it's anything but disappointing!
We stayed at Cape Disappointment for 5 days, and it wasn't nearly enough. Inside the park you've got two lighthouses, an Interpretive Center and a museum. The surrounding area includes a number of other historic interests from the Lewis and Clark journey; the cave rescue scene in The Guardian was filmed nearby (so you know how beautiful it is here); and there's 27 miles of stunning coastline to enjoy - most of which you're very likely to have to yourself.
Cape Disappointment Lighthouse
The hike out to the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse is a must. The lighthouse was constructed in 1856 to warn seamen of the treacherous river bar known by then as "the graveyard of the Pacific." It is the oldest functioning lighthouse on the West Coast, and while the lighthouse itself is not open for tours, you'll want to take your camera at least halfway to the lighthouse for a few shots of Dead Man's Cove. Hike out to the lighthouse for some other nice surprises along the way.
The hike to Cape Disappointment Lighthouse is, quite literally, uphill both ways. Of course, it's downhill both ways, too. The trails low spot is located at approximately the half-way point, leaving plenty of hill to climb both ways. And that trail can definitely be slippery with all the moisture this place gets - so watch your step!
Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center
The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center stands high on the cliffs of Cape Disappointment State Park, 200 feet above the Pacific. A series of mural-sized "timeline" panels guide visitors through the westward journey of the Lewis and Clark Expedition using sketches, paintings, photographs and the words of Corps members themselves. The center also features a short film presentation, which I found to be very enjoyable - particularly the story of nearby Dismal Nitch. You'll also find a gift shop and a glassed-in observation deck with fabulous views of the Columbia River, headlands and sea.
North Head Lighthouse
The North Head lighthouse is open to visitors and is just a short downhill walk from the parking lot. Tours are $2.50 for adults, ages 7-17 are free. They don't allow kids under 7 in the lighthouse, but we let our daughter (then 6) pretend she was 7 for the day and she did just fine. They did ask her age at the door, so if you're going to fib be sure to brief your kids ahead of time.
Closer to the parking lot you'll find the lighthouse keepers residence, a duplex, which may be rented for events. A wedding was in progress during our visit. There is a small store for souvenirs at the residence as well, and approximately half of those facilities are available for overnight stays. The facilities are quite nice, and that's reflected in the price. If you live within 500 miles and own an RV you'll do much better to camp at nearby Cape Disappointment State Park.
North Head is one of the windiest places in the United States. On January 29, 1921, winds were clocked at 126 mph before the instrument blew away. They have frequently been measured at over 100 mph.
Go fly a kite!
There's lots of wind on the beach, so much in fact that they hold a stunt kite competition here the fourth weekend of June every year. Despite all the fog and moisture I still had plenty of kite flying time. I even purchased my first stunt kite while I was there.
Of all the places I've camped at so far, Cape Disappointment currently sits at the top of the list of the places I'd most like to return to. Interestingly enough, it's also one of the places of the United States of America with the largest number of hours of Fog, 2552 hours (equivalent to 106 days) per year, hence the very comfortable hiking temperatures. So come prepared for pretty much anything with respect to the weather and you're certain to enjoy your visit as much as we did.
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Posted by Michael Worth
at 02:16 PM on September 19, 2008
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