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Discover how Lewis and Clark got their rivers crossed

Next In Their Footsteps event takes place April 15 at Fort Clatsop

Published on April 12, 2018 2:19PM

The Willamette River location where William Clark’s party turned back April 3, 1806.

Courtesy Lewis and Clark National Historical Park

The Willamette River location where William Clark’s party turned back April 3, 1806.


FORT CLATSOP — Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Fort Clatsop, announces the next In Their Footsteps free speaker series event: “Lewis and Clark’s Discovery of the Willamette River: Recent Findings of Their Secondary Mission,” a talk by Dr. Steven McClure, takes place 1 p.m. Sunday, April 15, in the Netul River Room of Fort Clatsop’s visitor center.

It’s usually taught that the Lewis and Clark Expedition missed the mouth of the Willamette River twice when they paddled by on the Columbia River to and from the Pacific Ocean.

McClure will present his findings that the expedition actually mistook the Willamette for the Multnomah Channel. They also traveled right past the Willamette on their trip upstream on the Columbia because they mistakenly presumed that the Sandy River, which they had previously found when originally coming downriver, was the large southern river they had heard about from Chinookan Indian informants at Fort Clatsop.

Combining a close analysis of period maps and the Lewis and Clark Expedition’s journals, McClure will take us up the Willamette River to learn where Captain William Clark’s canoe party camped April 2, 1806.

As a board member of Friends of Baltimore Woods, a St. Johns neighborhood group restoring a wildlife corridor along the Willamette, McClure has led tours to where he has determined Clark turned back to the Corps of Discovery’s base camp on the Columbia. McClure also will share why Clark turned back, indications that he was attempting to reach the Willamette Falls, and the Corps’ belief that the Willamette reached to the Spanish silver mines on the Rio Grande.

For more information, call the park at 503-861-2471, or check out nps.gov/lewi, or Lewis and Clark National Historical Park on Facebook.



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