First we headed to the northern part of the park to hike the Lighthouse Keepers Loop Trail to the North Head Lighthouse. An overlook at the beginning of the trail provides fantastic views of the beach north of the North Jetty of the Columbia River that was built in the early 1900s.
The North Head Lighthouse (1898) was constructed to aid ships in navigating the fierce currents of the Columbia River. Situated on a bluff 130' above the water, there are dramatic views of the Pacific from here.
The residences of the head keeper and assistant keepers of the lighthouse are well maintained and can be reserved as a vacation rental (which is pretty darn cool).
There is a gift shop next to the residences with unique lighthouse themed items for sale.
Our next stop was the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. This is one of the two Visitor Centers that is jointly managed by the National Park Service and State of Washington.
Cormorants nest on steep cliffs here where they build nests of seaweed and guano (rid excrement). Brandt's cormorants fly in flocks of several hundred creating a living net as they dive to capture food (fish).
Cape Disappointment Lighthouse (1851) is visible from here on a promontory that extends out to the ocean on the north side of the Columbia River.
There is a $5 fee (charged by the state) to enter the Lewis and Clark Exhibit. Because we had our dog with us, John enjoyed the outside while a did I quick pass through the displays. This is a very well-done exhibit that chronicles the journey of the Corps of Discovery commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson and led by Lewis and Clark from 1804 to 1806.
Below is a list of the permanent members of the expedition.
The expedition carried a library of reference books and Lewis and Clark created a remarkable documentary record of the Native Americans they encountered as well as the flora and fauna. In addition to Lewis and Clark, four other members of the party kept journals. It was the first overland journey to arrive in the Pacific Northwest and their experiences and discoveries were captured in great detail.
There is a second section of the Interpretive Center with displays about the six lighthouses in the region (two located at the Park).
Also on display is the fresnel lens used at the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse from 1856 to 1898. Today, both of the lighthouses are fully automated.
Additional exhibits tell of the role the US Coast Guard has played over the years in the region where ships encounter treacherous currents when crossing the Columbia Bar to enter the Columbia River.
Even today, licensed pilots guide each ship through the area to assure their safety. The National Motorboat Lifeboat School, the center of excellence for heavy weather boat operations, is located here and trains individuals from around the world. The US Coast Guard base is manned by 50 active duty and 25 reserve personnel and are available 365 days a year to respond to distress calls, enforce laws and treaties, work for Homeland Security and many other missions of the lower Columbia River.
We hiked the 1.2 mile Cape Disappointment Trail to the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse (dogs are permitted on the trail).
There is a beautiful cove that can be see from the trail (we did not make the steep hike down to the beach, though!)
From the trail we also got a clear view of the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and the many cormorants on the rocks below.
The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse is 53' tall and is situated 220' above the sea at the entrance to the Columbia River.
US Coast Guard personnel were on duty standing watch over the Columbia Bar. They track and communicate weather conditions and can request rescue operations when necessary. The channel runs between the two jetties that were built in the late 1880s.
We enjoyed our trek through the temperate rain forest here. And our ever-curious doggy, Sadie, had to check out an abandoned structure located near the lighthouse.
Be sure not to miss this interesting state park. The Lewis and Clark exhibit is fantastic. And, it is the only place on the West Coast where two lighthouses are located so close together (only 2 miles apart). There is also a large campground here (60 full hook up sites for RVs; 30 with electric/water; and another 140 primitive sites for tents. For additional information about the park, check them out online.
A Discovery Pass is required to enter the park ($10/one day; $30/annual pass issued by the state of Washington).