First Time at Cape Disappointment

This is a long one, so you might want to grab a cup of coffee.  Two weeks ago I made a reservation for us to stay at Silver Falls State Park with the plan of walking the 8.7 miles worth of trails and seeing all of the waterfalls.  Unfortunately, Monday night it hit triple digits, and worse, there was a lot of smoke in the area from wildfires.  Thankfully, we both know our limits and instead of pushing through and possibly not having a good time, we decided to cancel the reservation and go in a different direction, and although we lost some money to the cancellation I don’t regret the choice.   One of the other items on our list of things to do was to visit Cape Disappointment State Park and see where the Lewis and Clark expedition ended up.  We went online and got lucky, snagging a campsite right next to the ocean on Tuesday night.  As a side note I learned a major lesson about making reservations in advance.  With Tuesday and Wednesdays off we are better off waiting until the last moment to make our travel plans and then having a list of choices and picking the best one based on availability and weather.

Since check-in wasn’t until afternoon, we took our time packing Tuesday morning and then started the four hour drive. It was a pretty one,  on roads we hadn’t been on before, and we stopped somewhat randomly at the Berry Patch Restaurant for lunch. Reasonable prices, great service, and hot and fast food.  Just what we were looking for!

They had a nice selection of locally made products

The hamburgers and fries were really good, plus the service was fast which was good because we were starving.

And of course we had some pie! Huckleberry which was pretty good, although Montana huckleberries are better 🙂

Afterward, we continued on and eventually we came to a huge bridge that crosses the Columbia River to Washington State.  The bridge was VERY tall, to allow for the large freighters to go underneath,  on one side, but then goes straight down and then rests on the water the rest of the way.  It almost looks like two completely different bridges put together and luckily we were able to get a couple of pictures to show you. (It’s just over 4 miles long, and 196 of clearance between the bottom and the water, at high tide, for those who appreciate that data!)

You can see the scale with the very large fishing boat going underneath

Coming down the hill to the flatter part. As you can see one long bridge

The piece of land you can see in the picture above if the tip of Washington and the whole area is full of Lewis and Clark memorials.  I am a huge fan, by the way, their expedition captured my imagination in grade school and as we have traveled the country criss-crossing their route has only given me more appreciation for their monumental achievement.    We driven some of those roads and they idea that they crossed it on foot, not having any idea of where they were going is amazing to me.  I was very excited to see where they ended up and even more excited to see the ocean, which is always one of my favorite sights.

We arrived at our campsite (B104) and were thrilled with how big and clean it was

The first thing we did was walk the path behind it

And got out first view of the ocean

Next we set up our campsite (we are getting better at pitching our tent)

And walked out on the beach to check it out

We had wonderful views of one of the two lighthouses in the state park

And were amazed by how much driftwood their was on the beach

Seriously I have never seen this much driftwood all in one place before

There were lots of pelicans to look at

And this cute cocker spaniel puppy who I got to play with

The weather was drizzly, but with a fire going it wasn’t too bad and we had nice separation between us and other campsites and a decent set of restrooms right in the small circle we were in.   Plus the park is absolutely huge (over 1800 acres) and their are lots of RV choices.  It’s pricey though, our spot with no hookups was $35 for the night, but it was totally worth it to listen to the ocean all night long.  I guess we got really lucky with our site though, because the park attendee mentioned to Lee “those sites are never open.”  We also had to pay a $13 state park fee because we were non-residents but since this pass was good all day, we were able to use it at a variety of places in the area.  So for me it was totally worth the $48, but in all fairness not a place I would choose for “casual camping.”

Checkout wasn’t until 1pm, so we could have explored and then come back and taken down the tent, but we decided to go ahead and take care of it in the morning so we could leave straight from the museum.  The main reason I wanted to visit the park (other than to see the ocean) was the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.  Jodee, one of our fellow RV dreamers, had raved about it, and I really wanted to check it out.  It didn’t open until 10am though, so we stopped along the way at a little roadside memorial and saw a commemoration to the Lewis and Clark trail.  As I mentioned these are kind of everywhere in the area, but I loved walking the same trail they did and we went up a pretty steep 1/4 mile trail to get the same view of the ocean that they had.  Love those moments.

The tall grass was really pretty and the signs showed excerpts from their journals describing the “tall grass on the path” that was really neat

It’s hard to see because of the gray, but the ocean is right beyond the lagoon

At the top of the trail we also found something really neat for Lee.  Turns out this entire area was part of the  coastal defense and there are a series of batteries and forts that were used through WWII. Lee loves military stuff and as excited as I was about tracing Lewis and Clark’s steps he was excited about seeing what remained of the gun battery. This one was completely open and he was able to walk through and explore.  You can see by the look on his face how excited he was and I was glad there was something for both of us at the end of the walk, because as I mentioned it was pretty steep.

The battery

Where the big gun went. Check out that smile!

Lee’s explaining to me how big the shells were that the guns used

The whole experience was another great of example of the benefit of just stopping and taking a walk, and ended up being one of our favorite parts of the day.  After we finished coming back down it was exactly 10am so we headed over to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. 

We parked in the parking lot and walked up the path. RV’s aren’t allowed in the lots by the way so if you don’t have a car it’s better to explore the area by bike

Saw this super cute red squirrel eating breakfast along the way

When we got to the top we were surprised that the interpretive center was on top of Fort Canby so we started by walking around and exploring the remains

Lee said he felt like he was in a Call of Duty game exploring the locations

They even had some shells in one of the rooms

Picture showing how it was used

Translates to Yield to None

Lee was super excited and I was sort of patiently waiting for him to finish so I could actually see the Lewis and Clark Center, when something unusual caught my eye. It took me a moment to register that, yes, I was indeed seeing what I thought I was, and then the conversation turned to talking about that.

Do you see what I saw in the picture? Hint..upper right corner

That’s right their was a deer on the roof!!

She was munching away contendedly

And could not have cared less about us

Amazing and even more so when we walked around and saw this was the path the deer took to get on the roof. Good for her!

After the deer experience we walked up to the center and looked at some amazing views.  There was another lighthouse and although it was still grey when we went inside, the sun peeked out as we were leaving and I was able to get a few decent shots.


Although my Uncle Jimmy, who recently passed away, didn’t die at sea, I took a moment and thought about him here.

Entering the Columbia from the ocean is treacherous because of the moving sandbars and the ships are piloted in

Finally we got to enter the center though and it did not disappoint. Seriously I loved the museum, although in all fairness I am a total Lewis and Clark geek.  It might be less interesting for those folks who don’t care as much, but I read almost every sign that talked about their journey.  The cost was a very reasonable $5 and the museum was quite large, although most of the exhibits were signage.  That was the cool part for me though, because in my opinion the amazing thing about their journey was the detailed documentation.  They wrote about the land, the animals, the people, and the journey itself and those entries really let you feel like you are with them.  I’ll share some of my favorites with you, but I get it if you aren’t as enthused as I was.  Either way though, I definitely think this place is worth a visit.

Yes I am a dork


They had very specific instructions on how to talk to the natives they met and they were selected because President Jefferson felt they would be good ambassadors. It’s a good thing they had those type of personalities, because they never would have made it without assistance from the various tribes they encountered.


Sacagawea had been captured when she was a young woman and on their trip actually reunited with her brother who was now chief of her tribe. Really fascinating stuff and the fact that she led them, with a baby in tow, is absolutely amazing

These are the type of observations from the journals that I find so interesting. Really gives us a feeling for what people were like in those days.

I didn’t know that on the way back Lewis and Clark actually took separate paths. I guess they needed a break from each other 🙂

I always thought Lewis names it Cape Disappointment and wasn’t sure why, but it turns out that a British Captain gave it its name

After finishing the museum Lee really wanted to see one of the forts where the guns were still in place.  Our State parks day pass was good for multiple locations so we headed over to see Fort Columbia which was on our way back to the bridge.  The fort is now a state park and some of the buildings are turned into places to stay, but Lee liked walking around and I enjoyed the ocean views. The woman in the museum was also very nice and gave us lots of information about the area.  We could easily have stayed several days here and I absolutely want to go back and see some of the sites we missed.

The fort


These big guns are two of only six left in the world

Lee liked that you could walk right inside them

The barracks has been turned into a museum

The movie was actually very good and the best part of the museum in my opinion

One of the neatest things we learned in the movie was about the disappearing guns. They would pop-up, take the shot, and then the recoil would place the cannon part below the wall. Pretty ingenious

They also placed mines in the mouth of the river, which could only be exploded by electrical current from the shore. 

This section was redone by grant from two veterans and showed the barracks area

I loved the old tin ceiling

And this sign about a salmon war was fascinating. Apparently fishermen have been fighting over these salmon for a long time and in this case, both states national guard units were called out.

After seeing Fort Columbia, we started back home, knowing that there was plenty more to see in the area when we returned.  We also were able to take a different route back along the ocean and got to see another section of the beautiful Oregon coastline.  I’m just really glad we changed our plans and got out for a couple of days.  It was exactly what I needed and exceeded my already high expectations.

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9 thoughts on “First Time at Cape Disappointment

  1. That pie looks delish! Yummy!
    So glad you were able to get away and get to the ocean – you know it is my fav place! So glad it helped you feel close to your Uncle Jimmy!

  2. Great post and photos!! What a lucky break to get that campsite!! You both found lots of things that you each enjoy…makes for a great getaway!! I’m with Kelly…that pie looked AMAZING;o))

  3. Well you certainly know how I feel about that yummy looking pie! I really love that option of going on shuttle trips with a tent, it opens up so many awesome places that we can’t get to in the rigs. As always your pics are wonderful! I love all the big guns and bunkers too! The coast in the northwest is a magical place with so much beauty to discover! Thanks for letting us share your amazing trip!

  4. there are several similar military installations throughout OR and WA. My favorites are on Whidbey Island in WA. But Lee might enjoy seeing Fort Stevens which isn’t far from Ft Columbia . ( Metamorphis Road just did a write up on their blog with photos of the fort, elk and the Iredale ruins on the beach).

  5. There are usually volunteer positions here, including the Museum, which include your site for free although I don’t believe there is any pay involved. It’s a beautiful area. Thanks for your posts, I really enjoy reading them.

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