Top 20 Washington State Trips

Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center

Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center

Learn about the famous Lewis and Clark expedition that ended at the Pacific Ocean.

The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center is at breathtaking Cape Disappointment on Washington's southern coast. It's a 3-hour drive from Seattle, and 2-hour drive from Portland.

This museum provides a fascinating overview of the Lewis and Clark Expedition that ended near here in 1805.

After visiting the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, check out the Top 10 Cape Disappointment attractions, like two lighthouses, stunning beaches, and spectacular hikes. A Discovery Pass is required to visit Cape Disappointment.

Getting there.

Enter Cape Disappointment State Park, and drive to the parking lot at the end of Cape D Road, then walk 5 minutes uphill to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. Check hours and admission.

The nearest restaurants and cafes are at Ilwaco or Long Beach, or you can stop by the seasonal Cape D Cafe at Cape Disappointment.

5 best things to do at Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center

1. See the movie and exhibits inside the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.

Learn the story about the famous Lewis and Clark expedition, that set out from St Louis Missouri in 1803 and reached the entrance of the Columbia River in the winter of 1805/1806. They were tasked by President Jefferson to map the lands west of the Mississippi, including the wild Pacific Northwest and the Louisiana Purchase of territory from France in 1803.

Check out a range of exhibits, including paintings, maps, artifacts, and quotes from the explorers' journals about their difficult journey through this inhospitable terrain. There's also an excellent 15 minute film, and a gift shop.

Kids will love the hands-on exhbits, and can get a close look at a lighthouse prism, a vintage Coast Guard boat, and a replica of the Lewis and Clark dugout canoe.

A beautiful wall of windows provides spectacular views of North Jetty, perfect for storm watching on a wet and windy day.

2. Step outside to the overlook, with views of the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.

After visiting the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, step outside to the outlook on the cliff's edge, with fabulous views of Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. You might need to block your nose from the stench of nesting cormorants in the cliffs!

From here you have an eagle's eye view of the mouth of the Columbia River, known as the Graveyard of the Pacific due to the treacherous, shifting sandbars that have resulted in hundreds of shipwrecks. Even today, professional bar pilots with extensive knowledge of these sandbars are required to take control of incoming ships to navigate them through these dangerous waters.

3. Check out Fort Canby, on the way to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.

You can't miss the concrete fortresses at Fort Canby, just below the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.

Fort Canby was manned by troops until the end of WWII and has fun underground chambers and tunnels to explore. It was constructed in the mid-19th century to defend the entrance of the Columbia River from enemy attack.

4. Take a vigorous 20-minute trail to the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.

The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center is accessed from the same parking lot as the Cape Disappointment LighthouseHead back to the parking lot, then take the 20 minute trail out to the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. The dirt trail is uneven, and the final section up to the lighthouse has a steep ascent.

The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse is not open for tours, but has spectacular vistas. It was constructed in 1856, and stands 53 feet tall.

5. Stop at Dead Man's Cove along the way.

The trail to Cape Disappointment Lighthouse passes Dead Man's Cove, named for the bodies that washed up here from shipwrecks. It's a little difficult to get down to the beach, and involves scrambling down a dirt path on a slope. The cove is hemmed in by basalt cliffs and is absolutely enchanting.

Other things to do at Cape Disappointment.

Learn about the 10 BEST Cape Disappointment Attractions, including North Head Lighthouse pictured below.

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