In 1788, while in search of the Columbia River, English Captain John Meares missed the passage over the river bar and named the nearby headland Cape Disappointment for his failure in finding the river. In 1792, American Captain Robert Gray successfully crossed the river bar and named the river "Columbia" after his ship, the Columbia Rediviva. Only a few years later, in 1805, the Lewis and Clark Expedition arrived at Cape Disappointment.
The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse was constructed in 1856 to warn seamen of the treacherous river bar known by then as "the graveyard of the Pacific." This is the oldest functioning lighthouse on the West Coast.
In 1862, Cape Disappointment was armed with smoothbore cannons to protect the mouth of the Columbia River from enemies. The installation was expanded to become Fort Canby in 1875. The fort was named after General Edward Canby, who was killed in the Modoc Indian War. The fort continued to be improved until the end of World War II. Gun batteries still sit uptop the park.
Interpretive opportunitiesLewis and Clark Interpretive Center (LCIC)
, perched on a 200-foot-high cliff, tells the story of Lewis and Clark and their journey from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean. The center is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from March 1 to Nov. 31 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday from Dec. 1 to Feb. 28 (closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day). Admission is $5 per adult, $2.50 children ages 7 to 17 and free for ages 6 and younger.
North Head Lighthouse
is open to visitors from May to Sept. Tour admission is $2.50 per adult and free for ages 7 to 17. No children under the age of seven are permitted. Appropriate footwear is required; no flip flops or shoes without heel straps. Federal and State passes not accepted for admission. Call the center at (360) 642-3029 for hours and tour information.
The park also features interpretive trails and the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.
Other interpretive opportunities, such as the Fort Columbia Interpretive Center and the Fort Columbia Commanding Officer's House Museum, also are in the vicinity.