China Beach Retreat - Ilwaco, WA, United States

Lewis & Clark

“Tucked down and away from the road, this guest house offers a stunning- and historic-retreat at the edge of Baker Bay [photos]. With a view from the shore over tide-lands toward Sand Island, it offers a view much like the one that greeted Lewis & Clark as they walked to and from Cape Disappointment during their days on the North shore of the Columbia. China Beach Retreat has three bedrooms with sumptuous private baths, stunning handcrafted headboards, original art and vista windows that make for an idyllic getaway.”

The Lewis & Clark Expedition:
A Traveler’s Companion for Oregon and Washington
By Stuart and Kathy Watson

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The culmination of the greatest expedition in American history ended at a picturesque headland dubiously named Cape Disappointment. That November morning was wet and blustery. The year was 1805. Yards ahead of the explorers huge breakers were dashing the fishing rocks. The surf was tempestuous. The party had at last arrived at the Pacific. The explorers were dumbstruck by the beauty and power of the surging bottle-green waves. The men offered a whooping cheer. To the heels of their moccasin feet, they felt proud.

That vista is as breathtaking today as it was on that winter afternoon nearly 200 years ago. Standing in the yard at China Beach, a visitor can imagine the agony and glory of that 4000-mile trek, and the landscape of those first years of the nineteenth century. The vista continues to invigorate, to empower the viewer’s imagination. Massive Sitka Spruce jut from the shoreline. The wildfowl are migrating. Their cacophonies gladden the heart.

The Corps of Discovery traversed the beach here at China Beach; skirted the igneous outcroppings and old growth forests. The skies were overcast and the shoreline a meld of viridian and sorrel green. At Cape Disappointment State Park they cut through the sandy isthmus. Climbing on the fishing rocks below a current-day museum built to proclaim their achievement (The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center), the men most certainly felt the weight of their accomplishment. In separate diary entries, the officers would acknowledge the vision of the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson. In their own words the observers would confirm his directive and vision. Our mission is complete, they state to their leader. To paraphrase the offerings of those scribes: ‘We have traversed the American continent and now stand before the Pacific Ocean.’ There can be no doubt that the same sense of awe touched the lives of the 16-year old Shoshone woman, Sacagawea, and the black slave of William Clark, York.

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The Corps would camp for eighteen days on the Washington side of the Columbia River in present day Pacific County. Not all their campsites have been developed for tourism, but they can be ferreted out by historian and visitor alike. Station Camp was transformed after the 2005 bicentennial. The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center is but a five minute drive from China Beach Retreat. From there, the sense of history is palpable. As in 1805, the vista is spellbinding. Just across the Megler bridge over the mouth of the Columbia river, Fort Clatsop remains the gem of Oregon’s historical restoration. Hundreds of thousands of visitors have visited the fort.

The famous sculptress, Maya Lin designed a monument to the Corps nearby. In honor of the commemoration of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the construction of the Discovery Trail was begun in 2002. It stretches 8.5 miles from Ilwaco to North Long Beach. Most of the trail is paved, and makes for idyllic bicycle riding, running or walking.

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Four thousand miles from St. Louis, Missouri to a quiet sandy beach at the mouth of the Columbia River – this is the odyssey of the Corps of Discovery and the conclusion of Thomas Jefferson’s western vision. Lewis and Clark resided in what is now Pacific County for 18 days. Here at China Beach Retreat a modern pioneer can imagine that same sense of pride and achievement; can stand awestruck by the natural beauty of the landscape.

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