The Captain William Clark Park at Cottonwood Beach in present-day Washougal, Washington, commemorates the journey of the Corps of Discovery along the lower Columbia River. In April 1806, the Corps of Discovery (commonly known as the Lewis and Clark Expedition) camped at Cottonwood Beach for several days. In the park are several replicas of the Chinookan-style American Indian river canoes and of the dugout canoes made by the Corps of Discovery.
For travel on the river, people used the Chinook (or Nootka) type of canoe with a raised prow. Canoes of this type would range from 20 to 40 feet in length, 3 feet wide, and 2 feet deep. This type of canoe could carry several people and their luggage. Chinook canoes were made from a single white-cedar log. The canoes were polished and painted (black on the outside and red on the inside). The prows and sterns were often carved. The inside was hollowed out by burning and the outside shaped with axes.
Corps of Discovery Dugout Canoes
While there are still some non-Indians who describe the Corps of Discovery as a journey into the wilderness these American explorers were simply following American Indian trails—particularly rivers such as the Columbia—which had been used for thousands of years. Like the Native American explorers who had preceded them, the Americans made dugout canoes from hollowed out logs. Their canoes were much cruder and more primitive than those used by the American Indians who lived along the Columbia River.
Twice each week—on Tuesdays and Thursdays—this series presents American Indian topics. More from this series—
Indians 101: Model canoes (museum tour)
Indians 101: Tulalip Canoes (Photo Diary)
Indians 101: Suquamish Canoes (Photo Diary)
Indians 101: Northwest Coast Canoes
Indians 101: Columbia River Beadwork (Photo Diary)
Indians 101: Klikitat Baskets (Photo Diary)
Indians 101: Celilo Falls
Indians 101: Plateau Horse Regalia (Photo Diary)