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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Ilwaco, Washington"
Includes ... Ilwaco ... Baker Bay ... Sand Island ... Pacific City ... Ilwaco Railroad ...
Image, 2012, Ilwaco, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Ilwaco, Washington. View from the boat dock looking back towards the town. Image taken March 8, 2012.

Ilwaco ...
Ilwaco, Washington, is located in Baker Bay, approximately three miles from the mouth of the Columbia River. Just upstream are the mouths of the Wallacut and Chinook Rivers, and further upstream is Chinook Point. Downstream the Baker Bay shoreline curves towards Cape Disappointment, and Sand Island is located in Baker Bay south from Ilwaco and Black Lake lies to the north.

Early Ilwaco ...
Ilwaco, Washington was a sawmill and salmon cannery town during its early years, and was the southern terminus of the Ilwaco railroad (1888-1908).

Ilwaco was named for El-wa-co Jim, an Indian who married a daughter of Chief Comcomly, of the Chinook tribe.

Ilwaco and Pacific City ...
"ILWACO:   Resort and fishing city on Baker's Bay / Columbia River. The Chinook Indian name for the site was "No'skwalakuthl". James Johnson, former Hudson Company bar pilot, moved his family to the site in 1849 and filed a Donation Land Claim. J.D. Holman took a Donation Land Claim on Johnson's western border in 1851. ... In 1855 the Holman's moved to Portland and the Johnson's both died. Guardians for the Johnson children sold the claim to Isaac Whealdon and family in 1858. The Whealdon's were the only white settlers on the site for several years and the homestead was known to travelers as "Whealdonsburg". On November 26, 1860, the Pacific City post office, which had been closed in May 1856, was reestablished at Whealdon's home. The name Pacific City was retained for sentimental reasons until October 21, 1865, when it was changed by the post office department to Unity. The name Unity was applied to the growing community by soldiers at Fort Canby during the Civil War years when their was a great deal of talk of the Union. On March 19, 1873, James D. Holman, who was living in Portland but vacationing yearly on his claim next to Whealdon, subdivided his land and filed the plat of the Town of Ilwaco at the courthouse in Oysterville. The name honored "Elowahka" Jim, an Indian neighbor of Holman and Whealdon. Jim was married to Elowahka, a daughter of one of Chief Concomally's wives, and was generally known by her name. The post office department made the name official July 18, 1876, when Holman was appointed Postmaster of Ilwaco. In June 1892, Whealdon subdivided his land and filed a plat for the Town of Whealdonsburg but by then the name Ilwaco was the acknowledged name of the town. Whealdon's street names, which included references to his Quaker faith, local tree types, and the first names of his wife Mary Ann and three daughters, Elizabeth, Eliza, and Adelia, were retained by Ilwaco city fathers, however. Ilwaco was a sawmill and salmon cannery town during its early years, and was the southern terminus of the Ilwaco railroad (1888-1908). Ilwaco was incorporated as a town December 8, 1890. Today, Ilwaco is a charter boat resort with a large commercial fishing fleet."

Source:    Larry J. Weathers in The Sou'wester, 1989, Pacific County Historical Society and Museum

"PACIFIC CITY:   Abandoned settlement and former county seat within Cape Disappointment military reservation on Baker's Bay/Columbia River. In the fall of 1849 missionary Elijah White (who styled himself "Dr.") took a Donation Land Claim on Baker's Bay, subdivided his holdings, and advertised the availability of lots in the settlement he called Pacific City. About the same time, White was also trying to convince the federal government that his property should be part of the military reservation on the Cape. White was ultimately successful in both promotions. He sold most of his subdivided property to unsuspecting settlers and was undoubtedly compensated for the loss of his DLC when the government announced the land was government property in 1852. During the intervening years Pacific City developed into a busy town with a sawmill, hotel, store, and dozens of houses. A post office was established December 26, 1850, and shortly afterwards residents successfully petitioned the Oregon Territorial legislature to create Pacific County on February 3, 1851. Pacific City was named the county seat. Commissioner's meetings were held in any available building because there was no courthouse. Residents moved away from Pacific City after the government announced their property was within the boundaries of the military reservation in 1852. The last County Commissioner Journal entry was made at Pacific City December 7, 1852. The county seat was moved to Chenook / Chenookville. The post office was finally closed November 3, 1856. By 1858, a Coast Survey report showed there were only two or three houses and a sawmill left standing in the settlement. In 1860 a new post office was established at Whealdon's home on Baker's Bay (outside the government reservation) and the name Pacific City was retained at Whealdon's home for sentimental reasons until 1865."

Source:    Larry J. Weathers in The Sou'wester, 1989, Pacific County Historical Society and Museum

Views ...

Image, 2012, Ilwaco, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Fisherman, Ilwaco, Washington. Image taken January 27, 2012.
Image, 2012, Ilwaco, Washington, click to enlarge
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Jessie's Fish Market, Ilwaco, Washington. Image taken March 8, 2012.
Image, 2012, Ilwaco, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Jessie's Fish Market, Ilwaco, Washington. Image taken March 8, 2012.
Image, 2012, Ilwaco, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Ilwaco, Washington. Image taken March 8, 2012.
Image, 2012, Ilwaco, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Ilwaco, Washington. Image taken January 27, 2012.
Image, 2012, Ilwaco, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Fishing buoys, Ilwaco, Washington. Image taken March 8, 2012.

View from Cape Disappointment ...

Image, 2005, Ilwaco, Washington, from Cape Disappointment, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Ilwaco and Baker Bay, Washington, from Cape Disappointment. View from road to Cape Disappointment. Image taken November 9, 2005.

Ilwaco, etc.

  • Baker Bay ...
  • Ilwaco Railroad ...

Baker Bay ...
The Washington fishing community of Ilwaco is located on Baker Bay.

Image, 2004, Baker Bay from Ilwaco, Washington, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Baker Bay from Ilwaco, Washington. Image taken April 9, 2004.
Image, 2005, House, Baker Bay, from Ilwaco, Washington, click to enlarge
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House on Baker Bay, from Ilwaco, Washington. View from the Ilwaco Marina. Image taken April 19, 2005.

Ilwaco Railroad ...

In 1888, the Ilwaco Railroad and Navigation Company laid the first five miles of narrow-gauge track from Ilwaco towards Long Beach and Nahcotta. In 1906 the Ilwaco Railroad was purchased by the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company who bought the deep-water site upstream at Megler, which they named "Cook's Station". In 1907 construction of a railroad between Cook's Station and Ilwaco was underway, and in October of 1907 construction began at Cook's Station on a wharf that measured 900 feet long and 120 feet wide. By the time this train and ferry freight dock began operating in 1908, the name of the site was changed again to Megler Station.

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 18, 1805 ...
A little cloudy this morning I Set out [from their camp at Station Camp] with 10 men and my man York to the Ocian by land. i. e. Serjt. Ordway & Pryor, Jos. & Ru. Fields, Go. Shannon, W. Brattin, J. Colter, P. Wiser, W. Labieche & P. Shabono one of our interpreters & York. [according to Moulton, Clark gave the other men's names in two inconsistent lists --- those named included Clark, Ordway, Charbonneau, Pryor, the Field brothers, Shannon, Colter, Weiser, Labiche, Bratton, and York.] I Set out at Day light and proceeded on a Sandy beech

N. 80° W. 1 Mile to a point of rocks about 40 feet high [Chinook Point, now the location of Fort Columbia], from the top of which the hill Side is open and assend with a Steep assent [Scarboro Hill] to the tops of the Mountains, a Deep nitch and two Small Streams above this point, then my course was

N. W. 7 Mile to the enterance of a creek [Chinook River] at a lodge or cabin of Chinnooks passing on a wide Sand bar the bay to my left [Baker Bay] and Several Small ponds Containing great numbers of water fowls to my right; with a narrow bottom of alder & Small balsam between the Ponds and the Mountn. ...     This Creek appears to be nothing more than the conveyance of Several Small dreans from the high hills and the ponds on each Side near its mouth. here we were Set across all in one Canoe by 2 Squars to each I gav a Small hook

S. 79° W. 5 Miles to the mouth of Chin nook river, [today's Wallacut River] passed a low bluff of a small hite at 2 miles below which is the remains of huts near which place is also the remains of a whale on the Sand, the countrey low open and Slashey, with elivated lands interspersed covered with pine & thick under groth This river [Wallacut River] is 40 yards wide at low tide- here we made a fire and dined on 4 brant and 48 Pliver which was killed by Labiech on the coast as we came on. Rubin Fields Killed a Buzzard of the large Kind near the meat of the whale we Saw: [California Condor] ...     after dineing we crossed the river in an old canoe which I found on the Sand near Som old houses & proceeded on-

S. 20° W. 4 Miles to a Small rock island in a deep nitch     passed a nitch at 2 miles in which there is a dreen from Some ponds back, the land low opposite this nitch a bluff of yellow Clay and Soft Stone from the river to the Comencement of this nitch     below the Country rises to high hills of about 80 or 90 feet above the water- at 3 miles passed a nitch- this rock Island is Small and at the South of a deep bend [near Illwaco, Washington] in which the nativs inform us the Ships anchor, and from whence they receive their goods in return for their peltries and Elk Skins &c. this appears to be a very good harber for large Ships. here I found Capt Lewis name on a tree. I also engraved my name & by land the day of the month and year, as also Several of the men.

S. 46° E. 2 Miles to the inner extremity of Cape Disapointment passing a nitch [location of Fort Canby] in which there is a Small rock island, a Small Stream falls into this nitch from a pond [today O'Neil Lake lies between Fort Canby and McKenzie Head] which is imediately on the Sea Coast passing through a low isthmus. this Cape is an ellivated <Situat> Circlier point [location Cape Disappointment Lighthouse] Covered with thick timber on the iner Side and open grassey exposur next to the Sea and rises with a Steep assent to the hight of about 150 or 160 feet above the leavel of the water <from the last mentioned nitch-> this cape [Cape Disappointment] as also the Shore both on the Bay & Sea coast is a dark brown rock [basalt]. I crossed the neck of Land low and ˝ of a mile wide to the main Ocian [today Waikiki Beach is located on the ocean side of this isthmus], at the foot of a high open hill projecting into the ocian, and about one mile in Sicumfrance. I assended this hill [McKenzie Head] which is covered with high corse grass. decended to the N. of it and camped. I picked up a flounder on the beech this evening.-

from Cape Disapointment to a high point of a Mountn. which we shall call [the Nicholas Biddle version has Clarke's Point of View inserted here. "Clarke's Point of View" is today's Tillamook Head, a name received when Clark visited and climbed the formation in Janaury 1806.] beares S. 20° W. about <40> [WC?: 25] miles, point adams is verry low and is Situated within the direction between those two high points of land, the water appears verry Shole from off the mouth of the river for a great distance, and I cannot assertain the direction of the deepst Chanel, the Indians point nearest the opposit Side. the waves appear to brake with tremendious force in every direction quite across a large Sand bar lies within the mouth nearest to point Adams [Point Adams] which is nearly covered at high tide. I suped on brant this evening with a little pounded fish. Some rain in the after part of the night. men appear much Satisfied with their trip beholding with estonishment the high waves dashing against the rocks & this emence ocian.

Ordway, November 18, 1805 ...
Cloudy. Capt. Clark myself and 10 more of the party Set out [from their camp at Station Camp] in order to go down and see the passiffic ocean [Pacific Ocean]. we proceeded on round Hailys bay [Bakers Bay] crossed two Rivers [Chinook River and Wallacut River] in Sd. bay [Bakers Bay] . ...     we proceeded on round high clifts of rocks where we had much trouble to pass.- towards evening we arived at the Cape disapointment [Cape Disappointment] on the Sea Shore. went over a bald hill [McKenzie Head] where we had a handsom view of the ocean. we went on a Short distance on the coast and Camped for the night.

Clark, November 19, 1805 ...
after takeing a Sumptious brackfast of venison which was rosted on Stiks exposed to the fire, I proceeded on through ruged Country of high hills and Steep hollers [including today's North Head, Deadmans Hollow, and Beards Hollow] on a course from the Cape [Cape Disappointment] N 20° W. 5 miles on a Direct line to the Commencement of a Sandy Coast [Long Beach Peninsula] which extended N. 10° W. from the top of the hill above the Sand Shore to a Point of high land distant near 20 miles [Leadbetter Point]. this point I have taken the Liberty of Calling after my particular friend Lewis— at the commencement of this Sand beech the high lands leave the Sea coast in a Direction to Chinnook river [Chinook or Wallacut River] , and does not touch the Sea Coast again <untill> below point Lewis [Leadbetter Point] leaveing a low pondey countrey, maney places open with small ponds in which there is great numbr. of fowl     I am informed that the Chinnook Nation inhabit this low countrey and live in large wood houses on a river which passes through this bottom Parrilal to the Sea coast and falls into the Bay

I proceeded on the Sandy Coast 4 miles, and marked my name on a Small pine, the Day of the month & year, &c. [near the location of present day Long Beach] and returned to the foot of the hill, from which place I intended to Strike across to The Bay [Baker Bay], ...     after Dineing on the remains of our Small Deer I proceeded through over a land S E with Some Ponds [possibly one being Black Lake] to the bay [Baker Bay] distance about 2 miles, thence up to the mouth of Chinnook river [mistake, the Wallacut River, west of the Chinook River] 2 miles, crossed this little river in the Canoe we left at its mouth and Encamped [Wallacut River] on the upper Side in an open Sandy bottom— The hills [Ilwaco, Washington area] next to the bay [Baker Bay] Cape disapointment [Cape Disappointment] to a Short distance up the Chinnook river [Wallacut River] is not verry high thickly Coverd. with different Species of pine &c. maney of which are large, I observed in maney places pine of 3 or 4 feet through growing on the bodies of large trees which had fallen down, and covered with moss and yet part Sound. ...

Journey to the PacificReturn to




*River Miles [RM] are approximate, in statute miles, and were determined from USGS topo maps, obtained from NOAA nautical charts, or obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website, 2003

  • Hitchman, R., 1985, Place Names of Washington, Washington State Historical Society;
  • Pacific County Historical Society website, 2005, "Place Names of Pacific County" by Larry J. Weathers, IN: The Sou'wester, Centennial Edition 1989, Vol.XXIV, No.1-4;
  • U.S. National Park Service, Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks website (2006);

All Lewis and Clark quotations from Gary Moulton editions of the Lewis and Clark Journals, University of Nebraska Press, all attempts have been made to type the quotations exactly as in the Moulton editions, however typing errors introduced by this web author cannot be ruled out; location interpretation from variety of sources, including this website author.
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May 2012