Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Lewis and Clark River, Oregon"
Includes ... Lewis and Clark River ... "Ne-tul River" ... "Fort River" ... Lewis and Clark River Bridge ...
Image, 2005, Lewis and Clark River from Coxcomb Hill, click to enlarge
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Lewis and Clark River, Oregon, as seen from Coxcomb Hill. Mouth of the Lewis and Clark River entering Youngs Bay. Image taken April 19, 2005.

Lewis and Clark River ...
The Lewis and Clark River is on the Oregon side of the Columbia and enters the southern part of Youngs Bay approximately 2 miles from the Columbia River. Astoria, Oregon and Smith Point can be seen from the mouth of the Lewis and Clark River. Youngs River enters Youngs Bay another two miles east of the Lewis and Clark River.

Lewis and Clark and the Lewis and Clark River ...
Captain Lewis first discovered the Lewis and Clark River on November 30, 1805, as he was exploring the Youngs Bay region.

"... passing an inlet of 100 yds. wide at 4 m. to a point of marshey ground, here an inlet of from 40 to 60 yds. in width comes in just opposite to the upper point of a shore which we have heretofore thought and island but which I am now convinced is the main land.    we asscended this stream about 2 m. it's course being S.15E.    we halted near a small cops of timbered land to which we walked and dined. Sent out three men to examin the country to the S. & W.    they returned after about 2 hours and informed me that the wood was so thick and obstructed by marrasses & lakes that they were unable to proceed to the ocean which could not be at any considerable distance from the apparent sound of the waves breaking on the Coast.    we now returned and asscended the inlet which we had last passed. ..." [Lewis, November 30, 1805]

The first 100-yard-wide inlet, and the one to which they returned to expore, is today's Lewis and Clark River. The 2-mile-long inlet which they explored and enjoyed lunch along was today's Skipanon River.

The Lewis and Clark expedition spent the winter of 1805-06 at Fort Clatsop on the left bank of the Lewis and Clark River, which they called "Ne-tul River".

"...we assended a river which falls in on the South Side of this Bay 3 miles to the first point of high land on the West Side, the place Capt. Lewis had viewed and formed in a thick groth of pine about 200 yards from the river, this situation is on a rise about 30 feet higher than the high tides leavel and thickly Covered with lofty pine. this is certainly the most eligable Situation for our purposes of any in its neighbourhood ..." [Clark, December 7, 1805]

Early Lewis and Clark River ...
The Lewis and Clark River was visited in 1792 by Lieutenant Broughton of the Captain George Vancouver expedition. They erroneously named it "Youngs River".

"... The shores of this Bay were low land, and the water again shoaled as he advanced to three and two and a half fathoms. Near the shores on either side the sea broke very high, and on the water were seen many pelicans. As the party approached the centre, or rather the S.E. corner of the Bay, they discovered a small river whose entrance was about two cables length in width, and the depth of water five fathoms. By the shores it appeared to be high water, yet the stream attended them up the river, which now took a south easterly direction, in a winding form, and branched off into several creeks. ..." [Broughton/Vancouver, October 22, 1792]

For years scholars assumed Broughton's "Young's River" was today's Youngs River. However current research shows that the "Young's River" on Broughton's map matches up nicely with todays "Lewis and Clark River" appearing on other early Columbia River and topographic maps, and even today's current maps.

In 1806 Lewis and Clark called this river "Ne-tul River". However, they also refered to it as "Fort River" in reference to Fort Clatsop, the "fort" they had built for the winter.

"... the river on which Fort Clatsop stands we now call Ne-tul, this being the name by which the Clatsops call it. ..." [Lewis, January 28, 1806]

"... To Fort River is imedeately cross [Clark, November 26, 1805]

According to Lewis McArthur in Oregon Geographic Names (2003):

"The earliest use of the modern name that has come to the compiler's attention is in Lee and Frost, Ten Years in Oregon, 1844, p.15. Silas B. Smith, the authority on Clatsop County history, says that the name Netul referred to a point on the bank of the river rather than to the stream itself."

The 1851 U.S. Survey of the Coast of the United States' (today's NOAA) Chart # 641, "Mouth of Columbia River" has the Lewis and Clark River labeled "Lewis & Clark River". It flows into "Young's Bay" along with "Young's River".

In 1851: From a University of Oregon Press release, 2003:

"A newly discovered map may help solve one of the great mysteries associated with the Lewis and Clark expedition--the exact location of their west-coast encampment, Fort Clatsop. The map was drawn by an unknown member of the 1851 U.S. Coast Survey that mapped the lower Columbia River near Astoria, Ore. ...

The map shows the "Lewis and Clark River" entering "Young's Bay" (both named). A small long island is in the center of the river, approximately half way between the mouth of the Lewis and Clark River and the "Log Hut Lewis and Clark wintered in 1805". The island is across and downstream of a tributary entering the Lewis and Clark River. Words on the left of the map are: "Breadth of River at its mouth from 4 to 500 yards - Distance from mouth of River to Hut, where Lewis & Clark wintered, about 2 miles." Words at the bottom of the map are "Tidewater, 7 miles from mouth".

An 1856 State of Oregon cadastral survey (tax survey) for T8N R10W has the river labeled "Lewis & Clark's River".

From the 1858 U.S. Coast Survey "Coast Pilot":

"Young's Bay lies between the eastern part of the Clatsop beach (called Tansey Point) and Point George. Into it empty Young's river, discovered, examined, and named by Broughton; Lewis and Clarke's river, examined by them in 1805; and one or two small streams or sloughs."

Lewis and Clark River Bridge ...
The Lewis and Clark River Bridge was built in 1924, and is the only remaining "single leaf bascule drawspan" in Oregon (2006). The bridge was signed by Conde B. McCullough, an engineer who designed many of the bridges along the Coast Highway 101, including the nearby Old Youngs Bay Bridge. Good views of the Lewis and Clark River Bridge and the Old Youngs Bay Bridge can be had from Coxcomb Hill and the Astoria Column.

Image, 2005, Lewis and Clark River Bridge, click to enlarge
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Crossing the Lewis and Clark River Bridge. Image taken November 15, 2005.

Views ...
Good views of the Lewis and Clark River can be had from Fort Clatsop, Netul Landing and Coxcomb Hill (the Astoria Column).

Image, 2005, Fort Clatsop, Oregon, click to enlarge
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Viewpoint at Canoe Landing, with Lewis and Clark River, Fort Clatsop, Oregon. Image taken November 15, 2005.
Image, 2004, Lewis and Clark River, Oregon, from Fort Clatsop, click to enlarge
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Lewis and Clark River, Oregon, from Canoe Landing at Fort Clatsop. Image taken May 25, 2004.
Image, 2005, Lewis and Clark River at Netul Landing, click to enlarge
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Lewis and Clark River looking downstream from Netul Landing. Image taken November 15, 2005.
Image, 2005, Lewis and Clark River at Netul Landing, click to enlarge
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Reflections, Lewis and Clark River at Netul Landing. Image taken November 15, 2005.
Image, 2005, Lewis and Clark River with Saddle Mountain, click to enlarge
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Saddle Mountain and the Lewis and Clark River. View from Canoe Landing at Fort Clatsop. Image taken November 15, 2005.
Image, 2005, Astoria and Youngs Bay, from mouth of the Lewis and Clark River, click to enlarge
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Astoria and Youngs Bay, from mouth of the Lewis and Clark River. Image taken November 15, 2005.
Image, 2004, Looking upstream from mouth of the Lewis and Clark River, click to enlarge
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Looking upstream from the mouth of the Lewis and Clark River. Image taken May 25, 2004.

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Lewis, November 30, 1805 ...

Clark, December 5, 1805 ...
Some hard Showers of rain last night, this morning Cloudy and drisley at Some little distanc above the isthmus [the men are camped on the west side of the Tongue Point isthmus] the rain is much harder. high water to day at 12 this tide is 2 inches higher than that of yesterday. all our Stores and bedding are again wet by the hard rain of last night. Capt. Lewis's long delay below, has been the Sorce of no little uneasness on my part of his probable Situation and Safty [Captain Lewis has been out searching for their winter camp - Fort Clatsop], the repeeted rains and hard winds which blows from the S, W. renders it impossible for me to move with loaded Canoes along an unknown Coast we are all wet & disagreeable; the party much better of indispositions—. Capt. Lewis returned with 3 men in the Canoe and informs me that he thinks that a Sufficient number of Elk may be prcured Convenient to a Situation on a Small river [Lewis and Clark River] which falls into a Small bay [Youngs Bay] a Short distance below, that his party had Killed 6 Elk & 5 Deer in his rout, two men of his party left behind to Secure the Elk

this was verry Satisfactory information to all the party. we accordingly deturmined to proceed on to the Situation which Capt. Lewis had Viewed as Soon as the wind and weather Should permit and Comence building huts &c.

Gass, December 5, 1805 ...
Again we had a wet stormy day, so that the men were unable to proceed with the canoes. About 11 o'clock Capt. Lewis and three of his party came back to camp; the other two were left to take care of some meat they had killed. They have found a place about 15 miles from this camp, up a small river [Lewis and Clark River] which puts into a large bay [Youngs Bay] on the south side of the Columbia, that will answer very well for winter quarters [Fort Clatsop], as game is very plenty, which is the main object with us; and we intend to move there as soon as circumstances will admit. There is more wet weather on this coast, than I ever knew in any other place; during a month, we have had three fair days; and there is no prospect of a change.

Ordway, December 5, 1805 ...
. rainy dissagreeable weather. about noon Capt. Lewis and three men returned and informed us that they had found a tollarable good place for our winters quarters [Fort Clatsop] about 15 miles down the South Shore, a Short distance up a Small River [Lewis and Clark River]. they had killed 7 Elk and five Deer. 2 men stayed to take care of the meat-

Whitehouse, December 5, 1805 ...
We had hard rain & stormy weather; which was very disagreeable. About 12 o'Clock A. M. Captain Lewis & 3 Men who were part of those that went with him returned to Camp with the Canoe. They informed us, that they had found a tolerable good place, to build our Winter quarters at [Fort Clatsop]. The place they said lay up a small river [Lewis and Clark River], about 4 Miles on the South side; & about 15 Miles from this place [Tongue Point]. They had killed seven Elk; and had left 2 of the Men to take care of the meat hides & had also killed 5 deer. They brought some of the Meat with them. It continued raining the whole of this day.—

Clark, December 7, 1805 ...

Ordway, December 7, 1805 ...
the morning clear we put our canoes in the water loaded up and set out and proceeded on down the River. the Shore is covred thick with pine and under brush. passd. Several Spring runs. the waves ran verry high. we could not land untill we turned a point [Smith Point, Astoria] in a bay [Youngs Bay] where we halted and cooked a young Deer which the hunters had killed the other day. ... we proceed. on round a bay [Youngs Bay] then went up a River [Lewis and Clark River] abt. 3 miles and landed at the place appointed for winters quarters. [Fort Clatsop] this River [Lewis and Clark River] is about 100 yds wide at this place but the tide water extends further up. we unloaded the canoes and carried all our baggage about 2 hundred yards on a rise of ground and thicket of handsom tall Strait pine and balsom fir timber and Camped here we intend to build a fort [Fort Clatsop] and Stay if game is to be found thro. this winter Season.

Gass, December 7, 1805 ...
About 12 last night the rain ceased and we had a fine clear morning. We put our canoes into the water, loaded them, and started for our intended wintering place. We coasted down the south side about a mile, and then met with the six men, who had gone for meat. They had brought four of the skins but no meat, the distance being great and the weather very bad. The swells being too high here to land we went two miles further and took the men in. We then proceeded round the bay [Youngs Bay] until we came to the mouth of a river [Lewis and Clark River] about 100 yards broad, which we went up about 2 miles to the place fixed upon for winter quarters, [Fort Clatsop] unloaded our canoes, and carried our baggage about 200 yards to a spring, where we encamped.

Whitehouse, December 7, 1805 ...
This morning clear & cold, We put our Canoes into the River & loaded them. We set off to go to the place appointed for our Winter Quarters & proceeded down along the Coast. We passed a number of fine Springs or Spring runs, which came in along the Shore. The Country was covered with pine Trees & under brush.-

The wind rose, & the wind caused the Waves to rise also. We saw our 6 Men, who had been for the Elk meat, on the Shore. The Waves ran so high, that we could not land where they were, and had to turn a point of land [Smith Point, Astoria], to make a harbour; the 6 Men joined us at this place. ... We proceeded on to a deep bay [Youngs Bay] about 8 Miles, & went up a River, [Lewis and Clark River] which was about 100 yards wide. We then unloaded our Canoes & carried all our baggage, about 200 yards to piece a rising ground in a thicket of tall pine Trees; [Fort Clatsop] where we intend building Cabbins, & stay if Game is to be had through the Winter season.

Lewis, January 28, 1806 ...
the river on which Fort Clatsop stands we now call Ne-tul, this being the name by which the Clatsops call it.

Clark, January 28, 1806 ...
The party that was Sent up the Netul river for the Elk returned this evening with three of them only; The Elk had been killed just before the Snow fell which had Covered them and So altered the apparant face of the Countrey that the hunters Could not find them. The River on which Fort Clat Sop Stands we now call Netul, this being the name by which the Clatsops Call it.

Ordway, March 1, 1806 ...
a fair morning. twelve men Set out after the Elk meat. the day Showery and wet. in the evening the party returned except four who Stayed out to hunt & brought in the meat. the Indian Name of the River they went up is Kil how-a-nāk-kle [Youngs River] and this River which we are on Ne-tul [Lewis and Clark River].

Whitehouse, March 1, 1806 ...
A pleasant morning, Twelve Men left the fort to go after the Elk meat. About noon the two hunters that were out returned to the fort, & had not killed any kind of game. The afternoon proved Showery & wet. In the evening, the party that went after the Elk meat returned, & brought the meat with them. Four of our Men went out hunting. they went up a River called by the Natives Ir-rum-mack-hill [Youngs River], & the River that our Fort lay near [Fort Clatsop], is called by the Natives Ne-tul [Lewis and Clark River]   :  These hunters staid out all night-

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

  • McArthur, L.A., and McArthur, L.L., 2003, Oregon Geographic Names, Oregon State Historical Society Press, Portland;
  • NOAA Office of Coast Survey website, 2004, 2005, Historical Map and Chart Collection;
  • Oregon Department of Transportation website, 2006;
  • Washington State Historical Society website, 2004, "Lasting Legacy";

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.
Janaury 2010