we drove up the Columbia River back toward the Astoria Bridge to see Dismal Nitch. In 1805 the Lewis and Clark Expedition Corps of Discovery were low on supplies and traveling rapidly down the Columbia River, intending to meet one of the last trading ships of the season, hoping to secure needed supplies and to send back journals and specimens home as requested by President Jefferson. On November 10, 1805, a severe winter storm struck the area, forcing them off the river for six days and preventing them from meeting the supply ships. The group landed in a cove on the north bank of the river that Captain William Clark called in his journals “that dismal little nitch.” During their six day, the Chinook indians bought dried fish and meat from their encampments across the river, Lewis & Clarks were amazed how the Chinook were able to row their canoes across the 4 mile wide Columbia in such severe weather. After the storm passed the company moved to Station Camp on the west side of Point Ellice, and camped at that location for 10 days before relocating for the winter to the location of current-day Astoria.
We drove further up river and found the Knappton Quarantine Historic Center. This is the only remaining Immigration facility outside of Ellis Island, NY in existence. Known as the “Ellis Island of the Columbia. We were given a tour by Tom Bell, one of the owners of this historic site. ” the quarantine station was established in 1899 to help keep disease from entering the U.S. by the inspecting all inbound ships and their crews and passengers. In the 1800s, unsanitary shipboard conditions were a considerable problem, and ships often became giant petri dishes in which disease bred and spread. Knappton Cove and other quarantine stations, or “pesthouses” as they were known, were credited with cleaning up the shipping industry because ship owners soon realized that unclean ships cost money. Better health practices and the increase in inoculations saw the decline of quarantine centers in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Nancy Bell Anderson, director of the Knappton Cove Heritage Center, estimates that by the time the station closed in 1938, about 100,000 immigrants had passed through health inspection at the Columbia River’s “pesthouse.” Knappton Cove is special in that it is the last remaining government-run quarantine station on the West Coast. Many of the pesthouses were burned after they closed down for fear of what vermin might still be lurking in walls and floorboards. After the station closed, Knappton Cove sat quietly until 1950, when Anderson’s brother, Tom Bell, read a notice in the paper stating that Fort Columbia was to be sold. Thinking it might be a worthy investment, he wrote for the brochure. Although he missed out on that purchase – the property was given to the state for a dollar – his inquiry got him on a mailing list, and six weeks later a listing for the quarantine station arrived in the mail. Their father, Clarence, and a partner purchased the property and turned it into a sport fishing camp. A few years after the fishing camp closed, Anderson and her family decided the historical significance of the property deserved to be honored. In 1995, they took on the guardian mantle and turned the station into a nonprofit museum, protecting an important part of history by telling the story, not just of the quarantine station, but of Knappton Cove itself.
We stopped at Middle Village, a historic Chinook site, St Mary's Catholic Church has been here for over a 100 years and still has mass each Sunday. We then moved onto Fort Columbia, one of the World War II forts that helped protect the West coast and the Columbia River basin.
Near where were are staying is Cape Disappointment which has two lighthouses (North Head and Cape Disappointment). We walked to North Head a still active lighthouse and then we drove back to Ilwaco along a beautiful loop that gave us a different view of the fishing village.