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Footsteps: Lewis and Clark’s Discovery of the Willamette River


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Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Fort Clatsop is pleased to announce the next In Their Footsteps free speaker series event. Lewis and Clark’s Discovery of the Willamette River: Recent Findings of Their Secondary Mission by Dr. Steven McClure will be on Sunday, April 15, at 1:00 p.m.

It usually is taught that the Lewis and Clark Expedition missed the mouth of the Willamette River twice when they paddled by on the Columbia River to and from the Pacific Ocean. Our speaker, historical researcher Steven McClure, will present his finding that the Expedition actually mistook the Willamette for the Multnomah Channel. They also traveled right past the Willamette on their trip upstream on the Columbia because they mistakenly presumed that the Sandy River, which they had previously found when originally coming downriver, was the large southern river they had heard about from Chinookan Indian informants at Fort Clatsop.

Combining a close analysis of period maps and the Lewis and Clark Expedition’s journals, Dr. McClure will take us up the Willamette River to learn where Captain William Clark’s canoe party camped on April 2, 1806. As a board member of Friends of Baltimore Woods, a St. Johns neighborhood group restoring a wildlife corridor along the Willamette, Steven has led tours to where he has determined Clark turned back to the Corps of Discovery’s base camp on the Columbia. McClure also will share why Clark turned back, indications that he was attempting to reach the Willamette Falls, and the Corps’ belief that the Willamette reached to the Spanish silver mines on the Rio Grande.

McClure is an active member of the Oregon Chapter of the Lewis & Clark Trail Heritage Foundation.

In Their Footsteps is a monthly Sunday forum sponsored by the Lewis & Clark National Park Association and the park. These programs are held in the Netul River Room of Fort Clatsop’s visitor center and are free of charge.