Cape Disappointment State Park
Ilwaco, Long Beach Peninsula, Washington
Hours: The park is open year-round for camping and day use. Summer – 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Winter – 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Location: Two miles southwest of Ilwaco, Washington.
Activities: Seven miles of hiking trails; boating (freshwater), 1 boat ramp, 135 feet of dock, fishing (freshwater and saltwater), clamming, crabbing, a Columbia River fish-cleaning station is available to fishermen, though swimming is not recommended as the currents are too strong; 1 amphitheater, beachcombing, bird watching, golf, 1 horseshoe pit, museum, 3 softball fields, 2 volleyball fields, wildlife viewing.
Contact: Cape Disappointment State Park: (360) 642-3078 or 1-888-CAMPOUT.
Web site: Cape Disappointment State Park
Located in the southwestern tip of Washington State lies the Long Beach Peninsula. Near the southern end of the Peninsula is Cape Disappointment State Park. Cape Dissapointment is surrounded by one great expanse of water, giving one the feeling that here lies the curve of the globe. As far as the eye can see, waves of water move, rippling as they travel closer to the shore in long strips of foam on the sandy beach. The views at Cape Disappointment are some of the most stunning ocean-front views the region has to offer.
Washington State Parks claims that the beach at Cape Disappointment offers 27 miles of ocean beach. In the town of Long Beach one of the entrances claims that the beach is the longest beach in the world. Whether it is or not, it certainly offers one of the longest continuous sandy beaches in North America. The Peninsula itself is bordered by Willapa Bay, the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean.
When touring the park, don’t miss the first turn to the North Head Lighthouse. You can’t miss the lighthouse from the shore. It’s bright white and covered with a red roof and from the lighthouse is one of the best views in the park. From the lighthouse parking lot, it’s only a .25 mile walk on a gravel trail. From the lighthouse, one really gets the lay of the land and the most sweeping views from atop the steep cliffs. The cost of touring the lighthouse is $1 and the park requires that visitors wear shoes that have complete heels. That is, no flip-flops are allowed. One of the most remarkable aspects of the North Head Lighthouse is that it’s the oldest lighthouse still in use on the West Coast.
The beach at the park is unlike many of the rockier beaches in Washington State. It’s light, almost white, soft and silty. Park officials warn against swimming in most of the water at the park as the undercurrent is too strong. The only place swimming is allowed, in fact, is Waikiki Beach.
Historylink.org writes that Cape Disappointment is the place where Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Volunteers for Northwestern Discovery ended their long journey to the sea. They carved their names and the date — November 18, 1805 — on a tree, pausing to watch the powerful surf breaking on the rocks below.
The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center is definitely worth a visit. Inside visitors will find the story of the Lewis and Clark journey. It’s open year-round from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily. Admission is $3 for adults and $1 for children aged 7 to 17.
The park gets its name from English explorer Captain John Meares. In 1788, Meares missed the passage over the river bar and named the area Cape Disappointment for not finding the Columbia River. Four years later, American explorer Captain Robert Gray did cross the river bar and named it after his ship, the Columbia Rediviva, and it is now called the Columbia River.
Nearby is the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge. The Nature Conservancy purchased 5,600 acres as a means of protecting the coastal watershed in southwest Washington. Some of the rarest and most biologically diverse forestlands can be found there.
If staying in the park, definitely check-out the Washington State Parks’ website. Reservations for campsites, reserving yurts, cabins, platform tents, or vacation houses can be done online. Perhaps the best feature of the site is that you can see when the campsite or yurt is available, though they tend to fill quickly be booked well in advance. Campsites that are available appear green and those that are reserved appear red. Camping is available year-round.