Published on Feb 11, 2011
Cape Disappointment State Park (formerly Fort Canby State Park) is a 1,882-acre camping park on the Long Beach Peninsula, fronted by the Pacific Ocean. The park offers two miles of ocean beach, two lighthouses, an interpretive center and hiking trails. Visitors enjoy beachcombing and exploring the area's rich natural and cultural history. The nearby coastal towns of Ilwaco and Long Beach feature special events and festivals spring through fall. The park store offers gifts, ice, wood, fishing gear and other camper essentials.
Cape Disappointment has 137 standard campsites, 60 full hookup sites, 18 sites with water and electricity only, five primitive campsites, fourteen yurts, three cabins, one dump station, eight restrooms (two ADA) and 14 showers (four ADA). Maximum site length is 45 feet (may have limited availability). Camping is available year-round. Year-round reservations are available by visiting online or calling (888) CAMPOUT or (888) 226-7688.
Located two miles southwest of Ilwaco, Wash. in Pacific County.
Take I-5 south to Olympia, SR 8 west to Montesano. From there, take U.S. Hwy. 101 south to Long Beach Peninsula.
Take I-5 north to Longview, then SR 4 west to U.S. Hwy. 101. Then drive south to Long Beach Peninsula. Follow signs to Ilwaco and the park.
The park offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, Columbia River, North Head Lighthouse and Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. The park has old-growth forest, lakes, freshwater and saltwater marshes, as well as streams and tidelands along the ocean. Three vacation rentals are available.
In 1788, while in search of the Columbia River, English Captain John Meares missed the passage over the river bar and named the nearby headland Cape Disappointment for his failure in finding the river. In 1792, American Captain Robert Gray successfully crossed the river bar and named the river "Columbia" after his ship, the Columbia Rediviva. Only a few years later, in 1805, the Lewis and Clark Expedition arrived at Cape Disappointment.
The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse was constructed in 1856 to warn seamen of the treacherous river bar known by then as "the graveyard of the Pacific." This is the oldest functioning lighthouse on the West Coast.
In 1862, Cape Disappointment was armed with smoothbore cannons to protect the mouth of the Columbia River from enemies. The installation was expanded to become Fort Canby in 1875. The fort was named after General Edward Canby, who was killed in the Modoc Indian War. The fort continued to be improved until the end of World War II. Gun batteries still sit uptop the park.
Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center (LCIC), perched on a 200-foot-high cliff, tells the story of Lewis and Clark and their journey from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean.
LCIC hours: Open year-round from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
LCIC admission: $5 per adult, $2.50 children ages 7 to 17, free ages 6 and younger.
North Head Lighthouse is also open to visitors (tours cost $2.50 per adult, free ages 7 to 17). No children under the age of seven. Appropriate footwear is required; no flip flops or shoes without heel straps. We do not accept any Federal or State passes. Call the center at (360) 642-3029 for hours and tour information.
Other interpretive opportunities, such as the Fort Columbia Interpretive Center and the Fort Columbia Commanding Officer's House Museum, also are in the vicinity.
For additional information on Cape Disappointment State Park or any other Washington State Park, please visit online at parks.wa.gov or call the Washington State Parks Information Center at (360) 902-8844.