Wanderlust in LEWI

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park (LEWI) was established in 2004, preserving the rich cultural history of the native people of the North coast and the stories of exploration from Lewis and Clark. Along with this comes a vast variety of habitat types that are protected and restored throughout the park boundaries which expand over the coasts of Oregon and Washington State.

Visitors who come to the park are greeted with a multitude of educational opportunities ranging from the museum located within the visitor center, interactive and interpretative history lessons at the reconstructed Fort Clatsop that Lewis and Clark resided in during their journey, and multiple ethnobotanical gardens that teach of native plant species utilized for food, medicine, and trade among the native communities. The availability of various trails throughout the park evokes a desire for wanderlust and discovery, just as it did for the historical figures that the park is named after, surrounding visitors with a variety of beautiful flora and fauna.

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, Visitor Center, Photo by: Marisa Arneson

Ecosystems

While there is a plethora of rich and diverse ecosystems within the park, here are some of the main few that are enjoyed by staff and visitor’s. These are also some of the main sites of focus for continual active and passive restoration projects.

Old Growth Forests (Sitka Spruce & Western Hemlock)

A large majority of the park area was made up of old growth forests, with the historically dominate trees being Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) and Western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla). Towering trees and lush understory create a quiet temperate rainforest community, rich in species diversity between plants and wildlife.

These forests have been a main focus within the parks restorative goals due to logging leading to removal and disruption between 1850 – 1900. Prior to the establishment of the park some restorative efforts did take place, however replanting in the 1980’s shifted the forest structure to being Western hemlock and Douglas fir dominate. Promoting the return and longevity of the historical conditions and dominate tree species of these forests, similar to that of when Lewis and Clark arrived, is of high priority within the parks mission.

Wetlands (Freshwater & Estuarine)

Wetlands are an extremely important ecosystem types, providing a bounty of resources and a safe zone for many wildlife species, as well as housing specialized plant species. Freshwater and estuarine wetlands make up 50% of the park, strong tidal influence from the Pacific Ocean and a multitude of freshwater inputs (ex. mountain streams, rivers, ground water… etc.) enables these ecosystems to exist and thrive. Wetlands act as a buffer zone, helping to recycle nutrients and clean pollutants from the water that pulses through which then goes on to benefit the health and longevity of surrounding habitats.

Coastline & Dunes

Being located on the North coast the park, to no surprise, includes both rugged coastline and dune complexes. Sunset beach, as well as a portion of Cape disappointment, are units within the park and offer beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean, Northern coastline, and trails that wind through dunes, shore pine trees, and even connects back to Fort Clatsop at the main visitor’s center (A 7 mile out and back hike!).

Coastal Prairies

The remainders of coastal prairie habitat lie within park boundaries. While many of them have suffered from overtaking of native plant species by nonnative invasives, as well as overgrazing, restoration is active and remains important. These ecosystems also house important plant-wildlife relationships and the potential to restore some that have been harmed due to the shrinking of these habitats. The Oregon silverspot butterfly and early blue violet, which is the sole plants these rare invertebrates lay eggs and survive on within the early stages of life, is a prominent example that fuels restoration efforts.

Adventure, Education, and Restoration

These are the words that flood my mind when I think of what this beautiful park has to offer to all those who come to visit, as well as what fuels the parks mission and passions of its staff.

LEWI possesses a contagious energy for wandering trails and expanding one’s knowledge on the history that led us here, and encouraging a strong respect for the historical conditions of the land and the native peoples that nurtured it and continue to thrive from the fertilities of the soil, forest, and waters today.

I am so excited to experience the wonders this quaint national park has to offer and encourage others to add this park to their lists of must visits!



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