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The Olympic Peninsula and Washington Coast Sights

Cape Disappointment State Park

  • Park (National/State/Provincial)
  • Fodor's Choice

Updated 10/17/2014

Fodor's Review

The cape, named in 1788 by Captain John Meares, an English fur trader who had been unable to find the Northwest Passage, and treacherous sandbar—the so-called graveyard of the Pacific—has been the scourge of sailors since the 1800s. More than 250 ships have sunk after running aground on its ever-shifting sands. The 1,882-acre park (formerly Ft. Canby) was an active military installation until 1957. Emplacements for the guns that once guarded the Columbia's mouth remain,

some of them hidden by dense vegetation. Trails lead to stunning beaches and eagles can sometimes be seen on the cliffs. All of the park's 240 campsites have stoves and tables; some have water, sewer, and electric hookups. The park also has three lightkeepers' residences (houses) available for rent, as well as 14 yurts and three cabins. Exhibits at the park's Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center tell the tale of the duo's 8,000-mile round-trip expedition. Displays include artwork, journal entries, and other items that elaborate on the Corps of Discovery, which left Wood River, Illinois, in 1804, arrived at Cape Disappointment in 1805, and got back to Illinois in 1806. A ½-mile-long path from the center leads to the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. Built in 1856, it's the oldest lighthouse on the West Coast that's still in use.

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Sight Information


Robert Gray Dr., 2½ miles southwest of Ilwaco off U.S. 101, Ilwaco, Washington, 98624, United States


360-642–3029; 360-642–3078


Sight Details:

  • Day pass $10 per vehicle; annual Discovery Pass $30 (valid at all state parks); Interpretive center $5, campsites $21–$28
  • Daily dawn–dusk; Interpretive center: daily 10–5

Updated 10/17/2014


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