McGOWAN, WA-A bill introduced in the U.S. Senate this week directs the National Park Service to study creating an interpretive site or park at Station Camp, a tiny spot on the north shore of the Columbia River where Lewis and Clark are believed to have first glimpsed the Pacific Ocean.

The primary focus of the bill is to allow Fort Clatsop National Memorial, across the Astoria Bridge in Warrenton, Ore., to expand to 1,500 acres from its current size of 130 acres. The park service is reportedly considering acquisition of the Station Camp land as part of that expansion.

The impetus for the bill sponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Gordon Smith, R-Ore., is to expand the national memorial by 2003, when one of the most important events of the American West – the bicentennial of the Corps of Discovery – gets underway. Park service officials have been working on a deal with Willamette Industries and other Fort Clatsop landowners to acquire more property once the bill is passed.

Fort Clatsop, a national memorial near the site where the explorers spent the winter of 1805-06, is already considered a major draw in the upcoming bicentennial commemorations. Washington historians say Station Camp in McGowan, Wash., is in fact the end of the trail, as it was the first resting point for the Corps of Discovery, which was charged by President Thomas Jefferson with charting the West to the Pacific Ocean.

Earlier this year, the National Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Council designated the entire lower Columbia River region, including sites on both sides of the river, as a “signature site” for the bicentennial commemoration.

The proposed Station Camp site is between four and seven acres near west end of the Astoria Bridge. In June 1999, officials from the Washington State Historical Society surveyed the area based on William Clark’s detailed maps from 1805 and placed the actual location of Station Camp in a spot now under water, east of the existing wayside memorial.

A very preliminary plan to help draw tourists during the 200th anniversary events includes the creation of a long trail and park from Long Beach, Wash., to Knappton, Wash. It’s creation, as currently envisioned, would require relocating U.S. Highway 101 between the Astoria Bridge and the Chinook tunnel.

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