The Port of Ilwaco is a small town at the mouth of the Columbia River. It boasts a marina and some of the best sturgeon and salmon fishing on the West Coast. In addition to a vibrant art community, the Port of Ilwaco is proud to be home to two lighthouses, the Discovery Trail's southern terminus, and the Lewis & Clark National & State Historical Park. There is a work by the artist/architect (Maya Lin) who designed the Vietnam Wall in Washington DC. This Port of Ilwaco park also has many trails designed for all levels of hikers. Downtown Port of Ilwaco is home to many art galleries, antique shops, and restaurants.
The Port of Ilwaco has many events and festivals throughout the year. Local art galleries sponsor art walks. Residents and visitors enjoy the annual cranberry festival, fishing derbies, Tall Ships, a Lewis & Clark Speaker Series, Clamshell Railroad Days, and the popular Crab Pot Christmas Tree celebration. There is also a Saturday fresh-air Famers Market in the Port of Ilwaco during the summer.
The Port of Ilwaco has a cool-summer Mediterranean climate characterized by warm dry summers and mild winters. Temperatures in the Port of Ilwaco range from an average high of 14°C (58°F) in July and August to an average low of 5°C (42°F) in December and January. Precipitation varies greatly between winter (peaking at 31.7 centimeters or 12.5 inches from in late November and December) and summer (lowest in July and August at 3.8 centimeters or about 1.5 inches). Humidity levels remain fairly constant throughout the year, rising just above 90% from July through October. The Port of Ilwaco gets a little snow each year from mid-November through mid-April, peaking in January at five centimeters (just over two inches).
The Port of Ilwaco is home to the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum with four permanent galleries in the main building and in the old freight depot of the Ilwaco Railway and Navigation Company. The exhibits cover the history of the Columbia Pacific region where the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean meet. This rich history includes the indigenous Chinook, explorers from Europe, 19th-Century pioneers, and today's local population of cranberry growers, fishers, loggers, and summer residents. This Port of Ilwaco museum is open from Tuesday through Saturday from 10am until 4pm and on Sunday from noon to 4pm. Admission is free on Thursdays, thanks to the Port of Ilwaco. Other days, admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, and $2.50 for kids aged 12 to 18. Children under 12 years old are admitted free.
The Port of Ilwaco is base for some of the best fishing on the West Coast and home for charter and sport fishing adventures. Catches include salmon, halibut, sturgeon, sea bass, and ling cod. Fresh water fishing is also popular on nearby Black Lake. Several charter services operate from the Port of Ilwaco including Beacon Charters, Coho Charters, Pacific Salmon Charters, and Seabreeze Charters.
Visitors to the Port of Ilwaco will not want to miss seeing Cape Disappointment State Park, a 760-hectare camping park on the Pacific Ocean. The park offers 3.2 kilometers (two miles) of beach, two lighthouses, hiking trails, and the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center. Visitors can enjoy fantastic ocean views from atop steep cliffs, explore wind-blown forests, or beachcomb. Tours are available for the historic coastal Fort Canby or the two lighthouses. The park is open for camping and day use from 6:30am until dusk all year.
Yurts for campers are located within walking distance of the beach at the Cape Disappointment State Park. Each yurt has large bunk beds, a full-size futon, a heater, floor lamp, and end table. Visitors should bring their own blankets. A picnic table and fire pit are located outside the yurt, and there is an accessible deck. There is also an RV pad with hook-ups for an additional fee. This Port of Ilwaco park also has cabins in the alder forest surrounding Lake O'Neil. Furnished the same as the yurts, bathrooms and showers are located near the cabins. Pets are allowed in some of the cabins for an additional fee. Yurts and cabins have capacity for six people. Yurts are available from mid-May through mid-September, and cabins are available from mid-September through mid-May.
Just south of Cape Disappointment State Park is the Lewis & Clark National Historical Park. On this ground, Captain William Clark wrote "Ocian in view! O! the joy" in 1805. But Clark was standing at the Columbia River estuary, not the Pacific Ocean. It was here that their 6437-kilometer (4000-mile) journey across the continent ended. The Discovery Corps that supported the explorers included 31 men, mostly from the US Army. In the winter, the men built a fort (Fort Clatsop) to provide shelter for the coming three months.
Begun as the Fort Clatsop National Memorial, the Lewis & Clark National Historical Park was formed in 2004 to include several sites that include Clark's Dismal Nitch (where the party sheltered through a terrible six-day winter storm), a replica of Fort Clatsop, the 10-kilometer (6.5-mile) Fort to Sea Trail from the Visitors Center to Fort Clatsop, a memorial to Thomas Jefferson (who funded and supported the journey), Netul Landing (where kayaks and canoes can launch), the Salt Works where the men made salt by boiling sea water), and the Station Camp (a village and trading area for the indigenous Chinook), and many other places of interest. The sites in this Port of Ilwaco park are open throughout the year with summer hours from 9am until 6pm and closing in the winter at 5pm.