U.S. Senate to Honor Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Celebrations in Washington State

Senate expected to pass Cantwell legislation tonight honoring historic journey’s end

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) was joined by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) Monday in introducing a resolution commemorating the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark’s epic journey across North America to the Pacific Ocean. The legislation is expected to pass the Senate tonight by unanimous consent.

"This journey was America’s great odyssey," said Cantwell. "It marked our nation’s coming of age and represents its core values: courage, innovation, perseverance, and opportunity."

Last year, in anticipation of the bicentennial, Cantwell joined U.S. Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) to create Lewis and Clark National Historic Park along the Columbia River in Washington and Oregon. The park encompasses Fort Clatsop, former state parks, and three additional Washington state sites significant to Lewis and Clark’s original expedition.

Saturday, November 19, 2005 marks the bicentennial of the expedition’s first sighting of the Pacific Ocean, and an important milestone in the history of the Pacific Northwest. After reaching the Pacific, the 33 member party spent 106 days among lush old-growth forest, wetlands, and wildlife around Fort Clatsop preparing for their long journey back to St. Louis, Missouri.

[The text of Senator Cantwell’s statement follows below]

"Mr. President, I rise today to introduce a Senate resolution commemorating the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark’s remarkable arrival on the Pacific Coast. I am pleased that Senators Murray and Wyden are original cosponsors of the resolution.

"Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s epic journey explored and charted the western frontier of our fledgling nation. This journey was America’s great odyssey. It marked our nation’s coming of age and represents its core values: courage, innovation, perseverance, and opportunity. And two centuries ago, they reached their destination.

"On Nov. 7 1805 William Clark wrote in this in his journal: ‘Great joy in camp, we are in View of the Ocean, this great Pacific Ocean which we been so long anxious to See and the roaring or noise made by the waves breaking on the rocky Shores may be heard distinctly.’

"It’s no wonder he was so excited. Their expedition began a year and half earlier and 4000 meandering miles east. President Thomas Jefferson had charged them with finding the most direct, practical water route across the continent.

"When Clark wrote that they had seen the Pacific on that day, 200 years ago, he was slightly off target. They were actually 25 miles away, in the Columbia’s widening estuary. Dangerous storms, wind, rain, and waves battered them without relent. They were trapped for 6 days and forced to hunker down at the spot we now call Clark’s Dismal Nitch. When the weather finally cleared, they moved west to Station Camp. They set down for ten days and got their first real glimpse of the Pacific. Expedition-member Sgt. Patrick Gass wrote: ‘We could see the waves, like small mountains, rolling out in the ocean.’

"Station Camp also marks the spot where Lewis and Clark held a historic democratic vote among all of the group’s members—including Sacagawea and the African American slave, York—to determine where the Expedition should stay for the winter.

"On November 19, William Clark took 11 expedition members from Station Camp on an excursion beyond camp, and for the first time saw a full view of the Pacific Ocean. That land, now called Cape Disappointment, marks the westernmost point of their journey. Its name belies the great hope and joy that moment inspired in our travel-worn heroes. Today, in Washington state, you can visit these historic locations and find that hope again. Dismal Nitch, Station Camp, Cape Disappointment: In addition to Oregon’s Fort Clatsop and other nearby state parks, they comprise America’s newest national park.

"I introduced legislation with Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) to create the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park: to preserve those beautiful and precious lands, to build local tourism, and to educate future generations. Last November, President Bush signed it into law. This November, we celebrate an incredible bicentennial.

"Lewis and Clark produced the first maps and charts of a previously undocumented region. They created an invaluable record of the native cultures, the flora, and the fauna they encountered on their journey. Prior to the expedition, the United States’ claim to the Pacific Northwest, was tenuous at best, based on American sea captain Robert Gray’s discovery of the Columbia River in 1792. And so: Lewis and Clark’s expedition, more than a decade later, was crucial to securing the claim. It was crucial to the eventual creation of all the states in the Pacific Northwest.

"More fundamentally though: their task was to explore the unknown. In doing so, they expanded the boundaries of our nation and pushed the limits of what we were capable, as a people. It was not easy for them; it rarely is. But many have come after Lewis and Clark. Inspired by their spirit, we have transformed our great nation many times over in those 200 years. We would be wise to turn to Lewis and Clark again, as we confront so many critical challenges before us today. Only by truly reaching beyond our grasp, can we make our nation great, as Thomas Jefferson said: "from Sea to Shining Sea."

"Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor."