Scenic USA - Washington

Beacon Rock

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Beacon Rock - Columbia River Gorge, Washington

Photo by Ben Prepelka
Scenic USA Artist Website

     Quoted as the second largest land deal in history, a freshly formed United States nearly doubled its territory in 1803. For about 15 million dollars, President Thomas Jefferson acquired the Louisiana Territory, a section of North America that totaled 800,000 square miles. Much of the history after this purchase centers on the Voyage of Discovery and Lewis and Clark’s two and a half year journey through the new territory. Jefferson’s appointees to head this expedition, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, spent the first year studying up on a variety of sciences, selecting a crew, gathering supplies and building a vessel to transport 10 tons of supplies up the Missouri River.
     Today in a plane, one can retrace this journey in a matter of hours. An overland route in a car may take about a week. In this modern age of travel we have little understanding of Lewis and Clark’s hardships during their incredible 3700 mile journey. What we do have as a reminder of the expedition is a legacy of places named by Lewis and Clark. While it's easy to see some of the names are of the politicians back home and Discovery Corps members, it appears that other names followed the mood of the day; i.e. Hungry Creek and Marias River (the girl back home). Seeing an inspirational landmark in the distance (considered by some as the second largest monolith in the world), Clark dubbed the 848 foot volcanic plug Beacon Rock. From here tide fluctuations indicated their westward journey was nearly complete. The Pacific Ocean, their ultimate goal taking over 18 months to achieve, was now within reach.
     Today Beacon Rock is the centerpiece for Beacon Rock State Park. Featuring 9500 feet of Columbia River frontage and year long camping, climbing Beacon Rock is still the first thing on visitor’s minds. Dating back to 1918, a trail to the top (created by land owner Henry Biddle) climbs a 15 percent grade and includes plenty of switchback stairs. Once on top, panoramic views of the Columbia River Gorge extend from Bonneville Dam to Cape Horn.

      Area Map


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