…I observed on the Chanel which passes on the Stard Side of this Island a Short distance above its lower point is Situated a large village, the front of which occupies nearly ¼ of a mile fronting the Chanel, and closely Connected, I counted 14 houses in front here the river widens to about 1 ½ miles…” (Clark, November 5, 1805).

This passage was taken from the Lewis and Clark Expedition Journal. William Clark is describing their first pass by the Cathlapotle Village on November 5, 1805. The expedition later returns to the area and meets members of the Cathlapotle Village on March 29, 1806.

Cathlapotle was one of the largest Chinookan villages encountered by Lewis and Clark, but today it is one of the few archaeological sites on the Lower Columbia River that has withstood the ravages of flooding, looting, and development. A decade of archaeological research — the result of a partnership between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Chinook Tribe, and Portland State University — has produced a wealth of information about the Chinookan people who lived on the river long before Lewis and Clark first observed Cathlapotle in 1805 (See the Timeline and the Additional Information resource page for research on the site ).

This replica plankhouse was built based on findings from the archaeological site as well as additional sources of information. Built by more than 100 volunteers over the course of two years, the 37′ x 78′ cedar plankhouse is constructed largely from timber donated by local landowners and national forests. Grant funding, private donations and diverse community partnerships have built a feature for the past on the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. This full-scale Chinookan-style cedar plankhouse on the Refuge serves as an outdoor classroom for interpreting the rich natural and cultural heritage preserved on Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.

See Support & Sponsors for a list of the organizations that contributed to the building of the Plankhouse and the continued support of our grant funded education programs.