Dismal Nitch

[Silverback Mike and Silverbelle Cyndy are on the road. They contacted Silverbelle Digest to suggest that we do a post on their current location at the Dismal Nitch. Here it is, cribbed from the National Park Service website. Anyone out in The Jungle care to take on The Great Dismal Swamp in Virginia? SB SM]

This is an artist’s depiction of the horrible conditions the Corps of Discovery endured at the Dismal Nitch while trapped along the rocky shoreline for six days by a strong, unrelenting winter storm. Drawing by Roger Cooke, Courtesy of the Washington State Historical Society.
This is an artist’s depiction of the horrible conditions the Corps of Discovery endured at the Dismal Nitch while trapped along the rocky shoreline for six days by a strong, unrelenting winter storm. Drawing by Roger Cooke, Courtesy of the Washington State Historical Society.

“Imagine this. It’s early 1805, the fresh food had run out. The clothes were literally rotting off the backs of the members of the Corps of Discovery. They were traveling as fast as they could down the Columbia River, though, to meet one of the last trading ships of the season. If they made it, they’d send a set of journals and some collections home as requested by President Jefferson. But foremost was the chance to use an unlimited letter of credit from the president, a chance to “charge” all the goods the tired explorers needed, plus perhaps get a little rum, from the trade ship.

“What the Corps didn’t realize, however, was that it was about to run into some of the journey’s most treacherous moments. A fierce winter storm forced the Corps off the river Nov. 10 and pinned the group to a north shore cove consisting of little more than jagged rocks and steep hillside. Captain William Clark named the dreary spot “that dismal little nitch.” For six stormy days, the group was trapped by fierce wind and high waves at the rocky shoreline. For only the second time in the expedition, Clark said he was concerned for the safety of the Corps. “A feeling person would be distressed by our situation,” he wrote in wet misery, as the expedition became in danger of foundering just within a few miles of its destination — The Pacific Ocean. Finally, the storm broke and allowed the group to move on. It missed the trading ship, but eventually achieved its exploration goals.”

History of “Dismal Nitch”

This is a photograph of Clark’s Dismal Nitch at present-day. The shoreline has changed over time from human influence as well as natural influences as can be seen most evidently by the highway and rip-rap along the shoreline. Courtesy of Cliff Vancura of Otak, Inc.
This is a photograph of Clark’s Dismal Nitch at present-day. The shoreline has changed over time from human influence as well as natural influences as can be seen most evidently by the highway and rip-rap along the shoreline.

Courtesy of Cliff Vancura of Otak, Inc.

The Dismal Nitch area is located within the traditional territory of the lower Chinookan people. Through common usage, the term Chinook has come to refer to all speakers of the Chinook language family who inhabited the territory from the mouth of the Columbia River upstream to The Dalles and along the lower Willamette River to present-day Oregon City.

Of the many Chinook villages along the north shore of the Columbia River, two known summer villages were located in the vicinity of the Dismal Nitch. Approximately 1.25 miles southwest of the Dismal Nitch was Qaiitsiuk, later called Chinookville or Chenook, just west of present-day Point Ellice. The Lower Chinook were known for their canoe-building prowess, and their vessels helped them establish their reputation as traders well before Europeans set eyes on the region.

The Lower Chinook were first described in writing by Captain Robert Gray, who sailed into the mouth of the Columbia River in 1792, and by Captain George Vancouver, who also sailed into the area that year. By the time Lewis and Clark descended the river in the fall of 1805, the presence of Europeans on the lower Columbia River was not uncommon.

Today, the Chinook Indian Nation is made up of five separate tribes, including the Chinook, the Willapa, the Clatsop, The Kathlamets, and the Wahkiakum. All five tribes are Chinookan speakers.

The Dismal Nitch is part of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park in Astoria, Oregon. It’s a great place to explore the natural world.

Comments are closed.

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: