The National Park Service is celebrating its centennial this year and is encouraging everyone to visit their local park and appreciate their importance in our society. We are fortunate to have one of those national treasures right here in Clark County – the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.
Much has been written about the Park and its significance as the original 1824 site of the Hudson Bay Trading Company, the first major settlement in the Northwest. While the Fort is easily accessible by driving East from the I-5 freeway to the Visitor Center, a more interesting approach is walking over the Columbia River Land Bridge.
Designed by famed architect Maya Lin, the Land Bridge reconnects the Columbia River with Fort Vancouver via a footpath from the South over State Highway 14. It is a relatively easy walk, and a meaningful historical experience for all ages. A brief walk from the Columbia River Renaissance Waterfront Trail, past the Old Apple Tree Park takes you to the South Portal to the bridge. Passing under the crossed oars, a slight incline takes you along Native petroglyphs, basket weavings, and indigenous plants. The path levels out at the first of two lookout points that offer sweeping views of the Columbia River and the flat plain where the original Fort was built. For a virtual walk of the bridge, view the overlooks at River or Land, then continue along the path in either direction. (Click carefully on the walkway, or you’ll end up on Highway 14!)
The Bridge is a great family outing, and a way for all of us to learn about the connection between the original Native population and the settlement of the region. A Language Walk, featuring words in several Native languages, describes the land, people and river. An historical timeline with photo murals shows how the landscape and region has changed over time. This visual journey serves as a wonderful introduction to the Fort and its historical connection to our region.