Lower Chinook and Clatsop
Traditional Culture
  Since Time Immemorial
Who's Who
Village Life
Inter-Village Relations
Seasonal Round
"Celiast" and "Ilchee"
Intertribal Trade Network
Canoe People
References Cited

  Contemporary Culture
Environmental History
Cultural History
Recommended Websites

  Relationship with U.S.
  Early Coastal Exploration
Strangers Arrive
Maritime Fur Trade
Fort Clatsop Winter
Overland Fur Trade
Disease and Burial Customs
Fisheries, Missions, and Settlements
Shrinking Land Base
Making Treaties
Recognition and U.S. Relations
References Cited



1775 Russian discoveries from the map published by the Imperial Academy of St. Petersburg.
Library of Congress Geography and Map Division

1792 - Spaniard Juan de la Bodega y Cuadra map of the north coast of America.
Library of Congress Geography and Map Division

George Vancouver’s 1798 map:
“ A chart shewing part of the coast of N.W. America with the tracks of His Majesty's sloop Discovery and armed tender Chatham" (Early Washington Maps website)
Columbia River Chronology – historical dates in 18th century, from Pacific County Historical Society in South Bend, WA.


Navigation tools


Table of recorded European and US Ships on the Northwest Coast prior to 1795.


Visit coast exploration page, from the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.

Fort Clatsop > Culture > Early Coastal Exploration
Engraving, ca.1853, mouth of the Columbia River.
America's Coastline Collection #line2075. -- NOAA Photo Archvies Website, 2002
Early Explorers and Traders

This section refers the viewer to selected online resources on the topic of Northwest coast exploration, prior to Lewis and Clark’s arrival at the mouth of the Columbia River by land.

Early Exploration

Russian explorers in the Pacific Northwest during the 18th century.

“Vitus Bering, a Danish explorer, was in the service of Russia when he discovered the Bering Strait and Sea in 1728. In 1741 he discovered Alaska and traded with the First Nations peoples, collecting large numbers of sea otter pelts which could be sold for very high prices in China" (MMBC online exhibit).

José Cardero drawing of Sutil and Mexicana,
Spanish ships under Galiano and Valdes in 1792.

Courtesy Maritime Museum of British Columbia.
Spanish exploration of the Northwest Coast of North America prior to 1800.


Visit John Robsons excellent resource for more information about these two British explorers.

James Cook

George Vancouver

Vancouver’s ship, Discovery.
Courtesy Maritime Museum of British Columbia.

Sea Otter Pelts and the Fur Trade

Sea otter fur traders
Extensive resource documenting primarily the commercial British and American ships on the Northwest Coast of America to exploit the lucrative sea otter market in the 1780’s.

Sea otters
© 2000 North Pacific Excursions
Beaver felt hats
(Click for More)

French explorers 1786 - 1791

American Fur Traders, 1787 - 1794

The Portugese ship, Sao Jao y Fenix, captained by Andrade, explored the Northwest coast in 1792.

Chinese trade beads and coins are important in northwest traffic, and their market for sea otter pelts was lucrative. British Captain “Meares was responsible for importing many Chinese labourers which he used in the construction of dwellings and in the construction of the Northwest America. When his ships were seized by the Spaniards he had no means of returning the workmen. Whether he actually intended to do so is still debated" (MMBC online exhibit). No known Chinese vessels visited the coast.

Special thanks to the following resources for use on this page:

The Maritime Museum of British Columbia’s Virtual Maritime Museum

John Robson’s online resource: Exploration of the Northwest Coast of North America

O. N. Eddins website includes articles and photographs of items from the fur trade era.

Background: from painting by George Lagergren, used with permission