Where the Columbia River Meets the Pacific Ocean ~ Astoria, OR

Vessel awaiting entry

Back from our family trip to Ohio, trying once again to recover from the 3-hour time difference.  We are staying at another of the many great parks in Oregon, Fort Stevens State Park, which sits out on a tiny finger of land at the mouth of the Columbia River (more about the fort in an upcoming post). When we arrived at this largest of state campgrounds (over 500 sites) it was crawling with families who were most likely squeezing in one last summer vacation before children head back to school. Today, as I sit here looking out our window, it is deliciously quiet and the fog is lazily swirling around the fir trees – quite cozy.

rv travels
Terry, wandering the streets of Astoria

We are just outside of Astoria, a city founded in 1811, rich in maritime history. Sitting near the mouth of the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean, unique shops and interesting little cafes line her streets, but our focus was on perusing  the Columbia River Maritime Museum, a must-do by RV “bloggess extraordinaire” Nina of Wheeling It . 🙂  She has never led us astray with her suggestions and this time was no exception (thank you Nina).  If you are in the area, do check this out and take time to watch their 15-minute movie “Crossing the Bar: Perilous Passage”.

The Columbia River Bar, where the river’s currents collide with the swells of the Pacific Ocean, make for one of the most dangerous bar crossings in the world.  The underwater ocean currents can build sandbars 5 to 10 feet high and swells in the winter can climb as high as 40 feet.  This stretch of water has been labeled the “Graveyard of the Pacific”, having claimed over 2000 vessels and 700 lives.  It can appear serenely majestic and in the blink of an eye can move to wild and turbulent.  Because of this treacherous passage, the need for an elite force of professional mariners to guide vessels was realized – enter the Columbia Bar Pilot.  It is now a requirement to employ a Columbia River Bar Pilot to guide your vessel through this 17-mile danger zone.  The most dangerous part of their job, we have learned, is the boarding of and departure from the vessels, often done by helicopter or special pilot boats.  You can watch a video of their daily challenges here.

Astoria-Megler Bridge, compliments of Wikipedia

A unique truss bridge spans the Columbia River between Astoria, Oregon and Point Ellice near Megler, Washington, aptly named the Astoria-Megler Bridge.  Her length of 4.1 miles is mighty impressive and she is built to withstand wind gusts of 150 mph, which should tell you a little about the weather patterns here.

Another lofty landmark that begs to be seen, well, actually, it doesn’t have to as it is the highest point in Astoria, is the Astoria Column.  Built in 1926 and sitting 600 feet above sea level on Coxcomb Hill, this 125 foot beacon provides views of the Columbia River, Pacific Ocean, Cascade Range and Saddle Mountain, which we hiked the other day.  You can capture all these views just standing at her base but to really soak it up, be brave and get movin’ up that spiral staircase (all 164 steps) to the observation deck – wow!

Astoria Column in all her glory!

The interesting detailing on the outside of the column rivals the views from the top, depicting key events that shaped the history of this area; i.e. fur trading, Chinook and Clatsop Indians, Lewis and Clark Expedition, to name a few.  The State Seal of Oregon prominently crowns the top.  Side note for you history buffs:  one of Terry’s must-reads on Lewis and Clark’s expedition is Undaunted Courageby Stephen Ambrose.

We have read there are three brewpubs in town, Rogue Ales Public House, Fort George Brewery and Public House, and The Wet Dog Cafe, which we passed on our walk along the riverfront.  Don’t know if we will get to any of these (believe I have just heard a collective gasp from our RV friends John and Janie of Flamingo on a Stick! :)) but these sound very enticing.

Sampling the local fare is a must when you are in a new city, isn’t it, even if it means veering from the healthy food groups once in a while (see how easy it was for me to justify this).  The Bowpicker, an old fishing vessel, has been serving up fish and chips, fresh tuna style, for the past 12 years.  Some of the locals say this is the best seafood in town.  A little sampling didn’t hurt but is not something I would recommend on a regular basis, and yes, it was worth breaking the diet.

Bowpicker ~ a local delight

Of course, a trip to a new destination for us would not be complete without a visit to a farmers’ market and Sunday is the day.   The Astoria Sunday Market looks like a happenin’ place so that’s where you will find us this weekend, in the city where the Columbia River meets the Pacific.

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21 thoughts on “Where the Columbia River Meets the Pacific Ocean ~ Astoria, OR

  • Ah, you must have flown to Ohio. Glad to see you’re back to exploring. I’ve been reading and hearing so much about Oregon, we’ve put that state higher on our must see list. Any sign of fall yet?

    • Yes, we did fly to Ohio, leaving our rig in Portland, at a park near the airport, recommended to us by friends. We are just starting to see the maples turning and it feels like Indian summer here. How about in your neck of the woods?

      • Not near our home yet. Hope to get back over to Crested Butte for fall colors. Rig getting some repair so we’ll see if schedule will allow.

  • We loved visiting Astoria. There is so much in that town to do and see. The Victorian homes are a beautiful sight.
    The Silver Salmon Grille is where we had the best chowder EVER! Glad you had a wonderful visit.

  • LuAnn & Terry,
    Glad to see you’re back on the road. Hope your trip back East was enjoyable & rewarding. Gayl and I are taking our maiden voyage down to the Julian area today with our new trailer. Preparation for our later trip up the coast and on to Portland. We really have enjoyed your blog and the info about your trip up the coast. Makes us anxious to get started ourselves. Continue to enjoy your trip and hopefully we will meet up somewhere along the line this next year. Rog & Gayl

    • Enjoy your trip to Julian in your new trailer. We have had a great summer; northern CA and OR are just breathtaking. We would love to see the two of you again. Take care and safe travels. 🙂

  • Hi LuAnn excellent tour, Nitzus was right on about “The Goonies” the inside story was hilarious, Big Production Team whoops into town and pays each of the stores and homes they use for filming a whole bunch of money to borrow their dwellings, the locals loved it and made money too! I’m glad you guys are enjoying Astoria, it’s a wonderful town! Penny, 🙂

    • I can’t believe I had forgotten all about “The Goonies”. I’m sure it was a pretty exciting time around here back then. We went to the Astoria Sunday Market yesterday. What a big event that is! 🙂

  • My understanding of the geography of the United states has vastly improved since i stated following your blog! Thank you for the tour through Astoria LuAnn 🙂

  • I thought about going treasure hunting in that area because of watching the Goonies and then smoking pot at that age was the incentive I needed to get all my gear in the car and go…but along the way I got arrested for no license. Good times, good times.

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