I visited Astoria a while ago and didn’t get around to writing about it. Since Peggy and I are now off playing on the Oregon coast, I decided today would be a good day for featuring this city that sits on the edge of the Colombia River.
The area off of Astoria, Oregon, where the Columbia River flows into the Pacific Ocean, is called the Graveyard of the Pacific. A combination of high seas with 40-foot waves, shallow, shifting sand bars, and the mighty Columbia River have sent some 2000 boats to their watery demise since 1792. It is considered one of the most dangerous navigation passages in the world.
It’s no wonder that you are greeted by a sign that proclaims Astoria is an Official Coast Guard City when you enter the community. The town is grateful that the organization is there when someone needs to be pulled out of the turbulent water. A dramatic, full-sized diorama of a Coast Guard rescue effort is featured at the Maritime Museum.
Astoria’s connection with the fledging United States dates all the way back to the Lewis and Clark expedition. The explorers sent out by Thomas Jefferson spent the 1805-6 winter in the area and built Fort Clatsop for shelter and protection. John Jacob Astor, who gave the city its name, followed up by building a fur trading post there in 1811 that became the first permanent settlement the US had on the west coast. Both the Lewis and Clark expedition and Astor’s post helped in the debate with England over who owned the land.
Logging and fishing followed fur trading as the mainstay of the area’s economy. By the mid-1800s, fisherman from around the world called Astoria home. Only 13 percent were born in the US. The majority came from the North Atlantic countries where over-fishing had caused the fishing industry to collapse, a fate that would eventually befall Astoria. A major canning industry that grew up to process the fish also faded when the fish ran out. The canning industry employees were mainly Chinese immigrants. An educational display in the Maritime Museum notes that the most efficient of the Chinese workers could clean a 45-pound salmon in 45 seconds and up to 1700 fish in a standard 11-hour work day.
With the boomtown days of fur hunting, logging, and fishing behind it, Astoria has turned to tourists to help support its economy. Nearby Portland (100 miles away) helps assure a continuing supply, as does the almost constant flow of tourist traffic up the Oregon coast in the summer. The museum, historic sites, fun shops, and several restaurants help meet the needs of visitors.
Wednesday’s Blog: You are going to meet the world-famous Traveling Bone.
On Friday we will return to Burning Man.
31 thoughts on “Astoria, Oregon… Where the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean Meet”
Thanks for the post. My principal memory of our brief visit to Astoria is of huge numbers of seals lying on the docks near our motel. Noone could get to their boat.
The sound of lots of seals barking at once is what always intrigues me, Ray. Have you been to the Seal Cave farther down the coast. –Curt
I enjoyed that shot of the bridge in distance. The bridge is one of those things you look at and shudder…. Did I really just come over that thing?
Especially if you have a fear of high places or tight spaces! 🙂 –Curt
Interesting how communities reinvent themselves. I would have dearly liked to be at the meeting when a bunch of fishermen decided to call their fishing business ‘Bumble Bee’, I wonder what names they rejected before they agreed on that one?
It’s healthy, the reinventing business, Andrew. I try to practice it myself. As for Bumble Bee, I hadn’t stopped to think about it, other than being amused. But you are right. How in the heck did they come up with that? Maybe they wanted their employees to be ‘busy as bees.’ 🙂 –Curt
The Bumble Bee part of bumble bee tuna comes from a fishing boat that the company owned in the early 1900’s.
It just goes to show how globailization was alive even in the 1800s with trade from Astoria around the world!
Good point! 🙂
It’s always good to see cities preserving their history rather than tearing the buildings down to erect the old ‘chrome-and-glass’ models.
Thankfully, it is happening more and more as communities learn that there is economic benefit to preserving their buildings as well as historical, G. –Curt
The maritime museum is interesting. I think I have a few pictures stashed away as well – maybe one of these days…
I spent a couple of hours in there, Dave. They really did a good job with it. Would be interesting to see what you chose to photograph. –Curt
Wow, interesting place. Love that photo with the rainbow.
That rainbow really cooperated. 🙂 It even stayed around for a while, Jamie. –Curt
A nice blessing!
Yes it was, Jamie. 🙂
Another place to add to my ever-growing list of must-see’s. Thanks, Curt. 😜 I almost joined the Coast Guard when I was 27 and would love to experience the simulated rescue. AND, I thought I’d work in a cannery one summer during college. Once I got to Alaska and talked to people who did, I quickly changed my mind. But there is something appealing about that facet of business. Astoria… who knew?
Our son Tony flies helicopters for the Coast Guard. He had hoped to go to Astoria after his last assignment of flying out of Kodiak but ended up teaching leadership at the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut instead. I lived in Alaska for three years, Juliann, but was never tempted to work in the fishing industry. 🙂 –Curt
I really enjoyed learning about Astoria. Thanks Curt for broadening my knowledge in a fun way.
Lol @ The bee has a fishing pole. 🙂
Glad you had fun with the blog, Timi. Strange bee. 🙂 –Curt
Two thousand wrecks! That’s impressive.
It’s a lot! The thought alone would make me nervous about crossing over the bar, Alison. –Curt
Did I really just come over that thing? I think I have a few pictures stashed away as well – maybe one of these days…
Ah, you have crossed the dangerous bar, Mary? Would be fun to see your photos. –Curt
The thing that got to me was all that algae or whatever on the pilings that the seagulls are sitting on. That wonderful Pacific Northwest climate seems to affect everything!
I love the crow’s nest. It reminded me that you had asked if I ever blogged about my Pacific sail to Alaska. I haven’t, for a variety of reasons. Laziness, mostly, since all of the photos are old-style, and would have to be digitized. But I might.
That green speaks to how much rain Astoria receives each year. I think that the rainforests are 50% moss.
I sometimes take a photo of my old photos when I need one to illustrate a point. It isn’t ideal but it works in a pinch. Other than that, I use my scanner to upload them to my computer. –Curt
How lucky for you to see that rainbow — clear and positioned just right for a picture. Can’t believe I didn’t see a glimpse of the Goonies house — we made a beeline to it, for old times’ sake!
Darn, I know. My son-in-law made me watch the movie when I returned from Astoria without any pictures of the Goonies house. –Curt
A lightship! Fascinating! I imagine I’ve passed it on the road several times and had no idea what I was looking at. I *must* step into that museum one day.
I’ll recommend that you read Astoria, by Peter Stark, in case I haven’t already. Great, great book about Astor’s overland & sea journeys to found the city of Astoria.
It’s docked right next to the museum, Crystal. I made a note about the book. –Curt