Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria

Saturday, September 5th ~ Astoria, Oregon to Seattle, Washington

We woke up to a light rain this morning that continued on and off throughout the day. It was refreshing and a welcome sight after enduring such a drastic drought up and down the west coast.

Just a short drive from our hotel in Astoria we spotted the Columbia River Maritime Museum. It had great reviews on Trip Advisor and our hotel also recommended it so after breakfast, off we went.

Columbia River Maritime Museum

Columbia River Maritime Museum

Fort Astoria was originally established as part of the lucrative fur trade industry in 1811 by John Jacob Astor, becoming the first permanent U.S. settlement on the Pacific coast. 

But as the sea otter became scarce, the area shifted over to the salmon industry. There were 38 canneries on the lower Columbia at the height of the salmon canning boom.

We learned just how treacherous the Columbia River Bar is. Since 1792, over 2000 vessels, including 200 large ships, have been sunk at the entrance to the Columbia River. More than 700 people have lost their lives, earning this area the name “Graveyard of the Pacific”.

Map showing some of the lost ships

Map showing some of the lost ships in the “Graveyard of the Pacific”

So why is this particular bar so dangerous?  

“The Columbia is especially swift moving, flowing with the force of a fire hose. When it collides with the immense power of the Pacific Ocean, the two forces slam into each other at the entrance to the river creating the worst wave conditions on the planet.

Winter storms at the Columbia River Bar can create giant breaking waves, some over 40 feet tall. Even today’s largest cargo ships can be tossed around like bath toys in these fierce conditions.” ~ from wall posting at the museum

In 1977, the National Transportation Safety Board declared the Columbia River Bar to be a “specially hazardous area”. It is the only place so named of the entire 88,533 miles of the US Coastline!

Today specially trained river and bar Pilots who are among the best in the world are employed to guide ships in and out of the river entrance.

And have you ever seen a Lightship?

Entrance to the Columbia Lightship was included with our museum ticket. Anchored just beside the museum, we received an introduction and then toured through at our own pace.

“Serving as floating lighthouses, the lightships would anchor over treacherous reefs, or mark narrow approaches to channel, river or harbor entrances.

Lightships not only provided a beacon where a traditional lighthouse could not stand, but they could also be stationed offshore, where a beam from a coastal lighthouse would not reach.” ~

Light ship

Lightship Columbia

Facts and info about Lightships

Facts and info about Lightships

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We spent a couple of hours between the museum and lightship as well as enjoyed the 3D movie being shown on the Galapagos Islands. Tim commented that the $5 movie may end up being the most expensive movie we have ever seen, as we are now more interested than ever to see these isolated islands for ourselves.

Time for lunch. Having enjoyed the fresh fish and ambiance of the harbor the previous evening we returned for more fish and chips, this time made from halibut. They were fabulous!

Our view as we enjoyed our lunch

Our view as we enjoyed our lunch

Tim snapped this picture of George cleaning a salmon. Doesn’t he just look the epitome of a fisherman?

George cleaning salmon

George cleaning salmon

Fun Fact: The actor, Clark Gable, began his career at the Astoria Theatre in 1922.

It was time to get back on the road. The rest of the day was simply spent driving along the Columbia river, turning north and crossing into Washington at Longview. We are overnighting in Seattle.


GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful for a word of encouragement I received from a dear friend about our blog. It meant a great deal!

We would like to extend a warm welcome to anyone new to our blog. 

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About Tim and Joanne Joseph

Hi and welcome! We are Tim and Joanne Joseph and we have just embarked on our latest adventure. We hope you will join us!
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14 Responses to Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria

  1. John Love says:

    I have travelled the route a couple of times. I am from Idaho originally so I usually cut across Oregon around Tillamook and miss all the beauty further north. I have good friends on Friday Harbor on the San Juan Islands north of Seattle. Val is the editor in chief of BonBon break, a women’s online magazine. I have known her since she was in knickers. She is an avid photographer so I see a lot of scenery from the area. She and her husband own a sizable sailboat and they visit the local islands and picnic in the most fantastic of places! Here is a link to Bonbon break, it occurs to me you might like it. I am planning a trip to visit maybe next year, so am really enjoying your trip, as I will probably drive also. As always, your blogs are very enjoyable.


  2. Barb Falconer says:

    This was so interesting Joanne! Made me want to jump in the car and head to Astoria! You are a wonderful writer. Thanks for sharing your travels.


  3. Merrill says:

    I enjoyed today’s post. I I magine plans to visit the Galapagos are in motion!


  4. Cliff Mail says:

    In my travels I have not yet seen the dangerous river bars like we experience on New Zealands West Coast. Now I know where they are. Good post


  5. Yoshiko says:

    I enjoy your travel photography.
    Thank you to like my post. Hope you enjoy it 🙂


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