Astoria, Oregon… Where the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean Meet

A rainbow hangs over the mouth of the Colombia River and ships that are waiting their turn to head out into the Pacific. Special pilots are brought on board to navigate the treacherous waters, now looking quite calm.

 

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.

This map, which is located in the Columbia Maritime Museum, shows where some of the shipwrecks can be found.

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 wears its Coast Guard connection proudly.

A full size diorama of a Coast Guard rescue effort is on display at the Columbia Maritime Museum.

A photo featuring the front of the Columbia Maritime Museum. I liked the way the glass reflected the clouds.

I thought that this anchor that sits out in front of the museum, is an apt symbol for both the museum and the city. The lightship Colombia is seen in the background.

In the days before modern navigation equipment, the lightship Columbia served as an offshore lighthouse, aiding ships entering and leaving the Colombia River. The lightship maintained its position for weeks at a time and stocked in 12 tons of food, 13,000 gallons of fresh water and 47,000 gallons of fuel.

This crows nest mast on the Columbia was used for powerful lights and foghorns as well as observation.

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.

This map from the museum shows Astor’s trading routes.

Traveling by sailboat through the world’s oceans was hazardous. An early fear of sailors was having encounters with sea monsters. I found this illustration of a Kraken in the museum and laughed. If you are familiar with Pirates of the Caribbean, you will recognize it.

Now here is something more real to worry about! I also found this shark jaw and teeth in the museum.

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.

An ad photo for the Bumble Bee salmon cannery. The bee has a fishing pole.

I suspect that these pilings once supported several thriving canneries..

Now they support a thriving seagull population.

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.

Downtown Astoria has preserved several historic buildings that add to its ambience.

This shop was packed to the gills with tourist merchandise. Nice kitty. I think you are probably a Mexican immigrant, however, and I doubt you have papers. Watch out.

T. Pauls has an eclectic menu and a foot on the ceiling. I ate under the foot.

It seems only appropriate that I wrap up this post with an old piling and the rainbow across the Columbia River.

Wednesday’s Blog: You are going to meet the world-famous Traveling Bone.

On Friday we will return to Burning Man.

 

Just for the Halibut… Gone Fishing in Kodiak

Boat wake in Chiniak Bay, Kodiak.

Leaving worries, Kodiak and a wake behind, we head out into Chiniak Bay for a day of halibut fishing.

Kodiak is about fishing. The Port of Kodiak is one the top three commercial fishing centers in the United States and the largest in Alaska. Sport fishing is also big. People come from around the world to try their luck. The odds are if you are in Kodiak for any amount of time, you’ll get hooked.

Kodiak, Alaska fishing harbor.

Kodiak Harbor is home to one of the largest fishing fleets in the United States.

Peggy poses with out youngest grandson, Cooper in front of the Harbor Masters office in Kodiak. The large fish is a sculpture made from trash collected from the ocean. Hopefully Cooper will grow up in a world with less trash.

Peggy poses with our youngest grandson, Cooper, in front of the Harbor Master’s office in Kodiak. The large fish is a sculpture made from trash collected from the ocean. Hopefully Cooper will grow up in a world with less trash.

Our son Tony caught the fishing bug. He grumbled when he left San Diego that all of his Coast Guard friends in Kodiak had become fishermen. He didn’t like to fish. Now, according to his wife, Cammie, he’s just like all of the other guys on the island. “Gee, honey, would you like to go for a nice romantic walk or go fishing?” Guess what…

But Cammie is right there with him. She can walk out into the water in her hip waders and cast her line for salmon with the best of the guys.

Cammie demonstrates her salmon fishing skills.

Cammie demonstrates her salmon fishing skills.

Peggy and I certainly don’t qualify as fishermen. I had fished in my twenties for several years but that was a while ago. We won’t talk about how long. As for Peggy, she had fished off a dock in Lake Erie with a bobber as a child… twice. But the temptation to go fishing was too great. Off we went to buy our out-of-state fishing licenses. We were about to get our feet wet.

Our first adventure was to try our luck with halibut. Guess who caught the only one? It wasn’t Tony, Cammie or me.

Coast Guard Kodiak has a dock for small fishing boats on base  and makes rental boats available for Coasties. (Members of the Coast Guard)

Coast Guard Kodiak has a dock for small fishing boats on base and makes rental boats available for Coasties (Members of the Coast Guard).

Our brave crew prepares to head out to sea on our Halibut fishing expedition. Connor, Chris and Tony are in the first row. Peggy and Cammie are in the second row.

Our brave crew prepares to head out to sea on our halibut fishing expedition. Connor, Chris and Tony are in the first row. Peggy and Cammie are in the second row.

Fishing in Kodiak, Alaska.

“Um, Dad, is that dock supposed to be there!?” Before we headed out to into the Bay, we tried our luck at catching herring for bait fish near the Kodiak docks. Three-year-old Chris, sitting in Tony’s lap and pretending to steer, apparently has concerns about where the boat is headed. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Fishing in Chiniak Bay, Kodiak, Alaska.

Having no luck with the Herring, we headed out into Chiniak Bay to fish for halibut.

Having tossed out our anchor, Connor found time to play 'now you see me, now you don't' with me. The reflection was a bonus.

Connor found time to play ‘now you see me, now you don’t’ with me. The reflection was a bonus.

Chris enjoyed some kind of healthy snack, but given the expression of bliss on his face, I'm guessing that chocolate was involved.

Chris enjoyed some kind of healthy snack, but given the expression of bliss on his face, I’m guessing that chocolate was involved. (Photo by Cammie Lumpkin.)

Fishing in Chiniak Bay, Kodiak, Alaska.

Cammie caught the first fish on our trip, a colorful rockfish. (Photo by Tony Lumpkin.)

Rockfish caught by Cammie Lumpkin off Kodiak Island.

A close up of the rockfish. “My what big eyes, you have.” Tony unhooked and released Cammie’s catch. (Photo by Tony Lumpkin.)

Peggy and I pose for our "official" halibut fishing photo. (Photo by Tony Lumpkin.)

Peggy and I pose for our “official” halibut fishing photo. (Photo by Tony Lumpkin.)

Fishing in Chiniak Bay off the coast of Kodiak, Alaska.

A second “official” photo.  I was leaning out to be in the picture. Had a large halibut chosen that moment to strike, I may have gone swimming. (Photo by Tony Lumpkin.)

Halibut fishing off the coast of Kodiak, Alaska.

Peggy caught our first, and only halibut, a 15 pounder– and had a smile to prove it.

Fishing for halibut in Chiniak Bay, Alaska.

Here, the boys take a close look at the halibut. Connor appears quite curious about the fish’s strange eye arrangement while Chris keeps his distance.

Tony has become quite expert at filleting fish. Here, he takes on the halibut. Halibut has always been my favorite fish. Nothing can beat one fresh off the boat.

Tony has become quite expert at filleting fish. Here, he takes on the halibut. Halibut has always been my favorite fish for eating and nothing can beat one fresh off the boat.

A note on photo credits: I always try to give credit to the person who took the photo. Where no name is mentioned, I took the picture. Peggy and I were passing our cameras around this time between ourselves, Tony and Cammie. I could have missed something.

NEXT BLOG: Having landed a halibut, we join the Kodiak Bears in fishing for salmon.