Our trip to Astoria, Oregon started at Vancouver, Washington. Now, anybody who is familiar with the Portland-Vancouver Area will tell you that you just have to cross the river and you will find yourself in the neighbouring state. True, but this time we had to take Interstate 5 and drive north. The reason: The westward bound Columbia River at a point near Portland takes a northerly route and cuts out what looks like an extra chunk of land for the southern state, such that a part of Oregon lies beside Washington.
After driving up I-5 for a while we started to move west at a place called Longview and took another interstate bridge across the now northward bound river. Just after that we came upon a view point that showed us a beautiful sight of the Lewis and Clark Bridge that we had just crossed, some Oregonian countryside, the Columbia River working its way up, and beyond that standing tall was Mt. St. Helens.
|Lewis and Clark Bridge between Longview, WA and Rainier, OR.
Can you spot a snow-capped volcano in the picture?
The route thereafter looked like it meandered through some forested areas trying to keep up with the Columbia River as it flowed towards the Pacific Ocean. Every now and then we got glimpses of the river and it seemed to look like it was getting wider as it neared its destination.
When the wooded area was behind us we found ourselves in a charming little town that wore the look of an age-old settlement.
The City of Astoria, to me, seemed like one those places that instantly make you feel like you are on a holiday. Astoria is like a ‘seaside hill-station’ if you will. One side of the road we were on, was dominated by a sea-blue scene with ships in it. And on the other, there were colourful houses dotting the hillsides. In the middle of the two vistas was a quaint little town; its streets and buildings clearly witnesses of quite a lot of History.
This old town — I hear — was the oldest settlement west of the Rocky Mountains. It is not difficult to see why. This picturesque town lies at the mouth of the Columbia River. It’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the fact that ships could come in this way, was probably the reason it developed and became the industrial town that it is.
Fast forward to today and it doesn’t look like a modernized industrial town despite the fact that it lies beside a prime water route of the Pacific Northwest. Astoria has retained its antiquated look and proudly wears an old-world charm.
I wanted to see this place because this was where the Columbia River — which we have crossed heaven-knows-how-many-times — emptied itself in the Pacific Ocean.
Our first stop in Astoria was at the River Viewing Tower on 6th (street). Quite a scene that was: stretched in front of us was the Columbia River in a beautiful blue quite unlike parts of the river further inland, and this was probably because of its proximity to the great Pacific. In it were some barges and ships. A speed boat zoomed past every now and then. On the other bank was the state of Washington and to my far left was an impressive looking metal structure — the Astoria-Megler bridge that connects US 101 between WA and OR.
After taking in the scene we strolled down the river-front and took in the surroundings: the Fish-and-chips joints, Astoria’s warehouses, a condominium that jutted out into the river, ducks and seagulls basking in the random warm day of the season and Columbia’s last interstate bridge getting larger and clearer as we walked westward. This river-front walk has one other attraction — a trolley that rolls past Astoria’s restaurants, store houses and the Maritime Museum without losing sight of the Columbia River.
A pleasant walk later it was lunchtime. After taking care of our bellies we made our way to the one structure that literally looked down upon the city of Astoria. Called the Astoria Column, this viewing tower on Coxcomb Hill is some-place everybody visiting this laid back town must visit. The drive up, which was not a long one, was like an architectural tour of Astoria. We drove past some eye-catching houses, many of them with a Victorian touch. History has it that the area was sold to the British in the 1813 and it remained in their hands until 1818 when these parts when joint US -British occupancy was established. Now that explains some fine English architecture there.
I must say that the way up the hill reminded me of the roads in several parts of San Francisco. They were quite as steep but without just as much traffic.
|Astoria Column atop Coxcomb Hill.|
The view from the top of Coxcomb Hill was truly one-of-a-kind. Now that sounds like a cliché but I swear the sights from up there, were just that. Sweeping views of the Columbia River, the part where it meets the Pacific Ocean, the Astoria Megler bridge, several rivers emptying themselves in the Columbia River, parts of the road that winds up to the top of the hill, a birds eye view of the City of Astoria and the forests and hills that surround Astoria are just some of the sights that this vista point offers.
Having gone all the way up, I just had to take in the 360 degree view from the highest point of this point. So armed with my DSLR, I took leave of the kids and made my way up the 160 steps of the lighthouse-type-winding stairway of Astoria Column. Apart from the views I saw at the base of the Column, I got to see two snowcapped Volcanic mountains in the distance.
Other things to see in Astoria
Our next stop was at the Maritime Museum. With a pre-schooler and a baby in our company the museum didn’t seem like the best place to be in, especially because hubby had learnt that one needs an hour and a half to see all of the museum. However what we couldn’t skip was seeing was an exhibit that was docked just behind the museum — a floating lighthouse called the Lightship Columbia.
|‘Lightship Columbia’ — Astoria’s floating lighthouse.|
Just where we had parked was one of the stops of the historic waterfront trolley. So we decided to go on a joyride, this one specially for my older kid – the SonnyBoy. The trip on the trolley that went close to the bridge filled us in with quite a bit of history of the City of Astoria. The conductor on board shared stories of the place: of a fire that damaged a good part of the waterfront, of the buildings that lined the tracks of the trolley, of the catch there, and the warehouses that stored the fish from Alaska. It is from this place that those fish are sent to other parts of the country.
Astoria Megler Bridge
Having come this far, hubby thought it wouldn’t be right it we didn’t go on another joyride this one over the Astoria Megler bridge that seemed to be calling out to us. Knowing and having seen several of the bridges across the Columbia River, I was curious to see the westernmost of them.
We would have been sorry if we didn’t drive over the this bridge. The Astoria-Megler bridge is 6,545 metres long and 8.5 metres wide. And on the other side of the bridge was another gorgeous sight ( I swear — there couldn’t have been a better way to end our trip) a panoramic view of the City of Astoria ornamenting the banks of the Columbia River.
|Astoria-Megler Bridge and Washington State on the north shore of the Columbia River|
|Columbia River and the city of Astoria, Oregon.|
One mighty river gorge, two scenic routes and umpteen vistas
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