Columbia (River) Bar

by Bill Davis

While there are some dandy watering holes in Astoria, OR, the Columbia (River) Bar is not one of them.  While the Graveyard of the Pacific is more broadly defined, the most treacherous part is the mouth of the Columbia River where it empties out into the Pacific Ocean (aka the Columbia (River) Bar).  While I have passed through Astoria many times on my way to the Oregon coast when I lived in the Seattle area, this past weekend I took the opportunity to get better acquainted with Astoria and am glad I did.

I started my journey on Friday afternoon as I had a brief meeting at the Seaside Chamber of Commerce to learn more about the Seaside Beach Volleyball tournament. From there I ventured up to Astoria to spend the night as the weather forecast for this weekend was really inviting as the weather was expected to be sunny and in the high 40s.  While not quite spring break weather, that's a banner weekend for early March on the Oregon coast and was not going to waste it.  After sampling a few of Astoria's dandy watering holes, I crashed early knowing I had a full day ahead of me yesterday.

I started my morning at the Columbia River Maritime Museum and while I had been there before, it was over a decade ago so great place to learn about this part of the Pacific Ocean.  For fans of Kevin Costner's movie The Guardian, and not to slight the Coast Guard but this isn't one of his most memorable, the Maritime Museum is your place and I was absolutely fascinated walking around here as this is a real gem if nautical history is of any interest.  I expected it to take me ~1.5 hours to cover the museum and by the time I checked my phone I was 2.25+ hours into my visit.  While all the exhibits captivated me, Crossing The Bar: Perilous Passage (scroll down), was the most engaging.

From the museum I hit up one of Astoria's food trucks, Hong Kong Taco, for some crazy good Korean spicy pork tacos and then headed over to Fort Stevens State Park to get a close up view of the mouth of the Columbia and some stunning beaches below South Jetty.  While I am wrapping up my first winter in Oregon, now I know where to go to watch the ocean "blow up" as having grown up in New England I miss watching the fury of a Nor'easter blowing in from the ocean.  Little beats putting on some foul weather gear and heading to the beach to watch a nasty winter storm, at least for me.  

From here I meandered down to Sunset Beach where I drove my truck out onto the beach.  I had set a goal of trying to swim every month of the year off the Oregon coast and while I am not going to fulfill that, my last dip was Christmas Day 2018, I did head into the water for a quick dip which based on these averages was likely in the high 40s. It's not bad when it's sunny out, and to be fair I was in for < 10 minutes, but didn't make it over in Jan or Feb on a sunny day so having dropped in every month since I have been here but those two, I am going to try and take a dip every month until at least Feb20.  That may not make sense for most people, but it's invigorating as s__t.

To wrap up my day I popped into the U Street Pub for dinner, a northeast (aka Boston or New York) worthy grilled pastrami and swiss on rye called The Historic Union Town.  Love this pub and wish it was closer to me in PDX, but gives me something to look forward to when I swing over to the coast.  Stoked that I now have easy, same day access to Oregon's North Coast where great beaches await and the maritime history of the Columbia (River) Bar and surrounding Pacific Ocean can be learned.