While on vacation this past summer, my family and I visited the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Oregon. The city of Astoria has a long and rich history. It is the oldest American settlement west of the Rockies. In 1805, Lewis and Clark led their Expedition here and spent the winter at Fort Clatsop, just south of town. Astoria also sits alongside the 1,200-mile-long Columbia River. Hence, how the Columbia River Maritime Museum got its name.
The Columbia River Maritime Museum was founded in 1962 to preserve the rich maritime heritage of the entire Columbia River region. The Museum also has the largest collection of Pacific Northwest maritime artifacts in the country. During our particular visit, we discovered stories of the legendary Columbia River Bar, one of the most dangerous passages in the world.
In the main exhibit hall there are numerous shipping vessels for visitors to observe and walk around on.
The Museum places a strong emphasis on the fishing industry since Oregon is one of the largest salmon dispensories in the United States.
In the past, the means of catching the salmon were many and varied. Fish wheels were like Ferris wheels that scooped up huge quantities of salmon from the river. Fish traps were used. Horses were employed to drag heavy nets to the sands. Men and horses lived in the middle of the river during the season.
Aside from fishing vessels, the Museum has several other nautical exhibits for visitors to enjoy. I was particularly interested in viewing the United States Coast Guard exhibit and seeing first hand how they rescue people from everyday dangerous situations. They are true heroes in my book!
The U.S.S. Shark Cannons was another interesting exhibit to explore. The two cannons are a specific type called a carronade. They were part of the 1846 wreck of the USS Shark, a US Navy vessel that ran aground on the Columbia Bar as it attempted to leave the Northwest after touring the territory.
In the military area, my children also got to sit inside a retired military vessel. However, pushing the buttons was the best part!
The cost to visit the Columbia River Maritime Museum is $12 for adults / $10 for seniors (65+) and $5 for children 5 and under.
Field trips are also offered year round for K–12 school groups. From docent-led tours of the Museum and the Lightship Columbia, to hands-on, interactive workshops, the museum is dedicated to encouraging students’ curiosity and appreciation of the maritime history of the Columbia River and the Pacific Northwest. Museum programs are provided FREE of charge for Clatsop County Schools.
The Museum is open daily 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and is located at 1792 Marine Drive, Astoria, Oregon 97103. I highly recommend that you give yourself approximately 2 hours to fully experience the Museum.
Happy Field Tripping!
Disclosure: We visited the museum as a member of the media. All points of view and opinions are my own.