We came to Oregon’s North West Coast to host at Fort Stevens State Park – a great & large park; the largest park, campsite-wise (530+ sites, whew!) in the Oregon State Park System.
Supposedly the largest State campground West of the Mississippi. We wanted to try something new & wanted to work at the biggest, busiest State Park.
What we did not expect was the bonus of the town of Astoria!
A great, cool little town with lots to discover. We really like this little gem!
Today, Astoria and the surrounding area offers a bounty of riches for those willing to look.
Salmon fishing has been at record highs here this summer; oysters are plentiful and inexpensive in nearby (appropriately named) Oysterville; Clam Chowder at Josephson’s is the best I have ever tasted, Fish and Chips are stellar at the local Bowpickers.
Brewpubs & a Distillery nearby, with growler fills and great coffee surrounding us!
The selection of great food is almost endless. The local PBS radio station does a morning broadcast on what ships are coming into the Columbia River.
You can hear their fog horns – or warning horns – as they enter the River.
Astoria was founded by John Jacob Astor – the expectation was it would be the fur trading capital of the North West. The Lewis & Clark Expedition spent the winter of 1805–1806 at Fort Clatsop, a small log structure south and west of modern-day Astoria. The expedition had hoped a ship would come by to take them back east, but instead endured a torturous winter of rain and cold, then returned east the way they came.
We are in good company – historically – here, as Lewis & Clark made an historic paddle across the Columbia River based on a vote by the members of their party. They waited 15 days to make the trip across the River. While they waited in extremely bad weather (and one of the few times during the trip that L&C feared for their group’s safety) they watched the Chinook paddle across the river numerous times. Clark even commented on their skills as paddlers. Once they made it across the river, they set up camp at Fort Clatsop; today the fort has been recreated and is now a really interesting historical stop.
In 1810, John Jacob Astor’s Pacific Fur Company sent the Astor Expedition that founded Fort Astoria as its primary fur-trading post in the Northwest, and in fact the first permanent U.S. settlement on the Pacific coast. It was an extremely important post for American exploration of the continent and was influential in establishing American claims to the land. Fort Astoria was constructed in 1811.
British explorer David Thompson was the first European to navigate the entire length of the Columbia River in 1811. Thompson reached the partially constructed Fort Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia, arriving two months after the Pacific Fur Company’s ship, the Tonquin.
The Pacific Fur Company failed, however, and the fort and fur trade were sold to the British in 1813. The house was restored to the U.S. in 1818, though the fur trade would remain under British control until American pioneers following the Oregon Trail began filtering into the port town in the mid-1840s. The Treaty of 1818 established joint U.S. – British occupancy of territory west of the continental divide to the Pacific Ocean. In 1846 the Oregon Treaty ended the Oregon Boundary Dispute; with Britain ceding all right to the mainland south of the 49th parallel north.
Washington Irving, a prominent American writer with a European reputation, was approached by John Jacob Astor to mythologize the three-year reign of his Pacific Fur Company. Astoria (1835), written while Irving was Astor’s guest, cemented the importance of the region in the American psyche. In Irving’s words, the fur traders were “Sinbads of the wilderness”, and their venture was a staging point for the spread of American economic power into both the continental interior and into the Pacific.
As the Oregon Territory grew and became increasingly more settled, Astoria likewise grew as a port city at the mouth of the great river that provided the easiest access to the interior. The first U.S. Post Office west of the Rocky Mountains was established in Astoria in 1847. In 1876, the community was incorporated by the state.
Astoria attracted a host of immigrants beginning in the late 19th century: Nordic settlers, primarily Finns, and Chinese soon became significant parts of the population. The Finns mostly lived in Uniontown, near the present-day end of the Astoria–Megler Bridge, and took fishing jobs; the Chinese tended to do cannery work, and usually lived either downtown or in bunkhouses near the canneries.
In 1883, and again in 1922, downtown Astoria was devastated by fire, partly because it was mostly wood and entirely raised off the marshy ground on pilings. Even after the first fire, the same format was used, and the second time around the flames spread quickly again, as collapsing streets took out the water system. Frantic citizens resorted to dynamite, blowing up entire buildings to stop the fire from going further.
Astoria has served as a port of entry for over a century and remains the trading center for the lower Columbia basin, since eclipsed by Portland, Seattle and other North West cities.
Astoria’s economy centered on fishing, fish processing, and lumber. In 1945, about 30 canneries could be found along the Columbia; however, Bumblebee Seafood moved its headquarters out of Astoria, and gradually reduced its presence until 1980 when the company closed its last Astoria cannery. The timber industry declined; Astoria Plywood Mill, the city’s largest employer, closed in 1989, and the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe discontinued service in 1996.
From 1921 to 1966, a ferry route ferry route connected Astoria with Pacific County Washington. In 1966 the Astoria Megler Bridge was opened; it completed US Route and linked Astoria with Washington on the opposite shore of the Columbia, and replaced the ferries.
In addition to the replicated Fort Clapsop, a popular point of interest is Astoria Column, a tower 125 feet (38 m) high, built atop Coxcomb Hill above the town, with an inner circular staircase allowing visitors to climb to see a panoramic view of the town, the surrounding lands, and the Columbia flowing into the Pacific. The column was built by the Astors in 1926 to commemorate the region’s early history.