The Pacific Ocean
“The object of your mission… the Pacific Ocean.”
Thomas Jefferson to Meriwether Lewis, June 20, 1803
After a long run from Bend up and over the coastal range, I too found the object of my current mission – the Oregon Coast and the Pacific Ocean.
Four miles after turning off my westerly route and hitting Highway 101 south, I saw the iconic rock formations off Cannon Beach – my first stop on my coastal tour.
I absolutely love “rounding a bend” and seeing a sight I have only seen in pictures and only dreamed about seeing in person – outstanding!
My plan was to spend some time exploring the Oregon Coast heading south on very scenic Hwy 101 – The Road Through Paradise – as the guide book promised me.
I would have a chance to visit the oldest town west of the Rockies (Astoria), visit spots explored by Lewis and Clark, spend some time in fishing and beach towns, and check out the largest expanse of coastal dunes in North America
And that would be in only the first half of the Oregon Coast road –
given my late arrival on the coast, I planned on only doing the stretch of road from Astoria to Florence – or, in other words, half of one of the most scenic byways in the country
Astoria is where it begins and Florence was at milepost 190 on more than 360 miles of rugged coastline, incredible beauty, and an area rich with history
364 miles – 86 state parks, 9 lighthouses built in the 19th century, quite a few shipwrecks, tidal pools and miles and miles of beautiful beaches…
throw in a few fine seafood dinners, and I figured I was in for a treat
half of the byway would keep me busy for awhile…
The historic town of Astoria – founded in 1811 – the oldest settlement west of the Rockies – just a few years after Lewis and Clark arrived here – was my first stop after setting up camp in Cannon Beach.
The town and area offered up plenty to keep this nomad busy and interested…
Among other things, I really enjoy the Lewis and Clark story – throw in some maritime history and this nomad is one happy camper – this area had it all – claims to have more points of historical interest than any other city on the Oregon Coast.
First stop the Columbia River Maritime Museum – Oregon’s official maritime museum – galleries full of artifacts and exhibits providing a very detailed look a the rich maritime history of this area – old maps, ship replicas, old images and video could keep you busy for hours.
Next up, a crossing of the Astoria-Megler Bridge. It crosses the Columbia River near its mouth and spans four miles – the longest continuous three-span, through-truss bridge in the world – a very cool drive with amazing views all the way across (I know – eyes on the road!)
A few miles on into Washington and I arrive at Cape Disappointment State Park – home of the very cool lighthouse that overlooks the treacherous Columbia River Bar – and – for this L&C junkie – the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center – another place this nomad could have spent hours – but still more to see…
“Mere description can give but little idea of the terrors of the bar of the Columbia; all who have seen it have spoken of the wilderness of the ocean, and the incessant roar of the waters, representing it as one of the most fearful sights that can possibly meet the eye of the sailor.”
Commander Wilkes, US Navy, ca. 1860
It’s why they call this area the Graveyard of the Pacific. Since the late 1700’s, approximately 2,000 vessels – including over 200 very large ships – have sunk at the Columbia River Bar, and more than 700 people have lost their lives to the sea – the combination of high seas, a huge river, and shallow and shifting sand bars make the crossing from ocean to river one of the most dangerous crossings in the world
Just south of Astoria in Fort Steven State Park lies one of those wrecks – its bow skeleton jutting out of the sand – the wreck of the Peter Iredal – a British 4 masted steel sailing ship that ran aground in dense fog in 1906
And, yes, there’s still more…
Fort Stevens offered up miles of trails – and even more history – the site of Battery Russell – the only military installation stateside that took Japanese fire during WWII
And still more…
Fort Clatsop National Historic Park was just down the road – one of the major sites that make up the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park. Ft Clatsop is a replica at the site of the winter encampment of the L&C Corps of Discovery during 1805 and 1806 – lots of L&C info here too – started thinking I might need to re-read Undaunted Courage 🙂
It was a long day walking through all this history – but a nice introduction to the Oregon Coast here at Mile 0 of 364 – Astoria certainly lived up to its billing – I certainly enjoyed all the points of historical interest – a good start to this portion of this nomad’s “journey of discovery” – this time on the Oregon Coast.
With the day winding day, it was time to head back down the road to Cannon Beach…more as always to follow…
Take care—see you down the road…