Continuing along on my historical exploration of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, I left Cape Disappointment State Park and headed east a bit further up the Columbia River (probably less than 20 miles) to Fort Columbia State Park. I’ve passed by the park before during my travels and never knew what was in there. I had always thought that it was just another camp ground, like most state parks provide. Boy, was I wrong! I pulled in and saw all these lovely, well-kept buildings and suddenly realized that they were military barracks. As well, there are old WWII batteries. There is a museum on site, as well. You can read more info and history about the fort at the link above. Below are photos of the fort buildings and batteries.
How cool is that? There’s lots of history in the Pacific Northwest that most people don’t know about. If you travel a few more miles down the highway, there is a rest station that was an actually spot where the Lewis and Clark Expedition Party was holed up for 6 days during a severe November storm. The spot is called Dismal Nitch. There is also another roadside interpretive site to check out called Station Camp. This is where the expedition party took a poll to choose whether or not to cross the Columbia River to scope out the area for a possible winter encampment site. And as the story went, yes, they did cross the river and, yes, they did spend the winter there. For me, that will be a separate trip to make to visit the forts on the Oregon side of the river. But I did cross the Columbia River to visit Astoria, a community rich in maritime history. Again, I crossed over the 4.1 mile long Astoria-Megler bridge. That is something to experience!
Astoria has a world-class maritime museum that I did not get to visit this time around. I was intent on visiting the Astoria Column. This is an amazing site! The Column sits on the tallest hillside in Astoria. Much of the city, itself, is built on a hillside, and so the side streets are quite steep. Have a map of the city streets handy or your GPS to help you find your way to the Column. Once at the top of the hill, you will get a view that is spectacular! You can see to the north, south, and west some outstanding, panoramic views, including the Astoria-Megler Bridge and the Oregon Coastal Mountains. If you are in good physical condition and up to the challenge, you may want to climb the spiral staircase inside the Column, all 164 steps. (I didn’t.) From here you get the added view of the Cascades to the east. The Column, itself, fashioned in a Roman style, is literally a work of art that must be seen to be appreciated. All around the outside of it tells a story of the early settlement of the area, along with images. It’s very impressive. Below are two photos of the complete span of the Astoria-Megler bridge, a view to the north, and the Column. Note: The bridge was in the process of having new, light green paint applied at the time I visited the area this past week.
On the same hill as the Column is a memorial to Chinook nation Chief Comcomly. The memorial is in the form of an Indian burial canoe. This great chief was a renowned leader of his nation, was friends of Lewis and Clark, and received many medals from them for the assistance he provided them. On one of the plaques on the memorial, states:
INDIAN BURIAL CANOE
SYMBOLIC MEMORIAL DEDICATED
BY COMCOMLY’S DESCENDANTS
APRIL 12, 1961 ASTORIA’S
150TH ANNIVERSARY. HONORED
GUEST WAS LORD ASTOR OF
ENGLAND, DESCENDANT AND
NAMESAKE OF THE CITY’S FOUNDER.
Wow! So much to do and see around here! You are probably wondering how to get to these fascinating places to explore. From both Washington and Oregon, travel via Coastal Hwy 101, one of America’s most scenic highways. All of the Lewis and Clark national and state parks are accessible from the highway in both states. Astoria is along the route, as well.
Happy traveling, exploring, and discovering!
© Peggy A Thompson