After departing Portland, Oregon last evening, National Geographic Quest sailed down the lower Columbia River in lovely, calm, and clear conditions to Astoria, where the “Great River of the West” meets the North Pacific Ocean. We spent the day exploring both the human and natural histories of this region. Although the area was home to Native Americans for thousands of years, much of the northwestern portion of North America was unknown to Europeans until the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Not long after ship-borne explorers from Spain, Russia, Great Britain, and the United States drew in the outlines mapping the coast, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led the Corps of Discovery across the plains, over the mountains, and down the river from the east to this area, their westward most point. For us, a short bus ride away on the north side of the mouth of the Columbia River, the Washington State Park at Cape Disappointment includes dramatic headlands, massive spruce trees, sandy beaches, and the fascinating story of the expedition as told at the Lewis and Clark Discovery Center. In Astoria, we visited the Columbia River Maritime Museum, which filled in the story of exploration, commerce, fishing, and timber that shaped this region. We reveled in the expansive views at the Astoria Column perched on a hill above town.
National Geographic Sea Bird
O! the Joy! Hmm, we needed to rethink that one this morning, as we woke to a rainy and blustery Astoria. What this weather did give us was a taste of historic authenticity in relation to the Corps of Discovery and their experiences here in the winter of 1805-06. Our first activity this morning was amongst the magnificent exhibits of the Columbia River Maritime Museum. This world-class facility tells the story of the mighty Columbia and the treacherous results to mariners when the river shoves against the incoming tides of the Pacific Ocean. As our day progressed, we crossed the Astoria-Megler bridge to the state of Washington. At the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center the winds continued but the rain subsided, and we enjoyed a sun-drenched afternoon with an option to walk a forest trail down to Waikiki Beach. The sun and sand were a siren to us and we made an additional stop at the North Jetty to get a water-level view of the waves crashing against the rocks of the Cape Disappointment lighthouse. The day turned out anything but disappointing.