Seaside Stories

The Columbia River Maritime Museum: On the Water’s Edge

April 14, 2013 | by Nate Burke

At the mouth of the Columbia River, millions of gallons of fresh water collide with the Pacific Ocean and can result in waves that reach a colossal 40 feet in height. Waves this size boggle the mind but it is unique conditions like this that make the history on display at the Columbia River Maritime Museum so compelling. Since the late 18th century, some 2,000 vessels have sunk at the Columbia River Bar. These dangers have earned this area the title “Graveyard of the Pacific”.  The combination of high seas, a massive river, and shallow, shifting sand bars make this the one of the most dangerous bar crossings in the world.

A quote from Commander Wilkes, US Navy (ca. 1860) sums it up nicely: “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 fearsome sites that can possibly meet the eye of a sailor.”

The exhibits on display at the Columbia River Maritime Museum seem to reflect Commander Wilkes’ awe inspired words. A feast for the eyes, the museum ushers you into a world of towering waves and charging vessels. Among my favorite experiences at the museum is standing under the 44-ft Coast Guard rescue boat as it surges up a makeshift giant wave. The story of the Columbia River has countless stories and the museum takes you on a tour of various chapters: Native tribal water craft, whaling at the mouth of the Columbia, shark fishing during World War II, even an exhibit on seasickness (I learned that the word nausea comes from the Greek word for ship: go figure!).

One new exhibit “Crossing the Bar: Perilous Passage” features video of insanely rough water passages shot by U.S. Coast Guard and Columbia River Bar Pilots during epic winter storms.  Also, the Maritime Museum has recently opened their new 3D digital theater which is featuring Sharks 3D by Jean-Michael Cousteau. It’s an eye-popping, high-def approach to experiencing the ocean’s depths in some pretty amazing detail.

The Columbia River Maritime Museum honors the rich nautical traditions of Oregon’s North Coast and portrays a slice of history that’s not exactly familiar to everyone who visits the area. First-time visitors should prepare themselves for real treat: it’s the closest the average person can get to crossing the Columbia River Bar without actually getting wet.

Editors Note: The Columbia Maritime Museum is open daily from 9:30am – 5:00pm. Call (503) 325-2323 for further info.

Leave a Reply

and so much more!

Seaside: More Than Just a Resort Town

Seaside is also a community of hard-working professionals

Learn More
Kayakers paddle in the Necanicum Estuary
So Close, But a World Away

A couple explores Seaside as modern-day Lewis and Clark Adventurers

Learn More
What is Fascination, Anyway?

Talk to anyone who’s ever visited Seaside, and they’re bound to bring up Fascination with an enthusiastic “I love that game!...

Learn More
Watching Nature Run its Course in Seaside

Wonderful natural beauty in Seaside,

Learn More
Supersize Me!

A brief look at Seaside's past sweets and treats

Learn More
Murals, Swing Jazz, and Marine Life: Experiencing Seaside’s Arts & Culture

Seaside, Oregon, is known for its downtown murals and active arts scene. Photo: Rick Mickelson As one of the best known beach dest...

Learn More
Top Take-Out Spots in Seaside

Maybe you need a quick breakfast to fuel your day’s adventure? Or you’re hungry for dinner but too tired to venture out of you...

Learn More
A Kid-Free Couple’s Getaway

We know kids love Seaside. And Seaside loves kids. But you can, of course, enjoy Seaside without the youngsters in tow. Whether yo...

Learn More
Family Magazine: Vacation 101

A look at family fun activities on the North Oregon Coast

Learn More
Broadway Field is a Community Gem

Renovated Broadway Field is a community gem

Learn More
The Spirits of Seaside Inside

Above photo: An old fashioned cask of beer in the historic Seaside Brewery by Jon Rahl, Seaside Visitors Bureau. Seaside has a lot...

Learn More
Seaside Downtown Wine Walk
Seaside’s Spring Downtown Wine Walk

A deeper look inside an annual spring event in Seaside

Learn More
Celebrate the Holidays in Seaside

Celebrate the holiday season — Seaside-style! That means escaping the frenetic holiday bustle and slowing down to enjoy the sigh...

Learn More
Children feed the Harbor Seals at the Seaside Aquarium in Seaside, Oregon.
How to Seaside Inside

Don’t get us wrong: Plenty of beach lovers come to Seaside in the cooler, drizzlier months to enjoy the great outdoors. That’s...

Learn More
The Amazing and Colorful History of Seaside

The Lewis and Clark expedition reached the sea near Seaside. Seaside has one of the most compelling stories you’ll find anyw...

Learn More
Salt Making in Seaside

A little history about the Salt Works; on December 28, 1805 the Lewis and Clark sent five men to establish a salt camp. Five days later, they found an ideal place on the seacoast fifteen miles southwest of Fort Clatsop (the seawater had a high salt content here, and game and wood were abundant).

Learn More
Beach Blanket Bingo

Going back to the early 1960s, we look at beach culture.

Learn More
Northwest Travel Magazine: Gilbert District

For more than 100 years, the Gilbert District has been a big piece of Seaside's core.

Learn More