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!

The Whole Clam Family

Family clamming on Seaside's beach is a tradition that literaly goes back thousands of years.

Learn More
Where to P.L.A.Y. in Seaside

The park is nestled next to Neawanna Creek where ducks float lazily by, a tree lined mountainside looming in the distance. Do a 180 and you get a great view of Tillamook Head to the south.

Learn More
Seaside Lifeguards – Kicking off the Summer Season

The lifeguard tower in Seaside ensures a safe and fun beach experience.

Learn More
Northwest Travel Magazine: Best Eats on Oregon’s North Coast

Article on Best Eats on Oregon's North Coast

Learn More
A Smashing Good Time

The vintage bumper cars are a seaside tradition and we check out their 2013 opening weekend,

Learn More
Driving the Oregon Coast Highway

Unique views are plentiful along all 363 miles

Learn More
Insider Tips: Exploring the Prom Like a Local

It’s difficult to imagine Seaside without the historic Promenade, the famous lamp-lined trail that stretches along the sandy bea...

Learn More
View from the Hotel Seaside

A view from the old Hotel Seaside in the mid 1920s

Learn More
Seeing Seaside on a Surrey

Cruising around Seaside on a Surrey can be great exercise and a scenic journey

Learn More
Biking the N. Coast Mountain Range

Opportunities endless when hopping on two wheels to navigate Seaside area

Learn More
Seaside Civic and Convention Center

The benefits and joys of life in our small coastal community are many. And just when you think you’ve seen it all, done it all and start thinking about heading to the big city you’re reminded that the Seaside Civic and Convention Center brings you the best of all possible worlds and you can stay right here

Learn More
Gayway Park in the early 1960s

GAyway Park in the 1960s was a major family attraction in Seaside, Oregon

Learn More
Seaside Inside for Kids

Seaside is known for a variety of outdoor activities to enjoy during most of the year and it’s not uncommon to have a 60-plu...

Learn More
How To Walk Seaside, Oregon

Discover things to see in Seaside, OR including the Seaside Promenade, Tillamook Head Trail & Tillamook Head Lighthouse, bird...

Learn More
After the Storm

A look at a storm from the early 1900s in Seaside

Learn More
Pedal Boating through Seaside

Paddle boating Seaside is another unique way to see Seaside while getting a little exercise in the process.

Learn More
Seaside Watercraft Adventures
Seaside Watercraft Adventures

Seaside watercraft adventures await visitors of all skill levels. With two rivers and multiple access points, anyone can enjoy the...

Learn More
A Tradition of Tea

Seaside has a 26 year tradition it loves to share with visitors. Those in town for the holiday season are invited to step back in ...

Learn More