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!

Ice cream time in Seaside, Oregon
And the winner is…

Customer Service Awards program in Seaside, Oregon

Learn More
Finding a Room in Seaside, Oregon

One of the many services we offer at the City of Seaside Visitors Bureau is lodging assistance for visitors. During busy months, V...

Learn More
Knights of Summer: Seaside’s Lifeguarding Tradition

Seaside has had a rich lifeguard tradition for almost 100 years.

Learn More
The Whole Clam Family

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

Learn More
Celebrating the Moms in Our Life

Honoring motherhood through a photo on the beach

Learn More
Establishing Another World Record

Seaside Beach Volleyball Tournament establishes yet another record during stellar event.

Learn More
Seeing Seaside on a Surrey

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

Learn More
Seaside Inside: The Historical Edition

Above photo: A group plays the historic arcade game, Fascination at Funland Arcade in downtown Seaside, Oregon. Seaside is a popul...

Learn More
Views of Tillamook Rock Lighthouse are well within your reach thanks to the adventure of the Tillamook Head Trail just south of Seaside.
How to Get Epic Tillamook Rock Lighthouse Views

Your quest to see Tillamook Rock begins on the south side of Seaside at the end of Sunset Boulevard.

Learn More
Supersize Me!

A brief look at Seaside's past sweets and treats

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
Gayway Park in the early 1960s

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

Learn More
Top Things to Do With Teens

Traveling with too-cool-for-school teens? I feel you. I have two teenagers myself. But be assured, you’ll find plenty of totally...

Learn More
Trying to take flight during a wind storm on the beach in Seaside, Oregon.
Tides and Tide Tables: What You Need to Know

If your winter beach vacations to date have required sunscreen, then you clearly have not experienced a magical Seaside day in Jan...

Learn More
Sweets in Seaside

Confections conjure up memories of visits to Seaside Oregon as a child.

Learn More
How to Catch Your Dinner: Learning the joy of razor clamming in Seaside, Oregon

The way to dig for razor clams and what to do with them once you catch them in Seaside, Oregon...

Learn More
1859 – Oregon’s Magazine: 72 Hours In Seaside

1859 came to Seaside/Gearhart area and spent 72 hours in our fair neck of the woods. Day One they highlighted the historic Gilbert...

Learn More
Enjoying the Breaks in Weather

Seaside and Oregon Coast offer unique setting for the rising and setting of the sun.

Learn More