River Maritime Museum offers fun and learning at the same time
the weather closed it, it hit like a hammer.
Without warning you find yourself in the Pacific Ocean being swallowed
up by 30-foot seas - no hope of swimming to the shore you know is
mere yards away.
Then, out of the blackness, comes a spotlight and a man hanging
off of a boat reaching to pluck you from the ocean's grasp.
That's the first thing you see when you drive up to the Columbia
River Maritime Museum - the real life 44-foot Coast Guard rescue
boat in action.
The display, which has the boat suspended in the fake waves at a
45-degree angle, is the center piece of the museum's display on
the dangers of crossing the Columbia River Bar.
Columbia River Maritime Museum
1792 Marine Drive
About the museum: The Columbia River Maritime
Museum is an official State of Oregon collection
of maritime artifacts and history about the Columbia
River. It features everything from fishing to
industry, to nature displays and search and rescue
information. It is very interactive and great
for children to learn about the largest river
What to bring: The museum in an indoor affair
- the light boat Columbia is the only display
that is outside - so cameras and comfortable clothes
are the only things you will need.
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Closed Thanksgiving
Getting there: Take Highway 26 out to the
coast. Then take Hwy 101 to Seaside, continue
North on 101 to Astoria. Continue through downtown
on Highway 30 (also called Marine Drive) on the
left at 1792 Marine Drive you will see the Museum.
There are 2 Museum entrances found on 17th and
Fees: Admission is $8 adult, $7 senior,
$4 for children ages 6 to 17, and children under
6 years old are admitted free. There is a family
rate for two parents and all children for $24.
Tips: Pearson said that tours of the museum
generally take about two hours, but if you want
to read about all of the exhibits and watch the
interactive videos, the tour could be much longer.
Before you walk through the museum, try to watch
the movie in the auditorium, as it you will give
you a great backgrounder on the history of the
Columbia River. Make sure that you also visit
the gift shop that offers history books, nautical-themed
apparel, stuffed animals and other traditional
gift shop fair.
you walk into the Columbia River Maritime Museum the first thing
you notice is an entire wall dedicated to the shipwrecks that have
taken place on the most dangerous bar in the world. Called "The
Graveyard of the Pacific," since 1972 the bar has seen approximately
2,000 vessels, including 200 larger ships, sink. Sitting back from
where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean, the museum's main
entrance is a tribute to the 700 people who have lost their lives.
Founded in 1962, the museum is official maritime museum of the State
of Oregon. It features six galleries, the great hall where movies
about the river are shown, and has a light ship which is a floating
The museum is a private nonprofit organization that is funded through
membership dues, contributions and admission fees. It features every
aspect of the river, from displays on commerce to areas on industry,
wildlife and even war.
"I would have to say my favorite display is the Coast Guard
rescue boat - it still has the motors in it and everything,"
said curator David Pearson. "Our newest display is on ducks
that live on the river and has been very popular. We added that
said that each year more than 100,000 visitors tour the museum -
watching movies and learning about the history of one of the largest
waterways in Oregon. Starting in the spring, the museum starts offering
family classes in their conference room for people wanting to learn
more about the river.
who visit the museum can play inside the pilothouse of a tugboat
- turning the man levers and controls - or see what it was like
on the Battleship Astoria.
In fact, the museum features 30,000 objects, 15,000 photographs
and a 7,000 volume research library.
"We are very proud of the collection we have here and think
it's one of the highlights of any trip to Astoria," Pearson
said. "No matter if you are interested in the industry that
operates on the river or the history of Oregon and how Native Americans
used the river, there is something here for everyone."
of the Columbia Maritime Museum
Columbia River Maritime Museum was founded in 1962 when Rolf Klep,
a native of Astoria, returned to his birthplace after retirement
as a successful graphic artist on the east coast. Upon returning,
Klep (a long-time collector of marine artifacts) and a group of
his colleagues sought to establish a museum to preserve the rich
maritime heritage of the entire Columbia River region. It is the
first museum in Oregon to meet national accreditation standards,
and has been designated the official state maritime museum for Oregon.
The Columbia River Maritime Museum celebrated its 40th anniversary
and $6 million remodeling and expansion on May 11, 2002. The Museum
renovation began in October 2000 and increased exhibit space to
44,200 square feet. The new space houses interactive exhibits that
combine history with cutting-edge technology and numerous Museum
acquisitions. Visitors of all ages will experience what it is like
to pilot a tugboat, participate in a Coast Guard rescue on the Columbia
River Bar, and live in Astoria during the height of salmon fishing.
Huge windows make the Columbia River a living backdrop for exhibits
that are interactive and touchable, many accompanied by interviews
with people involved in the events depicted.
and photos by Patrick Johnson, a free-lance writer based in Canby,