Amazing Kids! Magazine

The Beautiful and Historic Astoria, Oregon

By Ryan Traynor, age 12, California

 

Isn’t it funny how the more you travel, the more you appreciate the places you’ve visited all your life?  After a European trip this summer, my family once again visited Astoria, Oregon, to see my mom’s family.  I have been there numerous times over the years, but for some reason, this time I found my eyes opened.  I think sometimes when you think about never coming back to a place, you become more aware of the things you’ll miss.

Astoria is a city in Oregon of 10,000 people near the Columbia River, just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean. It is surrounded by the beauty of the forest, mountains, three rivers and the sea. Because of its steep hills and beautiful Victorian homes, Astoria has been called the “Little San Francisco of the Pacific Northwest.” Just across the bay is Fort Stevens State Park and its broad, clean, ocean beaches.

Astoria has a marine climate, which means the summers are cool, with highs around 70 degrees, and the winters are mild, with few nights of freezing temperatures. The area gets a lot of rain – about 75 inches of rain per year, but it makes the area very green, green, green!  My mom always used to say, “In Astoria they don’t tan in the summer, they just rust.”  They can have strong winter storms, which also can be beautiful with the strong winds and raging ocean.

Here are the things that make me smile when I visit Astoria:

Historical Significance

The Astoria area is a nationally significant historic region at the western end of the Lewis & Clark Trail. Astoria is the oldest American settlement west of the Rockies.  In May 1792, American Captain Robert Gray sailed his 230-ton Columbia Rediviva between Point Adams in what is now Oregon and Cape Disappointment in what is now Washington to first enter the Columbia River. Native Americans lived in the area for an estimated 10,000 years before Captain Gray’s arrival. Ten years after Captain Gray arrived, President Thomas Jefferson asked his personal secretary, Army Captain Meriwether Lewis, to lead an expedition to the Pacific to find “…whether the Columbia, Oregon, Colorado, or any other river may offer the most direct and practicable water communication across this continent for the purposes of commerce.”

The Lewis and Clark Expedition left Pittsburgh August 31, 1803. The Corps of Discovery entered the Lower Columbia River in November of 1805 and stayed through March 1806. They stayed that horrible winter at Fort Clatsop, where it rained all but 12 days, hunting, making moccasins and other clothing, trading with the Clatsop, Tillamook, and Chinook Indians, and working on their journals.

In 1811, five years after the departure of Lewis & Clark, John Jacob Astor, a New York financier, sent fur traders aboard the ship Tonquin to establish a trading post. They built Fort Astoria on a site now preserved as a monument in the downtown area.

Well over 200 major shipwrecks have occurred near the mouth of the Columbia River – known for a century as “The Graveyard of the Pacific.” One, the Peter Iredale of 1906, is still visible on the beach at Fort Stevens State Park.

To commemorate the triumphs, conflicts and turning points of the Pacific Northwest, the Astoria Column was built in 1926.  It stands 125 feet tall and sits on top of a hill that gives panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, Oregon, Washington coast mountain ranges, Columbia River and the city of Astoria.  On the outside of the column there are fourteen 25-feet-long scenes dones in an Italian art form known as sgraffito that incorporates carving and painting into concrete.

You can also visit Fort Clatsop, part of the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park that was formed in 2005.  Living history demonstrations take place and park rangers dressed in costumes show you what life might have been like for the early explorers.  You can also see several Lewis and Clark artifacts inside the memorial.

Beauty

I really liked the old Victorian homes in Astoria with their gingerbread-style railings and bright colors.  You can also tour the home of Captain George Flavel, a late Victorian period home from 1885.

They have also added a riverfront trolley that includes a refurbished 1913 streetcar.  It covers four miles between the Port of Astoria and the East Mooring Basin and you can ride it and hear tales of the area from the all-volunteer group of motormen and conductors.

One of my favorite places to visit near Astoria is Youngs River Falls.  You follow a trail down to a riverbed at the base of the falls – a 65-foot waterfall right in the middle of a beautiful forest.  While there you can think of Lewis and Clark traveling along this trail.  It is really beautiful.

Community Feeling

Astoria is a safe place where you can walk down the main street looking into the many shops wondering what year it is.  People smile at you on the street and offer advice without a hint of irritation.  You can see locals eating at the local coffee shops and talking over coffee at the local coffee houses.

The Sunday market, with about 200 booths, showcases locally grown produce, clothing and crafts and other products where the vendors are more than happy to share their artisan secrets. I enjoyed the food court full of local favorites such as calamari and crab.

Not only do I think Astoria is fantastic, but many filmmakers have too.  They’ve used Astoria as their locations for such blockbusters as The Goonies, Kindergarten Cop, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, Point Break, Free Willy, and more!  I always find it fun to go around town and find the places I recognize in the film.  They also have the Film History Museum that showcases the local highlights.

Astoria is a short distance from the Pacific Ocean and beautiful beaches.  Even on the sunniest days, you won’t find many people on the beach.  It could be because the water is very cold.

So if you want an area with ocean, forests, beautiful views, hiking, biking, shopping, great food and friendly people, consider Astoria, Oregon.  With its small town feel and lack of tourists, it’s a secret worth sharing.