At the Columbia’s wide mouth
What was that rusting hulk in the harbor of Astoria, Oregon, that’s now the hangout for a lone seagull?
Though Astoria is more than a dozen miles from the official end of the Columbia River and the start of the Pacific Ocean, it feels like the end of the continent, with great sunsets seen through the long bridge across the river.
The bridge that carries U.S. Route 101 to Washington State is oddly shaped, four miles long but only two lanes wide, with a very high span over the shipping channel near the Astoria side though most of the bridge rides low above the broad estuary.
The rusting machine and other ruins indicate that Astoria was once a bigger deal — long surpassed by Portland and Seattle. Astoria began as the Pacific fur-trading outpost for the German-immigrant zillionaire John Jacob Astor in 1811, just a few years after Lewis & Clark got there the hard way, overland, and unhappily spent the winter there in 1805-06.
Bumble Bee took away its tuna canneries years ago, and the Finnish Socialists who fled the Russian tsars had abandoned their downtown building even earlier. But there’s still a town of 9,000 with timbering, fishing and canning.