West From Astoria
A gigantic cargo ship passes under the Astoria-Meglar Bridge on its last leg across the Pacific. I check The Ship Report to see where it is going and nose on up the river past the remnants and pilings of old fish canneries. My favorite building is the old net shed called Big Red.
I remember the Bumble Bee Seafood cannery as a child, but the history of the canneries goes back to the late 1800’s. In 1883 the record pack was more than 42,000,000 pounds of salmon from 39 canneries. Most of the labor was done by Chinese.
The rain is coming down in a light mist that will clear for the sunset. I keep close to the Columbia River, taking all the side roads to the reaches of its estuarial waters. They lead to cattail marshes filled with birds. I try to imagine how it looked when Lewis and Clark saw it in 1805. Astoria came later and was first coastal settlement in Oregon founded in 1810 as a fur trading post established by John Jacob Astor.
Astoria is the most westerly city on Highway 30. It is where I begin my exploration. I became fascinated with U.S. Highway 30 when I realized it runs from the Atlantic coast in Atlantic City, New Jersey to the Pacific coast at Astoria, Oregon, a distance of 3073 miles. It is one of the original routes commissioned in 1926, and was the first route to be paved coast to coast. It is the second longest road in the U.S.
The highway begins at its intersection with Highway 101 where it comes off of the Astoria-Meglar Bridge. From Astoria to Portland it is better known as the Lower Columbia River Highway.
A dredge, the fishing boat, Itasca, a boat from the US Army Corp of Engineers and the cargo ship, Fu Min are all berthed at Pier 36 on the Columbia at Astoria. The varied craft give an idea of the busy traffic on the river.
I remember the huge fishing fleets and the canneries, trips across the Columbia on the ferry…all gone now…and this trip is one to capture some of what is left along Highway 30.