Places on the Columbia River

These are just opinions, so take them with a grain of salt. If you have other opinions or more info, please pass them on to: chaos5@viclinkcom .

Warning! The Flood of '96 may have changed channels significantly! Be careful & don't trust last year's knowledge. If anyone discovers changes that should be made to this information, please pass them on.

West of the Cascades (home of the rain)
Portland, Oregon
A big city and an ok town with lots of marinas along the Columbia & Willamette rivers. There is a good maritime museum downtown on the waterfront. It has a lot of information on the old time river traffic on the Willamette and Columbia. Its star attraction is the restored steerwheeler Portland, which was a tug in the Portland harbor and was one of the last sternwheeler work boats in the country.
The noise from jets landing over the Columbia River at PDX is frequent and LOUD interrupting conversation regularly. Nonetheless, Portland offers many fine boating related stores and other big city related well as detractions.
Multnomah Channel (Portland to St. Helens along Sauvie Island's south side)
Very pretty but not a fast route. Sauvie Island is about sixteen miles long which makes this a winding trip along the edge of the flood plan. Several areas of (no wake) houseboat moorages. Can get shallow in spots during late-summer low tide. Coon Island is a nice stop with docks on both sides of the island but no beaches.
St. Helens, OR (the town, not the mountain)
A nice stop. The free (and often full) city docks are handy to downtown and have a porta-potti dump. The nearby marina & store are run by good people. Sand Island Marine Park across the channel is a great place to stop - it has docks (nicely rebuilt since the '96 flood) & trails and the kids can swim from a sandy beach - WATCH THE CURRENT. A flood tide reverses the river's current here and below. Several nice restaurants in the town square above the marina, but nothing is open on Sunday evening or Monday. If you're up to a 1 1/2 mile walk, there is a great Italian place up on the hill at about 20th & Columbia Blvd.
Martin Slough
This is on the Washington side between St. Helens and Kalama. Martin Island has a fair-sized lagoon in the center. I haven't tried it but Rob Fernandez tells me: "You should mention Martin Slough as a good anchorage... go all the way into the lagoon (not by the highway), throw out the hook, drink shots of tequila!!! Approach the channel from down stream of the range and favor the shore side of the channel. The depth is 7 to 8 going into the lagoon. Depth inside is 25+"
Kalama, WA
Has a marina tucked between the freeway & the river. Has marine head pumpout which, as of August '95, is free. Sells fuel, but I've never managed to be there during their 9am to 4:30pm hours.
Goble, OR
Across from Kalama. Does have fuel earlier & later in the day. No pumpout. Small dock space and store. Decent showers & miserable pit restrooms. Not the place to display your Save the Whales stickers.
Rainier, OR
A couple of docks with a launch ramp and rest rooms. Stores, including a large grocery, a short walk up the hill. Despite what some cruising guides say, there was no fuel at the dock last time I was by.
Cathlamet, WA
Nice marina & town. Contact the marina on VHF channel 16 & they will direct you to a slip. I enjoyed rowing the wooded sloughs behind the marina. Has nice restrooms & showers, a pumpout ($0.50) & fuel. A few slips have shore power. Be careful with the channel through the slough. We haven't had any problems with our 4.5' draft and there are some fairly large sailboats in there, but some folks report problems with the sandbar.

There have been other opinions expressed to me. Some folks avoid the place due to problems with the harbormaster and there was an interesting report of a (now-fixed) peephole into the middle shower. I'd check the showers to be sure, though.

Westport, OR (thanks to Russ Beck)
Thought I would mention the Westport slough as a nice place to anchor or tie up. Although it pales in comparison to all the big city life of Cathlamet, it is nice and quiet and very well protected. Proceeding up the slough after the ferry landing about 400 yards is a dock. There are a couple of restaurants within walking distance from here. On up the slough, maybe about a mile, I'm guessing, and my charts are on the boat, is the Westport Marina. Not much activity on shore, there is a restaurant about 1/2 mile or so down highway 30 which runs right by this marina. I did tie up here last fall, at no charge, but there are several places you could anchor in just as well on the slough.
Clatskanie, OR
The summer of '95 we 'sailed' up to Hump's Restaurant in Clatskanie. Approach Wallace Island from upstream, stay to right of small island, 12 feet at midtide, enter Clatskanie River, run up past loop entry which is about sixty feet deep, stay to right of river as you go up, shoals on left, saw seven feet at midtide, come to "y" in river, take right, look for sign on right in tall grass, go past RR bridge, thar she blows! Good food, 10-15$ entres, varied menu, cheaper stuff, good atmosphere, moored the night, no charge but a crowd of five boats. Docks can be treacherous. Take the rising crest of the tide out. About three miles.
(note: As of late Aug '96, despite the burning of the caretaker's house, the RR bridge is reported to be closed only when the daily train goes by, otherwise is open for boats).
Astoria, OR
A fine old city. 2 major, city-run marinas: East Mooring Basin & West Mooring Basin. The East has no services but is reportedly close to a large grocery store. The Astoria Yacht Club maintains reciprocal moorage with many other yacht clubs and has a few spaces at the West Basin.

The West basin, just downstream of the bridge, has a new fuel dock which is now operating with a huge new onshore tank and line. The hours are seven days a week (May through Oct 15th) 8:AM to 5:PM. The phone number is 503 325-2101. The West Basin also has a pumpout, restrooms & showers. The restrooms are adequate though there is only one shower in the men's room (haven't been in the ladies). When the sailing season is on picking the right time to shower is important. Restrooms require a combination which the harbor master will give you when you check in. There's an interesting collection of fishing boats, large & small, local boats, liveaboards and other sailors waiting for the weather to head north or south.

The Pig is a good breakfast house with friendly and efficient waitresses and has a full menu. Did I say that the Pig and Pancake has the best Cocoanut Cream Pie in the world? Follow the tracks east to eleventh street and you'll find Pier 11, an excellent dining house on the river. If you follow the tracks to about sixteenth street you'll find Englund's Marine Supplies. They've been in business a long time and have what you need more often than not. The people are knowledgeable and friendly, the variety great, and the prices reasonably competitive.

There is a fine Maritime Museum on the waterfront that is well worth a visit, figure two hours for a walk-through. I understand they have a dock now, but have no detailed knowledge. Don't forget to take a walkthrough at the Flavel House Museum on eighth street for a peek into theVictorian era living of an old time sea captain.

Tongue Point is just a few miles upriver from Astoria. Many times I have anchored behind there in the "black jelly" mud and very sticky sand and my Danforth style anchors have dragged due to failure to properly set in this gelatinous yet very firm bottom. Based upon observation, I believe the anchor becomes "glued" all over with the sand/mud bottom and, thus loaded, fails to reset upon the change of wind and/or tide. I always set two anchors, sometimes both from the bow, sometimes one bow and one stern. A plow anchor is superior in my opinion in this location. I like to rise early and watch the terns and eagles fishing. Last trip I saw an eagle carrying a tern. Hell to be lower on the food chain.

Warrenton, OR
A peaceful place about 5 miles closer to the mouth than Astoria. It seems to be in decline along with the salmon runs. There is no longer any fuel dock here or any pumpout.

There is a nice place on the west side called the Skipanon Marina & Yacht Club. It has good concrete docks & free showers for those who moor there, but it very shallow. Only a few slips could handle a 4.5' draft. There is a nice restaurant above the marina.

There is another place, the Warrenton Mooring Basin on the East side of the waterway. It is larger & deeper and has more commercial fishing boats. I was moored there years ago when it was more popular than Astoria which was, at the time, in decline. The restrooms are just short of open air with no heat. However, the showers are nice. I have heard of problems with Warrenton Harbor but do not currently know the specifics. If you are moored in Warrenton and need hardware or stainless fasteners, I recommend the Coast to Coast store at the hwy 101 junction a decent walk away. They have a good stainless fastener selection and plenty of tools and housewares.

Hammond, OR
A couple of miles closer to the bar than Warrenton. We found the depths into the basin to be more than the 6' noted in the Coast Pilot. Your experiences may vary. You can contact the harbor master on VHF ch 11 - he may be there or at the Warrenton basin. This is a small basin used by fishing boats, both locals and larger charters. The docks are pretty worn. There is a fuel dock and showers & restrooms. You have to get a key to the showers from the harbor master. This isn't the normal image of a yacht basin but we liked it here.

There is a park on the point west of the basin with a couple of tables and a small river beach for the kids to play on. A few blocks inland is the town with a couple of stores & pubs and a bicycle rental place. Fort Stevens State Park abuts Hammond on the west side with miles of trails to walk and ride, historical monuments, wildlife and beaches (good use for the rented bike). It is a large park built around an old fort that defended the Columbia from the 1860s thru the 1940s. There is a museum a mile or two from the basin. From there, bike paths lead south & west to the rest of the park & to the beach and clear to the south jetty of the Columbia to the north. You may have an opportunity in Hammond to look for the eggs for which the town is so famous. You hear them asked for all over the world........Hammond eggs?

Ilwaco, WA
Getting into Ilwaco from the Columbia is about a mile long winding path past shallows and the Coast Guard station. The entrance is between the markers on a rock jetty just upstream a ways from Jetty A on the charts. Don't miss it. The town is perking up though there is little to do in town. Always enjoy the Lewis and Clark interpretive center, overlooks Columbia Bar. The Port of Ilwaco runs the boatyard in Ilwaco (Used to be Howard Gertuli's) and can pull large boats on their travelift. Owner work is the rule, the prices are reasonable but the weather, often bad, can work against you if you're not prepared. Also, the Port Marina now has, by report, proper restrooms and showers available for your stopover pleasure. The docks are getting tired but the folks are nice, there's excellent burgers and fresh fish available on the "promenade". Chandlery supplies are available at the local Englund's Marine Supplies up the street.
The Columbia Bar
I am *NOT* an expert though have crossed it several times in each direction. But a few tips:
- Study the Coast Pilot
- Study your charts and know where the shallows (which make for breakers) and other hazards are
- Beware of crossing on an ebb (outgoing tide) - the waves can really stack up & a sailboat may not be able to go back upstream against it
- Best to cross the bar on slack water if you can. A flood tide is second choice. Do NOT be afraid to NOT cross if it's too OR out.
- Don't cut corners - there are shallows & submerged jetties past the apparent ends of the jetties (see the Coast Pilot)
- Beware of getting trapped by the current against the pilings, etc.
- Check with the Cape Disappointment Coast Guard by radio (vhf 16) to get conditions before crossing. Among other things, they will probably remind you that the safety of a vessel is the skipper's responsibility.
- Check the weather and bar report on vhf then don't trust it, especially if its marginal
- DON'T figure that if the fishing boats can make it then you can. They're really good at what they do & they push their limits.
- Have more than one method of navigation. The fog rolls in and a GPS can die.