Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Five Historic and Scenic Cities in Northwest Oregon

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Five Historic and Scenic Cities in Northwest Oregon

at the Fort Stevens Beach in Northwest Oregon
an old church is now a McMenamin's
From Alaska, we flew back to Seattle and drove to the home of Roxanne, Bill’s high school friend and her husband, John in Oregon City, Oregon. From there we traveled to Seaside, 2 hours away, the base from which we explored three other cities. Each of the five cities is oozing with history or scenery or both.


Oregon City, near the southern limits of Portland, was the first city west of the Rocky Mountains to be incorporated in 1844 and was the capital of the Oregon Territory until 1851. After risking the perils of the Oregon Trail on wagons, homesteading migrants from the East, had to file their land claims there.

End of Oregon Trail
The center of the city retains its historic character through preserved houses and buildings. We had lunch, for example, at an old church converted into a member of the famous McMenamins specialty chain of restaurants that does such things all over the Pacific Northwest.

In the early 1990s, three buildings that resemble covered wagons were built to house the historical artifacts of the End of the Oregon Trail. Although the weathered covering was removed years ago, the skeletal hoop frames remain as a stark reminder of the city’s historical role in the expansion of the US.

WorldMark in Seaside


From Oregon City, we proceeded to Seaside, Oregon (population under 7,000), in the area that was the last stop of the Lewis and Clark Expedition which led to the doubling the size of the Union. WorldMark in Seaside, one of the state’s best waterfront locations, became our home for a week. 

American Kite Fliers' Association Annual Kite Festival
We were lucky that the American Kitefliers’ Association’s 39th Annual Kite Festival was going on during our stay! The beach and sky were littered with giant colorful kites dancing to the hum of the ocean and the songs of the winds. The Festival included indoor contests held at the Seaside Convention Center.

Our other activities in this town included strolling on the Seaside Promenade, photos with Lewis and Clark at the famous Seaside Turnaround, playing around the expansive beach, shopping at the Carousel Mall and the Seaside Outlet Malls, and dining at the Boardwalk that had great beach views and more!

Seaside Promenade

About 30 minutes away, Astoria (population almost 10,000) is at the mouth of the Columbia River on the Pacific Ocean. It holds the distinction of being the first permanent US settlement on the west coast and for having the first US post office west of the Rocky Mountains.

Astoria-Megler Bridge
The 4.1 mile long Astoria–Megler Bridge, longest continuous truss bridge in North America, spans the Columbia River between the town and Megler, Washington. Built jointly by the two states, it was the last segment completed on US 101 of the West Coast. It eerily photographs as a ‘bridge to nowhere.”

Astoria Column
The 125 foot tall Astoria Column, a tower overlooking the mouth of Columbia River atop the 600-foot Coxcomb Hill, has a 164-step spiral staircase leading to an observation deck at the top. Its mural depicts 14 events in Oregon history, like the Trajan Column in Rome and the Place Vendôme Column in Paris.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition led to the Louisiana Purchase which doubled the size of the Union. Their last stop the winter of 1805–1806 is preserved as the Fort Clatsop National Memorial. Later, together with the other spots the group explored, was turned into the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park.

Fort Clatsop National Memorial

Just 15 minutes away is Cannon Beach (population under 2,000) Clark completed a three-day journey to the site of a beached whale on the beach town to acquire blubber. He named the area Ecola but it was later redubbed Cannon Beach after  a cannon from the US Navy schooner Shark washed ashore. 

Haystack Rock and the Needles
The town is known for Haystack Rock, 235 feet high, often accessible at low tide, especially in summer. The rock is also part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, a marine sanctuary. Two tall rocks called The Needles rise straight out of the water beside it, making for a most photographable scene.


Between Astoria and Seaside is Warrenton (population under 5,000). Fort Stevens, built near the end of the American Civil War, continued to be an active military reservation protecting the Harbor up to WWII. In 1906, the sailing ship Peter Iredale ran aground at its beachhead. The Iredale Wreck is a favorite photo stop.
Fort Stevens with the Iredale Wreck

Our week and a half in Northwestern Oregon were replete with friendship, fun, and photography with all the history, and scenery around. It was so worth three days of rain, four days of partly cloudy weather and drizzles, and two days of sun. Not surprising, it is part and parcel of life in the Pacific Northwest!

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