Running along the riverfront through much of downtown Astoria is the Astoria Riverfront Walkway. This walkway parallels the old railroad line that is now used as the Astoria Trolley line. The walkway goes through an assortment of environments, including a few remaining industrial areas, places that have been converted to modern condominium residences, a few scattered hotels, and many places with a view of the river.
It is a much more pleasant place to walk to get around than the sidewalks along the horrifically busy Highway 30 through downtown, though you are never really that far from the noise of this busy route.
A very important caution for this walkway and bike path: in many places there wasn't enough space to put it next to the trolley line, and so it shares bridges with the trolley. Make sure the trolley isn't coming before you cross these bridges and other narrow places.
Also, if you are on a bicycle, keep in mind the wet wood on the boardwalk sections of the walkway are extremely slippery.
The large and very long bridge (it appears to not have an end!) that crosses the mouth of the Columbia is an impressive structure, but it is only two lanes. Driving over it can feel a little intimidating when there is no where else to go but into the water should someone cross the median line at you.
This was the last gap on highway 101 to be bridged with a bridge. Until it was built, the only way to cross here was by boat.
Yet, crossing the bridge over to Megler will at least give you bragging rights to have crossed what was once one of the longest bridges in North America (it isn't now). Stopping at Dismal Nitch rest area gives you a different perspective on the city of Astoria (though to see across the river you would want to bring a telephoto lens or binoculars!).
While across the river in Washington, it may be worth visiting Cape Disappointment State Park and Long Beach and a few other locations just over the bridge in Washington.
Bicyclists are allowed on the bridge, but pedestrian traffic is not.
If you think it looks long in the main photo, take a look at the second photo which shows the bridge as seen from the Astoria Column.
If you are interested in learning more of this bridge, there is quite a bit out there, and an entry of "AstoriaMegler Bridge" into your favorite search engine will turn up quite a lot of material. In addition to the very basic information in the Wikipedia entry below, the is also material on the web site of the Astoria-Warrenton Chamber of Commerce, Oregon Coast Bridges, and various other web sites.
Public bus service through downtown Astoria only operates once every hour, and using it requires crossing from many of Astoria's waterfront attractions to the other side of Highway 30, which can sometimes be difficult.
Throughout most of the 1980s and 1990s, the railroad route to Astoria was not used extensively, and a land slide eventually closed the line completely.
Thus, the purchase of five miles of the railroad line by the city of Astoria, and the conversion of the route inside the city itself to a tourist trolley operation that also serves as a useful transportation link along the Astoria riverfront.
The trolley itself is still owned by the San Antonio Museum Association of Texas - where the car originally operated when it was first built. However, the car hasn't seen Texas for nearly 20 years, and is leased to Astoria for operation along the riverfront, where it provides very useful transportation between a number of city attractions, hotels, and restaurants.
The railroad line is the same one that has always been here, however, and once in a very great while the trolley is shut down so that freight may be delivered to the Port of Astoria. It has been several years since this has last happened, however, when several huge spools of fibre optic cable and a few other supplies were delivered to AT&Ts under water cable laying ships.
The trolley generally only operates in peak tourist season, Memorial Day through Labor Day, Friday Saturday and Sunday. Operations during the rest of the year are irregular, but they may happen on especially busy days or during large conventions or some other reason. Also, if the weather is extremely bad, the trolley will not operate. It is best to check locally (see station shelters, for example) to see if the trolley will be operating when you are visiting. The web site has not been updated in quite a while (several years as of this writing).
When last increased, the fare structure was $1 per trip, or $2 per entire day. This is much better than trying to find a place to park in downtown Astoria during the peak tourist season.
The restored 1914 trolley is a great way to get around Astoria. It runs 3 miles along the Columbia River. You can catch a ride anywhere on the riverfront between Basin & 36th Street.
• Astoria Red Lion Inn
• Maritime Memorial (near Bay Street)
• Columbia House Condominiums, Third Street
• Foot of 6th Street
• Foot of 11th Street
• Foot of 14th Street
• Maritime Museum, foot of 17th Street
• East End Mooring Basin, foot of 36th St.
• Foot of 39th Street
• Or, flag the Trolley down at any location (Wave $1!)
The conductor gives a commentary of Astoria's sights and history. The total ride is about 40 minutes and cost $1 or you can pay $2 and ride all day long.
The trolley has seasonal hours so check the website. They run on cruise ship days even if outside the normal season.
General timings are:
Memorial Day to Labor Day (weather permitting) - 12:00 p.m. - 7 Every day
Fall, Winter and Spring – Check Trolley Shelters
The mouth of the Columbia River is close to 4 miles wide at Astoria. Crossing it during the first half of the 20th century required a half hour ferry ride. Back in 1962 when we went to the Seattle Worlds Fair I took that ferry ride. I remember the wind blowing on my face while I leaned over the bow as we chugged across the water. When Sen Dan Theil proposed a bridge to complete the 101 highway from Mexico to Canada, many named it the "Bridge to Nowhere". There wasn't much on either side of the river and people wondered who would take a bridge from a "small town to an empty shore". Nevertheless in Aug. 1962 the first shovel of dirt was dug by Governors Mark Hatfield of Oregon and Dan Evans of Washington and the construction of the longest bridge in the U.S to that point began.
It had to withstand wind gusts of up to 150 mph that come during the fierce winter pacific storms. It had to tolerate river flows which during floods could bring down whole trees. It had to be high enough to let the ships pass under on their way to docks upriver.
It took four years to complete and opened to traffic in Aug 1966. After 30 years the bond was paid off and the toll booths were taken down.
The approach from the Astoria side takes you in a full 360 degree circle to reach the 200 ft above river level height. Between the approach circle and the height it is quite a dizzying experience. About half way across the bridge comes down to near river level before rising again as it meets the Washington shore. It remains the longest truss bridge in the US.
Even if you have no reason to cross the bridge it is a trip you ought to experience with great views of the Colombia River from the top. Stop on the Washington side at the Dismal Nitch rest area for information about the ferries and bridge.