Saint Helens Highlights
Small City that is a remnant of a different era. Once you get off the highway, there are a number of local businesses including restaurants and small shops.
Only small attractions operate here, so there really isn't a huge reason for many people to stop.
In a nutshell
If you like off the beaten path places, downtown Saint Helens is probably a good place to take a look around.
Saint Helens Things to Do
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One of the larger city parks in Saint Helens, this park has quite a lot of tall (but not necessarily old) trees surrounding picnic areas and a playground. There is a gravel exercise walkway loop with exercise stations that nearly circles the park, and is approximately 1.5 miles in length.
This park is also the site of the city camping facilities, which are open May through October. There is also a large sports field on the north side of the park, plus a BMX dirt bike area.
The park has Milton Creek, a fairly large creek, that runs through it. This provides a bit more nature than your standard city park with only grass and a few trees in it.
The restrooms are locked during the coldest of winter months.
The natural portion of the park also provides some habitat for birds. For example, on my January 14, 2012 viist to the park there were a huge number of northern flickers, a red-breasted sapsucker, a number of golden-crowned kinglets, ruby crowned kinglets, nuthatches, and quite an assortment of other birds picking through the winter debris for whatever food they could.
Approximately half of the park is west of Milton Creek, but is not accessible from the picnic areas as there is no bridge directly across the creek there. Instead, the bridge is on the south side of the park, right along Old Portland Road. The road is busy and noisy, but you don't have to walk next to it very long. The west half of the park is more natural forest than the east half, which is the more developed part of the park.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
- Family Travel
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Operated by the Port of Saint Helens, this popular boat launching ramp has boats of all sizes use it, from kayaks and canoes to fairly large pleasurecraft of various types.
There is a store and boat house here from which one can rent various water craft, if you wish to explore Scappoose Bay or the Willamette River Slough that separates Sauvie's Island from the mainland.
There are a fair number of floating docks to allow people to prepare their boats and get into them without wading into the water.
Traffic for the boat ramp is arranged in a one-way fashion, so that people drive to the boat ramp past the pay station ($3 day use fee, $15 boat launch fee, and various other fees apply for using the facility). The boat ramp is then behind the building, and the one way road coming out on the north side of the building features a boat washing area for preventing the spread of invasive species.
While the vast majority of the land side of the facility is a good sized parking lot, there is a restroom with flush toilets, and a picnic shelter with a reasonably nice set of facilities.
A small forest exists on the north side of the boat ramp, and a short trail makes a set of loops through this forest. Woodpeckers, brown creepers, chickadee, and a few other birds make this their home and in the winter it is possible to see and hear tundra swans on the pond just north of the forest. There is a small dike that obscures the view of much of this pond from the trail but it may be possible to see them arriving and departing - they are huge white birds.
The trail really is tiny, and while there is some interesting bird life visible here, there just isn't enough of it to be worth a long stay, and the $3 day use fee. Your best bet for the use of this facility is to plan on brining a boat or renting a kayak.
This location is also the home of Scappoose Bay Kayaking (see http://www.scappoosebaykayaking.com/ ), which is where you go to rent your kayak.
In Photo 2, you will notice the kayak rental shop building. Just to the right of this you will see a small open structure. This is the pay per use vending machine.
Photo 4 shows the picnic shelter, but from the forest side. The concrete walls face the parking lot - which is nice as it helps block out traffic noise. However, from the parking lot it makes the structure look just like any other maintenance building.Related to:
- Sailing and Boating
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There isn't too much to this park: there are a few picnic tables scattered around (some of them on the concrete platform near the parking area even have electrical outlets), a small playground, and some open grass. The park offers a view of the Columbia River, and the remains of the top of Mount Saint Helens on a clear day (the day these photos were taken was not clear). There are restrooms at the parking lot by city hall, and these are open all year.
Weekdays can be a bit busy here due to the courthouse and city hall traffic, and for that reason there is a two hour parking limit on the parking lot from Monday through Friday. However, it isn't that hard to find parking elsewhere in town.
The park sits on a slope before the steep drop to the river level, and this has been carved into a small ampitheatre for local performances.
This small park also features a small monument to Seaman: the dog that accompanied the Corps of Discovery (Lewis and Clark expedition).Related to:
- Road Trip
- Arts and Culture
Saint Helens Hotels
585 Columbia River Hwy, Sa%nt% Helens, OR 97051
Good for: Solo
285 South 2nd Street, Saint Helens, Oregon, 97051, United States
Good for: Families
134 N. 2nd Street, Saint Helens, Oregon, 97051, United States
Good for: Families
Saint Helens Nightlife
Constructed in 1928, the Columbia Theatre dates from an age when movies were very different. Newsreels gave everything from community updates to world news. Silent films were accompanied by a full scale orchestra, or possibly a theatre organ that could create a vast array of sound effects. These were not just events to go to on a Saturday night, but community gathering places, especially in a small town such as Saint Helens. Theaters such as the Columbia were constructed not just with movies in mind, but also vaudeville acts and other variety shows. A restaurant and barber shop rounded out the facilities.
Today, the Columbia Theatre may not necessarily hold to some of those traditions. In order to attract a modern audience and keep them coming back, the theatre has embraced all manner of modern technology, but at the same time efforts have been made to keep the theatre as a classical old design with all the decorations of the original era.
The 1998 made for TV movie "Halloween Town" has a large number of scenes shot in the old courthouse building and in the Columbia Theatre, and the first installment of the "Twilight" series of movies was filmed in and around old downtown Saint Helens, including a shot of the theatre exterior.
The old barber shop has been converted into the snack and coffee shop, which sells everything from expresso to nachos and other snack foods, plus beer and wine on Thursdays. The restaurant has been converted to the concession room for movie style snacks.
The huge carbon arc projector in the lobby was salvaged from the old Roxy Theatre down the street when that venue went out of business. The Roxy was the main competitor of the Columbia Theatre during the 1920s until its demise.
Today, the Columbia Theatre seats 300 on the lower level and 100 more in the balcony (originally there were some 700 seats on the lower floor alone - a testament to how important the movie industry was during the era before television). The projector is the latest in modern technology.
Dress Code: Clothing is definitely a good thing to wear. However, unless it is one of the special events held here, I don't think anyone would mind what you wear so long as the vitals are covered up.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
Saint Helens Off The Beaten Path
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Most people miss this, even when they are looking right at it.
In preparation for the bicentennial of the Corps of Discovery / Lewis and Clark Expedition, the open grass courtyard in front of the courthouse was equipped with a long stone walkway. The walkway isn't too useful as a walkway exactly, as it is far too narrow. However, this walkway does chronicle the movement of the corps of discovery through what eventually became the Oregon territory - concentrating on the Columbia River. The entire artwork is titled "Down the Trodden Path"
Encased in the stones are portions of journal entries (see photo 2) which document the progress in their own words. However, these stones may also preserve biological samples that were retained by the Corps of Discovery as a large number of different plant and animal species new to the English speaking world were documented by the Corps. Certain other artifacts are also shown in the walkway, including miniature versions of items traded to the First Nations tribes, or other items of significance.
It must be understood, however, that the Corps had to carry everything they brought. Therefore, really everything including the smallest of objects were actually of some significance. If they weren't they would not have been brought.Related to:
- Historical Travel
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Not much is known about the Newfoundland dog named Seaman or his fate. It is recorded that Captain Meriwether Lewis paid $20 for the dog in Pittsburgh in 1803, and that the dog had several adventures and misadventures along the way to the Pacific Ocean as part of the Corps of Discovery. Seaman may have proven his purchase price ($20 was quite a handsome sum in 1803). For example, quotes from the sign at the memorial which seem to quote journal entries made about the dog include:
July 14, 1804: "Seaman once again proves his worth by brining down an Elk calf."
September 7, 1804: "Seaman chased a herd of buffalo into the waiting sights of Lewis and another hunter. Each killed their meat for the day."
On at least two occasions, local tribesmen attempt to gain ownership of the dog through trade or theft - perhaps again proving that the dog was considered a valuable hunting tool, at the very least.
The last known journal entry that mentions Seaman is this from Lewis, on July 15, 1806: "The mosquitos continue to infest us - my dog even howls with the torture he experiences from them." It is thought this last journal entry about Seaman was made somewhere around the current location of Saint Helens. Thus, it is thought this is an appropriate location for his monument - though it is not known exactly what happened to Seaman in the end. His fate simply fades into history.
In a book that lists various quotes and engravings from 1814, it is recorded that there is a museum in Virginia that has a dog collar with the inscription "The greatest traveller of my species. My name is SEAMAN, the dog of captain Meriwether Lewis, whom I accompanied to the Pacific Ocean through the interior of the continent of North America." This being the case, it is quite possible that Seaman survived the entire trip back to the east coast as the inscription on the collar seems to have been written after the Corps of Discovery had returned.
The monument to Seaman was part of constructing and improving historical sites and monuments along the Lewis and Clark trail in preparation for the 200th anniversary of the Corps of Discovery. The sculpture by Robert Tidwell was commissioned by the Historical Society of Columbia County and then donated to the City of Saint Helens public art collection for display. It currently resides in Columbia View Park.
An interpretive sign near the sculpture gives a list of the journal entries that mention Seaman and a map of their approximate location in the trek across the continent. Only a few of the writings on the sign are actual quotes from the Lewis and Clark journals. It must be understood that spelling, abbreviations and grammar were quite different over 200 years ago, and thus their journal entries tend to be impossible to understand unless they are transcribed into a more modern form of writing.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Road Trip
3 Hotels in Saint Helens
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