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Portland Art Museum


WHAT’S HERE: Extensive collection of Asian, American, European, and contemporary art

DON’T MISS THIS: The special art shows when offered


The Portland Art Museum uses 90 percent of its 112,000 square feet of galleries to exhibit a rotating selection of its 42,000-piece collection. And it’s a collection that is representative of the world’s history of art, including American, Native American, European, and Asian objects. Be sure to get a map of the museum because it’s a very large place with numerous levels spread between two separate buildings connected by an underground link, itself a gallery of rotating art exhibits.

As with most large museums, the collection here far exceeds the gallery space that would be required to allow everything to be permanently exhibited for public viewing. Therefore periodically the staff selects a theme—be it a certain artist, a single medium, or a particular subject— and displays that part of the museum’s collection in the galleries. It may be beaded bags from the Columbia River Plateau, or post–World War II European sculpture, or prints and drawings from such artists as Rembrandt, Matisse, or Picasso.

Asian art dominates the museum’s main floor. From its earliest days, the museum and some of its founding trustees have had close connections with East Asian culture. This interchange has resulted in the donation of nearly 4,000 pieces, especially Chinese, Japanese, and Korean examples. While the Japanese print collection began with an initial donation of 800 pieces in 1932, it has grown to more than 1,800 today. The Japanese collection includes more than just prints, with numerous paintings and decorative arts from the Edo (1615–1868) and Meiji (1868–1912) periods. The Chinese collection has also expanded with ceramic pieces representing dancers, musicians, and court nobles, and the animals, including dogs, horses, and sometimes unidentifiable supernatural creatures, that are so prominent on many pieces. The collection also is rich in tomb objects from the dynasties of Han (206 BCE–220 CE) [Designer: Small caps pls] and Tang (618–907).

If prints and drawings are of special interest, the museum’s Vivian and Gordon Gilkey Center for the Graphic Arts houses more than 26,000 pieces of art. The center is open to the public for researching prints, drawings, and photographs that range from the 12th century to today’s contemporary contributions. If you would like to view a specific piece for research or pleasure, an appointment is required. The expansive collection began slowly with its first 100 Giovanni Battista Piranesi prints donated in 1916. In 1932, another 800 Japanese prints were added along with smaller donations in subsequent years. Then in 1978, Vivian and Gordon Gilkey gifted 8,000 prints from their personal collection, plus another 6,000 in the years that followed.

The museum was founded in 1892 and has benefited from hundreds of donations, many of them made by Portland residents. The American art collection exhibited on the second level of the main building includes pieces from Gilbert Stuart, Erastus Salisbury Field, and the renowned 19th-century landscape painter George Inness. The works of Childe Hassam and J. Alden Weir in this collection include some that they painted in the early 20th century while visiting Portland.

The museum’s largest galleries for contemporary and modern art are found in the Belluschi Building’s Jubitz Center, which is connected to the main building by an underground passage. The passage isn’t as ominous as it may sound. It, too, includes art exhibits that change regularly. The Jubitz Center has six floors of galleries, beginning in the underground link. Level one includes Impressionism and the School of Paris, along with the New York School. The galleries are relatively small as you ascend the stairway through successive floors. The art represents the changes that have occurred throughout Modernism’s lifespan, which can be seen in different media including paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, photography, and works on paper. Technology also surfaces in art with both video and sound works exhibited.

There is much more to see here, including Northwest art, Native American pieces, and a discovery center where kids can pursue some of their own artistic desires. The museum has an active acquisitions program, so there are always new objects to see.


HOURS: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday, 10 AM to 5 PM; Thursday and Friday, 10 AM to 8 PM; Sunday, noon to 5 PM. Closed most major holidays.

COST: Adults, $10; age 55-plus and students over age 18 (with ID), $9; ages 17 and under, free

LOCATION: 1219 SW Park Avenue, Portland

PHONE: 503-226-2811





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w312 Pittock Mansion WHAT’S HERE: Early 20th-century mansion constructed by one of Portland’s most successful and influential businessmen DON’T MISS THIS: The elaborate master bathroom shower The views of downtown Portland, its waterfront, and distant Mount Hood are quite spectacular from Henry Pittock’s former front yard. His home is perched on Portland’s West Hills, or Tualatin Mountains, 1,000 feet above the city. Henry Pittock had come to Oregon in 1853 when he was only 19 years old and in a financial state that he described as “barefoot and penniless.” Seven years later he married a girl from Missouri, 15-year-old Georgiana Martin. Pittock worked as a typesetter, and within a few years he owned the newspaper, transforming it into The Oregonian. The daily newspaper, today the largest in the Pacific Northwest, became only a small part of his financial empire that included real estate, the manufacture of railroad equipment, banks, silver mines, sheep ranches, and the paper industry. He was 73 years old when he started planning his new home, completed his mansion in 1914, and lived it until his death in 1919. Members of the Pittock family continued living in the home until 1958. The home’s tours are self-guided so you can walk through the numerous rooms and spend as much time as you want reading the informational signage or enjoying the beautiful views. When you enter the home, one of the first architectural marvels you see is the grand staircase, its marble steps sweeping up to the third floor. Most of the home’s furnishings have been donated by various people, although there are a few pieces that belonged to the Pittock family. The music room enjoys a truly inspirational 180-degree view of Portland, with five mountain peaks visible in the distance, including Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens. The room’s walls have been returned to their original faux leather texture and the ceiling to its silver leaf, under a bronze glazing. The 1887 rosewood Steinway grand piano is one of the few original furnishings—Henry Pittock purchased it for his daughter Lucy. The carved walnut bench sitting beneath the window also belonged to the Pittocks. In the center of the room is a gilded harp that was made in Chicago in about 1890. The Turkish smoking room features exquisite examples of plasterwork and parquetry. The room’s walls are finished with a Tiffany glaze—carefully applied layers of silver, green, blue, and gold pigments. The oak floorboards were actually steamed and bent to match the room’s round contour. In the nearby dining room, the drawers in the built-in sideboard were lined with velvet so the fine silverware would not be scratched. If you look in the sideboard’s mirror, you’ll be able to see Mount Hood in its reflection—at least on clear days. The Kerman carpet beneath the table belonged to the Pittocks. The kitchen has been restored to reflect how it would have appeared when Henry and Georgiana first moved into their new home. Even the cookware and utensils are of the same time period. A photograph in the refrigerator room shows what the original cold food storage system looked like, an elaborate multilevel cooler that used a compressor located in the basement and ammonia as the refrigerant. The room’s current Westinghouse refrigerator replaced the original in 1928. In the nearby central hallway, you, like the Pittocks’ servants once could, can see the annunciator, a device similar to those found in most households where servants were employed. When someone in one of the home’s numerous rooms required assistance, he or she simply pressed the servant’s button in that room. The annunciator bell rang in the central hallway, tipping an arrow indicating where assistance was required. The grand staircase leads up to several bedrooms and a sleeping porch. The south sleeping porch is furnished with a single bed that belonged to Henry Pittock. The rocker is one of Gustav Stickley’s Arts & Crafts–style chairs, and the master designer even signed the chair. One of the bedrooms belonged to the Pittock’s two nieces, who were orphans. One of the more curious practices on display in the mansion, at least by today’s standards, is the separate bedrooms for Mr. and Mrs. Pittock. The suite includes her sewing room and a shower that likely has few equals. To quote from the sign explaining the elaborate shower: The tile shower’s horizontal pipes allow for a “Needle”-like spray from all sides. A “Shampoo” spray allows water to cascade from above while a “Bidet” fountain rises from the floor of the shower. Two mid-height shower heads, located on opposite sides, were operated by a handle labeled “Liver Spray.” Finally, lower down the central pipe is a spout for gauging the temperature labeled “Test.” It releases water on one’s toe first before opening the master valve. The master bath also includes a sitz bath for one’s feet and a call button over the tub, should assistance be needed. In the home’s lowest floor (below the main entry-level floor), a small museum has been added. It includes photographs of the Pittock family and also of the home being constructed, including the quarrying of the 35-ton blocks of sandstone. This was also where the laundry facility and the servants’ and tradesmen’s entrance can be found. HOURS: September through May, 12 PM to 4 PM; June through August, 11 AM to 4 PM. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the month of January. COST: Adults, $7; age 65-plus, $6; ages 6–18, $4 LOCATION: 3229 NW Pittock Drive, Portland PHONE: 503-823-6362 WEBSITE:
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Bonneville Dam & Lock

Interpretive Center


WHAT’S HERE: Dam, power plant, fish ladder, fish hatchery, and visitor center

DON’T MISS THIS: The sturgeon at the fish hatchery


Overlooking Bonneville Dam, the interpretive center provides films and exhibits about the construction and operation of the dam and its locks. Although the Bonneville locks were originally constructed in 1938, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers built an even earlier lock in 1896. Before then, ships had to unload their cargo and portage it around the Columbia River’s Cascade Rapids. That first lock and the rapids are now submerged beneath the waters behind the present-day Bonneville Dam.

The 1938 lock, also built by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, could hold two barges and a tugboat at one time. Over the years, new dams were built upstream with locks that could handle even larger vessels turning Bonneville’s 1938 lock into a bottleneck. That changed in 1993 when Bonneville’s 1938 lock was replaced with a much larger facility, allowing the 1938 facility to be closed. The new lock can hold five barge tows, the same capacity as the seven upstream locks, helping facilitate the flow of river traffic.

The locks are designed to raise or lower barges, ships, and even personal pleasure boats, approximately 60 feet at each of the dams, depending upon whether they are headed upstream or downriver. Those commercial vessels transport petroleum, wood products, and grain between Lewiston, Idaho, and the Pacific Ocean on the river highway known as the Columbia-Snake Inland Waterway.

The five-story visitor center and observation platform offers a great view of Bonneville Dam and of the navigational lock. Hang around long enough and you can watch the lock at work as it raises or lowers large barges and small boats the 60 feet in elevation difference between the dam and the river below. There are numerous exhibits in the visitor center that explain the history and the logistics of river transportation. You can discover how fast the big tugboats move when pushing five barges (3.5 miles per hour or 95 miles per day), how much fuel a tugboat uses each day when pushing those five barges (3,000 gallons per day), and that shipping by barge costs 2.5 times less than shipping by train and about 7.5 times less than shipping by truck.

After spending time at the visitor center, drive across the top of the dam to the Bradford Island Visitor Center. If you are here during summer, head over to the fish ladder facility where a window allows you to see the fish migrating upriver. At each of the fishways, a worker is always present counting the passing fish. Annually, between 700,000 and 1.5 million salmon and steelhead pass through the ladder. Some 24 million to 43 million fingerlings swim downstream each year.

One last stop you need to make before leaving is the Bonneville fish hatchery. The biggest attraction here is the sturgeon viewing center. The hatchery has been operating since 1909, making it one of the oldest in the state. There are several rearing ponds and creeks scattered around the hatchery. Stepping down into one of the small buildings allows for an underwater view of the sturgeon and salmon swimming in one of the ponds.

The visitor center offer various tours, including of the Bonneville dam hydroelectric power plant. Tour times change, so be sure to check the U.S. Army Corp of Engineer’s website.


HOURS: Daily, 9 AM to 5 PM. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day

COST: Free

LOCATION: Cascade Locks

PHONE: 541-374-8820



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Vista House

at Crown Point


WHAT’S HERE: Historic highway rest stop and vista point, set high above the Columbia River

DON’T MISS THIS: Photos of Columbia Gorge travelers during the 1920s and ‘30s


While not really a house, the view from Crown Point—the western gateway to the Columbia Gorge—is breathtaking and is situated far enough west where the great Columbia River has widened and its steep banks changed from desert browns to forest greens. The views are well worth the winding drive. The Vista House rests atop a point of basaltic rock sitting high above the river’s churning waters.

This national landmark was constructed in 1918 as a rest stop and observatory for travelers on the old Columbia River Gorge Highway. Architect Edgar M. Lazarus designed Vista House as a German version of an Art Nouveau building, popular during the early 20th century. The Italian stone craftsmen, who at the time were building the walls and bridges along the Columbia River Highway, so closely cut and fit the monument foundation’s stone that mortar and cement were not required. The two-story building is 55 feet high and 44 feet in diameter. The restored roof is covered with matte-glazed green tiles.

Inside, the floors, the rotunda stairs, and the basement wainscoting are Alaskan Tokeen marble. The rare marble was quarried from Marble Island, located off the west coast of Prince of Wales Island near Ketchikan, and shipped to Vermont Marble Company in Tacoma for processing. Although the structure cost $100,000 to build, the final interior decorations, designed to complement the eight busts of four different Native Americans, were never completed.

Inside Vista House, a series of photo exhibits extol the beauty of the Columbia Gorge and provides a look at the early travelers who came here to admire nature’s handiwork. Part of the exhibit is a series of postcards that some of those early travels wrote to their friends and families. Friends of Vista House volunteers operate a gift shop and espresso cafe in the building’s lower level from mid-March through October.


HOURS: Mid-March through October, daily, 9 AM until 6 PM; November through mid-March, weekends, 10 AM until 4 PM. Hours and days are subject to change.

COST: Free, but donations requested

LOCATION: 40700 E. Historic Columbia River Highway, Corbett. Take exit 22 from Interstate 84.

PHONE: 503-695-2230






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Hood River Museum

WHAT’S HERE: History of the local Hood and Columbia rivers

DON’T MISS THIS: The original 1984 Darby plywood sailboard


The museum is located near the marina, emphasizing its relationship with the nearby Columbia and Hood rivers. It is easy to spot the museum’s giant red paddle wheel. The diverse local history, the theme of the museum’s collection, makes for a fun visit. There is a look at Celilo Falls—for thousands of years a primary fishing and trading center for many regional American Indian tribes—before The Dalles Dam (about 23 miles upriver) inundated the historic site. The Mount Hood Railroad exhibit includes part of a waiting room with a woman traveling with her daughter. A modern Mount Hood Railroad telephone booth proudly displays its hand-cranked telephone.

Women today can be thankful that modern clothing allows for wearing comfortable garments. Such was not the case in the late 19th century (and before), as the exhibit showcasing women’s undergarments amply shows—comfort was not the most immediate concern. Other displays show the clothing worn by the different nationalities of women, including Hispanic and Japanese, who also settled here.

The museum shares the story of Shizue Iwatsuki, who at age 19, came to Hood River in 1916 for an arranged marriage to local farmer Kamegoro Iwatsuki. She became a local leader, organizing the Japanese Women’s Society to help new arrivals from Japan adjust to life here. At the beginning of World War II, she and her husband were sent to Japanese internment camps. Following the war, they returned and continued farming. In 1950, Shizue took a correspondence course in Tanka, a more advanced form of haiku. In 1974 she returned to Japan for the first time in 58 years to be honored for an award-winning poem, which she read at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

The museum’s exhibits continue, one telling the story of the area’s apple-growing industry, another about music. If you look toward the ceiling in one of the galleries, you can see everything from oxen yokes to old hand augers. There are a couple of 19th-century Winchester rifles, and even a wooden military drill rifle that was used during the Spanish-American War. Moving into the 1930s brings a kitchen and everything you might find for meal preparation, and even some of the old wooden washing machines that were used by the Hood River Laundry Company. Part of the laundry exhibit features the company’s horse-drawn sleigh delivery wagon. Thought to be a Studebaker, it actually had wheels attached for use during months when it didn’t snow. It was pulled by a team of two white horses named Tom and Jerry.

Windsurfing on the nearby Columbia River has exploded in popularity since the late 1980s. Although others may disagree, the city lays claim to being the home of the sport that became known as windsurfing. In 1964, Newman Darby attached a sail to a rectangular piece of plywood that was beveled on its front and back leading edges, then used it for sailing on the Columbia River. He even had his sailboard design published in the August 1965 issue of Popular Science. Over the next few years, legal battles in England and the U.S. erupted among different parties about who owned the patent for the device. The museum features several board designs, including Darby’s very first sailboard with a photograph of a woman riding it—a woman who later became his wife.

Other exhibits include children’s toys, ranging from a Lincoln Log set and an Erector set to an old jack-in-the-box and an Atari 400 computer (with game cartridges). Scattered among the toys and Black Jack chewing gum are several dolls, including some from the early 20th century.


HOURS: March through April, daily, 1 PM to 5 PM; May through September, Monday through Saturday, 10 AM to 5 PM, Sunday, 1 PM to 5 PM

COST: Free, but donations accepted and used for public programs

LOCATION: 300 E. Port Marina Drive, Hood River

PHONE: 541-386-6772



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Columbia Gorge

Discovery Center


Wasco County

Historical Museum


WHAT’S HERE: A look at the geologic and cultural history of the Columbia River Gorge

DON’T MISS THIS:  The outside views of the Columbia River


Two distinct, yet related, facilities are housed in this single building on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River. The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center is the official visitor center for the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area. It takes visitors on a trip back to the time when volcanic eruptions and catastrophic floods created the gorge. Exhibits look at the great Columbia River and the habitat that exists along its winding course. Just across the facility’s enclosed breezeway is the Wasco County Historical Museum, with more than 17,000 square feet of exhibits that tell the story of the people who live in one of the largest counties in the U.S.

Enter the Discovery Center galleries to see not only at the cultural changes but also the geologic changes that have occurred along the Columbia Gorge. Native Americans have occupied these lands for more than 4,000 years. During the late 18th century and early 19th century, an onslaught of explorers, trappers, and traders from Spain, Russia, France, England, and the U.S. entered the Pacific Northwest. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark passed through the area in 1806, trading with the Indian tribes for needed supplies and other items useful to their exploration. One transaction that Lewis included in his journal documented his trading a knife and 36 feet each of blue and white beads for a sea otter pelt that he wanted.

The story of the gorge’s geology is fascinating—and violent. About 15,000 years ago, a glacier dammed a fork of the Columbia River creating an ancient 3,000-square-mile reservoir geologist call Lake Missoula. Perhaps 100 times over the next 2,000 years, an ice dam reformed and once again broke, allowing torrential floods to course down the Columbia. Geologists estimate that the largest of these floods was 1,000 feet deep and moved a volume of water ten times greater than the combined flows of all of the world’s rivers at 60 miles per hour. The torrent moved huge boulders and scoured the bottom and side channels, creating what is here today.

Volcanic activity also played a key role in molding the Columbia Gorge. Millions of years ago, great flows of basalt oozed up from cracks in the earth’s crust and flowed over much of eastern Oregon. Ultimately, the basalt covered 65,000 square miles and reached as far as the Pacific Ocean. Over millions of years, the Columbia River, aided by those catastrophic ice age floods, carved its way through the rock. During those same millions of years, more eruptions formed some of the Oregon’s most famous volcanoes, including Mount Hood.

As you meander through the Discovery Center you will come face-to-face with a massive Columbian mammoth. These mammals could reach a height of 13 feet with curved tusks equally as long. To better illustrate how much larger mammals were several million years ago, an exhibit features the skulls of an ancient beaver and one of a modern beaver. It’s like comparing a house cat with an African lion. There are also ancient bear skulls to show that the ancient beaver wasn’t alone in its extraordinary size.

On the history side of the visitor center, exhibits explore the explorers, dissecting the planning that Lewis and Clark undertook for their journey of discovery. You can see receipts for $142.14 for 83 shirts and $246.63 for 16 coats. Some of the things they brought with them were of questionable need, such as satin pants, a crystal decanter, and musical instruments—at least until they ran out of trade goods and still needed to trade for food or other supplies. For kids wanting to learn more about Lewis and Clark, there is a Kids’ Explorer Room where young ones can literally dig into some of the explorers’ history.

Exhibits look at one of the last battles between railroad tycoons who, in 1909, were competing to extend their lines up the Columbia Gorge to access commerce in central Oregon. James Hill’s Great Northern Railway beat Edward Harriman’s Deschutes Railroad by six weeks. Harriman at the time controlled Union Pacific and Southern Pacific. In the end, the two merged their lines.

The museum also looks back at the county’s farming history and even early tourism with several recreated buildings. One is the Umatilla House, which could handle 300 guests in first-class comfort; the hotel owners kept up to 2,500 gallons of whiskey in the basement. Besides the Umatilla House, there is a newspaper office and a salmon processing plant. The Columbia River provided plenty of fish for nets and fishwheels, which were efficient, mechanical fish catchers that turned with the current and scooped up large quantities of migrating salmon. On a good day, a fishwheel could harvest 42,000 pounds of salmon—and there were dozens of them along the river.

The old sternwheelers that plied the Columbia were critical to moving agricultural products from central Oregon farms to coastal markets and shipping points. While the steam-powered ships of yesterday that the museum showcases are now history, modern barges move hundreds of millions of dollars in agricultural produce and other products down the Columbia River each year.

There is plenty more here to see here, including a look at how the lives of the Native American tribes in this area, including the Wasco, Paiute, Teninos, and Warm Spring, were impacted by the changes that have occurred along the Columbia Gorge.


HOURS: Daily, 9 AM until 5 PM. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day

COST: Adults, $8; seniors, $7; ages 6–16, $4

LOCATION: 5000 Discovery Drive, The Dalles

PHONE: 541-296-8600







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Columbia River

Maritime Museum


WHAT’S HERE: Maritime history focused on the mouth of the Columbia River

DON’T MISS THIS: The lighthouse ship Columbia


The city of Astoria sits at the mouth of the Columbia River, one of the most dangerous and deadly ocean gateways in the world. Since 1792, about 2,000 ships have sunk in and around the mouth with the loss of life in the thousands. Even modern-day navigational equipment has failed to stop the tragic loss of vessels and lives. Unlike most large rivers that empty into the oceans, the Columbia has no expansive delta to slow its flow into the Pacific. Instead, its channel dumps the massive river and all of the sediment it carries directly into the ocean, causing surges and waves that can easily reach a height of 40 feet. A slight shift in the winds can cause relatively smooth waters to transform into ship-battering waves in a matter of minutes, driving vessels onto the treacherous and changing sandbars.

The Columbia River Maritime Museum tells the story of this nationally important river with a special focus on the valiant efforts of the U.S. Coast Guard to save ships and rescue crews and passengers. A large relief map of the Columbia River mouth on the wall near the entrance shows were dozens of vessels have sunk over the years—making it obvious that there isn’t a safe place anywhere around it.

And to further make its point about the life-ending dangers here, one of the first exhibits in the main gallery tells a harrowing story: A full-sized replica of Coast Guard motor lifeboat CG 36474 sits here at rest now. But on January 12, 1961, the original 36-foot wooden rescue craft was dispatched, along with three other Coast Guard vessels, to rescue the disabled and drifting fishing boat Mermaid. That night, even though they were battling 36-foot waves, all but two of the fishing boat’s crew were successfully rescued, but at the cost of three Coast Guard men and three sunken Coast Guard rescue boats, including CG 36474.

The museum also looks at the history of the salmon fishing industry along the Columbia River. Initially, commercial salmon fishermen salted their catch and packed the fish in barrels for shipment to Hawaii and the East Coast, but too often the fish spoiled before reaching their destinations. The French came to the rescue in 1809, when their scientists, working to develop a way to preserve food for Napoleon’s army, discovered food canning. The ability to can salmon allowed the fishing industry to thrive throughout the Pacific Northwest.

The fishing industry wasn’t limited to the fishermen and their boats. The museum looks at the different ethnic groups that came to this region to chase the American dream. Of the 7,000 residents of Clatsop County in 1880, more than 2,000 were Chinese immigrants, and they excelled as cannery workers. A good worker could cut the tail and head off a 40-pound salmon and gut it in 45 seconds. And he could do this to 1,700 fish during an 11-hour workday. By the 1930s, the salmon canning business was coming to a close. The museum tells about the overfishing, logging, mining, pollution, and dams on the upper Columbia that all contributed to the death of the commercial fishing industry and the end of Astoria’s salmon canning operations. There still is commercial salmon fishing today, but it occurs offshore in the Pacific Ocean, not in the Columbia River.

The museum has one of the seven identical trollers built in 1945 at the George and Barker Cannery for the Columbia River Packers Association. It’s a beautiful wooden boat that remains in excellent condition, even after 50 years of use. The museum also has the only remaining sailing gillnetter in existence. It was such a common-looking boat that most were allowed to rot away or they were converted to motor power over the years. Numerous exhibits describe how all the different fishing boats were used to catch fish and the tactics fishermen used to thwart their competitors. There were fishermen’s drift rights (places in the river reserved for specific individuals) and corking—dropping their nets directly in front of another’s set net in order to intercept all of the fish.

The museum includes exhibits on the river’s history of boating, from towboats and tugboats, to getting through the locks. You can see the evolution of rain gear, from the early oilskins to rubber to today’s polypropylene, PVC, and breathable, high-tech waterproof materials. Kids can take the helm of a towboat’s wheelhouse, or go onboard the bridge of the destroyer USS Knapp. A large collection of naval ship weapons is also exhibited. There is a look at naval vessels named after local cities (USS Astoria) and their actions in World War II. The museum even has two Japanese surrender swords in its collection.

Part of the museum’s entrance fee is a tour on the Columbia, the lighthouse ship that served as a floating lighthouse from 1950 to 1979, six miles off the entrance to the Columbia River. The Columbia is moored beside the museum and was the last active lightship on the West Coast. The interior of the ship looks much as it did while it was in service.


HOURS: Daily, 9:30 AM until 5 PM. Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas.

COST: Adults, $10; ages 65-plus, $8; ages 6–17, $5

LOCATION: 1729 Marine Drive, Astoria

PHONE: 503-325-2323






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Astoria Column


WHAT’S HERE: A monument saluting the early pioneers who helped settle the West—and great views of Astoria and the Columbia River mouth

DON’T MISS THIS: The climb to the top of the tower


Standing proudly on Astoria’s highest point, the 125-foot-tall concrete tower provides unsurpassed views of the Columbia River and the surrounding forests—assuming you are willing to climb the 164 steps to its top. The Astoria Column was the last of 12 historical markers dedicated to the pioneers who came to the West. In 1925, Ralph Budd, president of the Great Northern Railroad, began this project, placing the first marker in the series in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Fittingly, an immigrant Italian artist named Attilo Pusterla was commissioned to complete the 14 carvings on the Astoria Column that would represent significant historical events in the region. He worked with a bas-relief technique known as sgraffito, an Italian Renaissance process that combined paint and plaster carvings. The column was dedicated on July 22, 1926.

More than 400,000 people visit the column each year, and many make the climb to the top, trudging up all 164 steps. Coxcomb Hill, the site of the Astoria Column, reaches 600 feet above the city of Astoria, and the column another 125 feet. The artwork that wraps around the exterior of the column includes 12 panels and 200 different figures. If you could unwind it like a roll of paper, the piece would stretch out more than 500 feet. The text panels begin with “Before the White Man Came,” and include Lt. William Broughton naming Mount Hood in 1792; Fort Clatsop being established by the Lewis and Clark Expedition; American Indians fishing and the boat building industry; the Overlanders crossing the Continental Divide led by Wilson Price Hunt; the coming of the pioneers in 1837–1848; the arrival of the railroad in 1893; and more.


HOURS: Daily, dawn to dusk

COST: $1 per car

LOCATION: 1 Coxcomb Drive, Astoria

PHONE: 503-325-2963






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Antelope Valley Indian Museum


If you’re going all the way out to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, then there’s another stop that you should make. About 30 miles east of the Poppy Reserve sits the most unusually designed museum found anywhere in California’s vast southern deserts. The Antelope Valley Indian Museum might best be described as a folk art structure, reminiscent of a Swiss chalet. Its painting scheme includes the bright colors and fascinating designs of American Indian motifs and designs. The home, which was built in the late 1920s, has, among other unique touches, utilized the large granite boulders at the base of the adjacent mountain as a part of its interior structure and decor.

While some of the Native American collections displayed in the home feature artifacts collected from the Great Basin, which lies east and southeast of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, others include prehistoric stone tools and cultural materials from the Southwest and from California’s coastal and Channel Island Indians. Many of the artifacts were originally gathered by anthropologist Grace Wilcox Oliver, who purchased the home from the Edwards’ family, its original builders and owners. The museum was acquired from Oliver in 1979, and now serves as a State Park regional Indian museum.

The museum is closed during the hottest part of the year, opening in mid-September and closing again in mid-June. Call (661) 942-0662 for additional information. The museum is located about 17 miles east of Highway 14, on Avenue M, between 150th and 170th Streets East. Go east on Avenue K, or Palmdale Boulevard, Once you get close, follow the signs.






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Antelope Valley

California Poppy Reserve


“At my feet lay the Great Valley of California, level and flowery, like a lake of pure sunshine forty or fifty miles wide, five hundred miles long, one rich furred garden of yellow Compositae.” While John Muir’s words written in the last century were not directed at the wide open lands of the Mojave Desert’s Antelope Valley, nor the California poppies that flood the park’s 1,745 acres, they still aptly describe what awaits spring visitors to this special place.

What 100 years of intensive development, plowing, grazing and herbicide use have removed from much of California’s wide open spaces, the Poppy Reserve has brought back with a vengeance and now preserves. The reserve’s rolling hills provide one of California’s greatest showcases for the profusions of color that once swathed nearly every meadow and valley, prairie and hillside in California each spring. While the reserve is best know for its golden poppies, California’s state flower, more than a dozen other wildflowers fill in the empty spaces left behind. Pale yellow goldfields, creamy white cream cups, white desert tidy tips, lavender blue dicks and blue pygmy-leaved lupine are just a few of the flowers that begin their annual show as early as mid- February and can continue into early June.

It’s the weather that appears to be the critical determining factor for when and if the poppies are at their best. Some magical, unpredictable combination of rain falling at the right time of winter and spring tied to spring’s well timed, life-giving temperature increases help kick-off the process and determine nature’s annual success. Only one thing is relatively certain--by late June it’s too hot for herbaceous plants or unprepared people to survive.

Trying to time your visit to the reserve when the wildflowers, especially the poppies, are at their best can often be frustrating. But there is an answer that can take the guess work out of when to arrive. If you can visit the reserve on relatively short notice, call (661) 724-1180 during the season for a wildflower status update. You can find out what’s blooming and whether your trip might best be held off another week or two.

But, whenever you go, the reserve’s Jane Pinheiro Interpretive Center is the perfect place to start your walk through the reserve. Besides a great selection of gifts, you can preview the park’s flowers through the beautiful paintings of Jane Pinheiro, known as the Great Poppy Lady. Before her death, she created watercolor paintings of desert wildflowers of such fine and correct detail, they were sought for flower identification references, and many are now exhibited proudly on walls across the country.

Seven miles of trails meander through the California Poppy Reserve. While out walking the trails and admiring nature’s palette, it’s not a bad idea to look in every direction, including up, at least occasionally. There’s a lot of wildlife that lives within the reserve. Badgers and coyotes and an occasional bobcat come looking to feast on the abundance of kangaroo rats, ground squirrels, mice and other creatures that live and feed among the flowers. Above, hawks and falcons also search for a quick and nutritious meal, again, at the expense of the park’s smaller mammals.

The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is located outside Lancaster, about 13 miles west of the Antelope Valley Freeway (Highway 14), on Lancaster Road, which is an extension of Avenue I. There’s a $10 per vehicle entrance fee into the park.






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