This aerial photo was taken by Frank Wolfe and lent to me by Branden Wilson for use on the Astoria, Oregon, Daily Photo blog. It shows the south (Oregon) side of the Columbia River as it pours into the Pacific Ocean. The line you see going from Clatsop Spit into the ocean is a man-made jetty. The line crossing from the land to the left side of the photo (and disappearing behind the airplane in the lower left) is what's left of the train trestle used to carry rocks to the jetty project. When you see all the mud in the water, it's easy to understand how the sand bars are built and moved around.
I took yesterday's blog photo from near the point where the white ocean waves meet the line of the jetty. Now, if you look at the right-hand edge of the waves, where they encounter the mass of land at the end of Clatsop Spit, and take this as the starting point, estimate about 1 mile going left, and that is where the mouth of the river was at the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1806. That mile of beach and land is new, having accumulated once the jetty changed the flow of the water. It's pretty amazing. It took several expeditions to this area before Europeans even realized this was the mouth of a river. Due to the sheer size of the river's mouth, it had not been obvious, especially in bad weather. It was not until 1792 that Captain Gray discovered the river. Even Captain Cook had missed it in 1778, and Captain Gray had missed it on his first trip, a few years before his 1792 discovery. Others had also come this way and not recognized what they were passing. Today it remains one of the most dangerous bars to cross in a ship. I believe it was one of the pilots who said, there is one more dangerous, but this bar takes more skill. Don't ask. That's all I remember. The mouth of the Columbia has been dubbed "The Graveyard of the Pacific." Wikipedia quotes Saddler Russel as saying, "More than 2000 vessels and 700 lives have been lost near the Columbia Bar alone." (This "Columbia Bar" link helps explain why the elements here cause conditions to be so treacherous.)
But the mouth of the Columbia is also a beautiful and stirring place. Wildlife abounds, along with majestically scenic views and a taste of the incomparably-moody ocean. More scenes from both sides of the river to come later on this blog.