I think one of the coolest places to visit in or around Astoria is Fort Clatsop, where Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery spent the unusually rainy and cold winter of 1805-1806. It's only about a 10-minute drive from downtown Astoria. The fort replica itself is very interesting, and the dense forest surrounding it is breathtaking, making a visitor feel that they've entered the depths of the wilderness. (It seems there are more trees now than when the first replica was built in 1955.) Although you enter the grounds through a small, nicely-done museum run by the National Park Service, once you're a few steps out the back door, you feel as if you could be part of that early party of explorers, especially if you go off-season when there are fewer visitors. I took this photo on October 4th, and there were only about ten or fifteen other people on the grounds, most of whom were a small group of parents and teachers learning what a volunteer needs to know to take students through the fort, since the staff is short-handed.
If you've ever been to Fort Apache, Fort Vancouver, or just about any other preserved or rebuilt frontier fortress, you'll find Fort Clatsop very small. There are six rooms, each with several bunks, a fireplace, and a rough-hewn table and benches. There's also a small indoor area for food storage. It's quite sparse, but in a weird way, inviting and almost comfortable-looking. I don't know if Lewis and Clark felt the same way about it. I do know they thought it was a very long winter, and it rained all but 12 of the days they spent there. One of the great things about visiting this fort is, you won't find any chained barriers or "Keep Out" signs (except for the food-storage room, which is closed off by a half-door). At least most of the time you can walk through the rooms and get the look and feel of the entire place.
October 4th was my first visit to Fort Clatsop after the fire of October 3, 2005 burned it to the ground just about a month before the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial festivities began - featuring, of course, the fort. More than 700 volunteers helped rebuild the replica, and it was dedicated on December 9, 2006. Meanwhile, events that had been planned for the location had to be held elsewhere. To me, it looked identical to the 1955 replica, but the fire and rebuilding did give historians a chance to make minor changes based on things they had learned since the original replica was built.
I have more photos, so stay tuned.
More info: Wikipedia