In our rush to get from this place to that, it’s good to know that less traveled roadways are easy to find and one in particular is right off the doorstep of a major city. So it is with the Columbia River Highway from Portland to the coast; a route that is often overlooked and perhaps that is part of its charm.

Completed in 1937, US Route 30 is an unassuming route between Portland and Astoria. While it may not be the fastest way, that’s all right with me! The green-bordered asphalt roadway skirts the southern shore of the mighty Columbia River and for over 70 miles it forces you to slow down a savor the sights.

The first stop on this adventure is the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area! A compelling species are the sandhill cranes that get my vote for size and colorful markings; with striking red masks they are an impressive sight! So is their behavior: males dance with wings sky high – tossing bits of grass to make a match with a mate.

Further along, stop in at Trojan Pond and Wetlands near Rainier to watch the family flocks of Tundra swans. Sometimes called the “B-52’s of the waterfowl world,” Tundra swans fill the air on six-foot-wingspans and then glide to ground for a well-deserved break.

The byway tour gives you a break at Bradley State Scenic Viewpoint, just west of Rainier – the park sits atop a massive bluff overlooking the smooth Columbia River. If you stop in on a sunny day before the leaves have called it quits, enjoy a quiet picnic lunch and a stunning view.

But don’t linger here too long – the best is yet to come at the Twilight Eagle Sanctuary where Neal Maine likes to set up his camera and wait for just the right moment to capture the country’s national symbol. Twilight Sanctuary is more than 100 acres of protection and consists of the Wolf Bay Wetlands and nearby forestland that supports an array of wildlife.

The convenient, wheelchair friendly platform with easy access just off Burnside Road makes the viewing a snap:

Further, it’s end of the highway line in Astoria where a new “jaw-dropper” of a display has recently been put into place. For nearly thirty years, the “Peacock” pilot boat shuttled bar pilots to water-based offshore offices aboard commercial cargo ships. The pilots are charged with safely guiding the huge ships across the most dangerous river bar in America. Now, the Peacock has been retired to the Columbia River Maritime Museum and Dave Pearson said that it’s a wonderful addition to the museum’s collection.

The crossing of the Peacock from river to shore side-parking area in front of the museum was no easy chore either. It required two 300-ton cranes with massive booms that reached 95 feet to left and move the 100-ton pilot boat. The new display is a fine compliment to the Columbia River Maritime Museum where visitors come face to face with compelling and uniquely Oregon stories —indoors, where it’s safe and warm.

The museum’s varied photos, exhibits and videos merge the past with the present and provide you a compelling place to see, touch and learn more about an important corner of Oregon. It all adds up to a perfect cap to your day’s adventure along one of the least traveled routes to the Oregon coast.

Editor’s Note: Grant’s Getaways is a production of Travel Oregon brought to you in association with Oregon State Parks, Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife and Oregon State Marine Board. Episodes air Thursdays and Saturdays on KGW Newschannel 8 and Saturdays on Northwest Cable News Network.

about author Grant McOmie

Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.

In this Grant’s Getaway

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These maps and directions are for planning purposes only. You may find that construction projects, traffic, or other events may cause road conditions to differ from the map results. For travel options, weather and road conditions, visit, call 511 (in Oregon only), 800.977.6368 or 503.588.2941.

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  1. Linda says…

    Thanks for this article, it makes it sound so awesome because it is..i always go on hiway 30 very rarely 26, its my path to home..I live n Knappa 13 miles east of Astoria …Whoo Hoo

    Written on November 13th, 2010 / Flag this Comment
  2. Douglas Mc Kerrow says…

    Grant we are located in San Diego and have family in Yamhill County.
    We get up to God’s County every chance we get.
    We look forward to your commentaries. Keep up the good work, it’s appreciated. DMcK

    Written on November 18th, 2010 / Flag this Comment
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