Cool Ship Watching Spots
On the Lower Columbia

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The bulk carrier Global Explorer braves the bar. Thanks to Columbia River Bar Pilot Capt. Robert Johonson for this photo.

The Lower Columbia River has some prime ship watching spots. Most are easily accessible by car or on foot, a few only by boat. Thanks to Ship Report listeners and bloggers who contributed to this list. Happy Ship Watching! - Joanne

Ship Watching Spots - bring binoculars and patience (ship arrival times can vary because of many factors, such as weather and current)
  • Astoria Area Bridges: Astoria Megler and New Youngs Bay
    Access is limited because of moving traffic and no place to pull over, but you can get some great glimpses as you drive by.  No pedestrians permitted on the Astoria Megler Bridge (except once a year during the annual bridge walk).
  • Neahkanie Mt parking lot at the roadside viewing area south of Seaside
    Itís about 40 miles to the horizon from there. Also good for whale watching with binocs.
  • Observation deck, South Jetty, Fort Stevens State Park
    Good view of the Columbia River bar.
  • 14th St. Dock in downtown Astoria
    Anywhere downtown can be a good spot to shipwatch. But this small dock and observation area is right next to the Columbia River Pilots Astoria HQ. A prime spot to watch the Pilot Launch Arrow 2 heading out to passing ships -- you'll see Columbia River Bar and River Pilots transferring to and from ships as they pass downtown.
  • Astoria Column
    On land or from the top of the tower, the panoramic view is unbeatable.
  • Jim Crow Point on the Columbia River
    On the Washington side of the river. Good view from the beach to the Astoria Megler Bridge. Accessible only by boat (kayak).
  • Lewis and Clark Bridge in Longview
    There's lots of traffic here too, but you can park at the end of the bridge and walk out on it. Great view of bulk carriers loading and unloading at the docks (logs and steel)
  • Kelly Point
    At the confluence of the
    confluence of Columbia and Willamette rivers. Possible auto access, & a favorite kayaking spot
  • Swan Island, Portland
    Shipyard there has a drydock, you can see huge ships out of the water for repairs. A view of this one may be accessible only by boat
  • Cape Disappointment State Park, Ilwaco
    The Visitor Center at the park has the most amazing wall of windows in the main room that overlooks the Columbia River Bar. A great dry, warm place to watch vessels brave rough weather. They even have spotting scopes and binocs on hand for visitors. If that's too tame for you, you can hike out to the lighthouse on the Cape. You'll be safely above dangerous surf, but it can be an exciting spot to weather and shipwatch. It's the spot where the Coast Guard observes conditions on the bar for their ongoing bar reports.
  • Tansy Point in Warrenton/Hammond
    Ships turn here to make the run to the Astoria Megler Bridge. Car carriers lean in the wind here. Can be interesting to watch the ships negotiate the turn.
  • The Riverwalk in downtown Astoria
    especially toward the West End of town where the channel seems to be closer to the shore.
  • The Safeway Parking Lot in Astoria
    Buy groceries AND get great ship views...what more could a ship fan want? You can also hear sea lions and see great looking fishing boats at the nearby East Mooring Basin.
  • East Mooring Basin breakwater
    A good place to sometimes see anchored ships up close.
  • Seamenís Memorial behind the River Theater in Astoria
    A great place to remember those who have given their lives at sea. Also you get a great view of vessels passing under the Astoria Megler Bridge. When the current is strong you can see the buoy there get pulled way over and even under by the force of the water.
  • Jones Beach
    West of Clatskanie off highway 30 (turn north at the Korean Restaurant). Follow the winding road to sandy beach with close proximity to the shipping channel. Great place for a close-up look at ships as they go by.
  • County Line Park
    This park is located on Hwy 4 between Longview and Cathlamet, Washington. A listener recommended this spot: "The river is fairly narrow at that point and outbound ships pass very close to the bank."

Many Thanks to Ship Report listeners Geo and Joe SixPack for their contributions to this list. If you know a good ship watching spot, let us know at shipreport@earthlink/.net. Or post on the Ship Report Blog. Hope to hear from you!