About the Astoria-Warrenton Area

Facts & Figures

Astoria Megler Bridge

Astoria is a city of almost 10,000 people on the Columbia River, just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, located in Clatsop County. It is surrounded by the beauty of the forest, mountains, three rivers and the sea. Because of its steep hills and beautiful Victorian homes, Astoria has been called the “Little San Francisco of the Pacific Northwest.” Just across Youngs Bay is Warrenton, a city of more than 5,000, that encompasses Fort Stevens State Park and its broad, clean ocean beaches.

Astoria and Warrenton have a marine climate, which means the summers are cool, with highs around 70, and the winters are mild, with few nights of freezing temperatures. The area gets about 75 inches of rain per year, which accounts for its vivid greenness and crystal clear air. Winter storms can be dramatic, with winds reaching 70 to 100 miles per hour on the ocean bluffs. The area has a strong Scandinavian heritage.

Historical Overview

Astoria Column Robert Gray 2004

In May, 1792, American Captain Robert Gray sailed his 230-ton Columbia Rediviva between Point Adams in what is now Oregon and Cape Disappointment in what is now Washington to first enter the Columbia River. Ten years later, President Thomas Jefferson asked his personal secretary, Army Captain Meriwether Lewis, to lead an expedition to the Pacific to find “...whether the Columbia, Oregen, Colorado, or any other river may offer the most direct and practicable water communication across this continent for the purposes of commerce”.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition left Pittsburgh August 31, 1803. The Corps of Discovery entered the Lower Columbia River in November of 1805 and stayed through March 1806. They “wintered over” at Fort Clatsop, where it rained all but 12 days, hunting, making moccasins and other clothing, trading with the Clatsop, Tillamook, and Chinook Indians, and working on their journals.

In 1811, five years after the departure of Lewis & Clark, John Jacob Astor, a New York financier, sent fur traders aboard the ship Tonquin to establish a trading post. They built Fort Astoria on a site now preserved as a monument in the downtown area.

Well over 200 major shipwrecks have occurred near the mouth of the Columbia River – known for a century as “The Graveyard of the Pacific.” One, the Peter Iredale of 1906, is still visible on the beach at Fort Stevens State Park. Native Americans lived in the area for an estimated 10,000 years before Captain Gray’s arrival.

Some Quick Historical Facts About Astoria & Warrenton, Oregon

Fort Astoria
  • Lewis & Clark stayed near present day Astoria during the winter of 1805-06, and built Fort Clatsop for shelter.
  • Astoria is the oldest U.S. settlement west of the Rocky Mountains.
  • Members of the Pacific Fur Company, owned by John Jacob Astor, arrived in March of 1811 and established Fort Astoria.
  • In 1847, the first post office west of the Rockies was established in Astoria by James Shively.
  • The first U.S. Customs house was established in 1849.
  • In the late 1800’s, Astoria’s salmon canneries, forest and shipping industries turned the area into the liveliest boom town between Seattle and San Francisco.
  • Immigrants came from Finland, Scandinavia and China, expanding the area’s culture as well as its economy.
  • Captain George Flavel was one of the first licensed Columbia River Bar Pilots and Astoria’s first millionaire. He built the Flavel Mansion in 1885, now open to the public as the Flavel House Museum.
  • Downtown businesses were first built on pilings over the Columbia River’s edge. Nearly all of the downtown area burned to the “ground” in 1922. Fill was added before downtown was rebuilt. Any flat land you see in Astoria is most likely fill.
  • The Astoria Column was dedicated in 1926. It is a 125 foot high memorial depicting the history of the area in a mural.
  • Major employers are the U.S. Coast Guard, Georgia-Pacific and Weyerhaeuser. Other industries include fishing, logging and tourism.
  • The population of Astoria is approximately 10,000.
  • Average precipitation is 75 inches per year.
  • In 1854, Astoria became the Clatsop County seat.
  • Astoria & Warrenton each is governed by an elected five member council. The mayor serves as the political head of the government while the city manager is the chief administrator.
  • Movies made in the Astoria area include The Goonies, Benji the Hunted, Short Circuit, Come See the Paradise, Kindergarten Cop, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III and Free Willy.
  • The Astoria-Megler Bridge, which was formally dedicated August 27, 1966, is 4.1 miles long and is considered the longest three-span truss bridge in the world.
  • The English sailing vessel the Peter Iredale ran aground on the beach at Fort Stevens during a storm in 1906 and its remains are still visible there.
  • Fort Stevens Military Reservation guarded the mouth of the Columbia River during the Civil War and World Wars I and II.
  • The Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce was established in 1873 as the Greater Astoria Chamber of Commerce.