Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Astoria to Washington Ferries"
Includes ... Astoria-Megler Bridge ... Astoria to Knappton Ferry ... Astoria to McGowan Ferry ... Astoria to Megler Ferry ... M.R. Chessman ... Tourist No.2 ...
Image, 2005, Columbia River from Astoria, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Columbia River as seen from Astoria, Oregon. The Astoria-Megler Bridge is on the left and Point Ellice, Washington, is on the right, behind the ship. Image taken February 19, 2005.


Astoria to Washington Ferries ...
In 1805 Lewis and Clark could not cross the Columbia River at its mouth, causing them to retrace their steps back up the Washington shore to cross near the narrower area near Pillar Rock. For years afterwards crossing the Columbia was a problem.

In 1840 the first ferry service began across the Columbia River. Solomon Smith, Astoria's first school teacher, connected two canoes together and began carrying passengers and cargo.

During the heyday of Steamboats there were two landings accessing the north side of the Columbia River, with one landing at Ilwaco and the other landing at Willapa Bay. In 1889 the Ilwaco Railway and Navigation Company built a narrow gauge railway connecting the two points, with the tracks extending out onto the docks at both locations. In 1908 the landing moved from Ilwaco upstream to Megler and a much larger facility. The railroad and the steamers, such as the "T.J. Potter", were under the control of the Union Pacific Railroad.

In 1915 construction was completed on the Columbia River Highway (today's Highway 30) linking Astoria and Portland. Demand for steamer travel fell off, with the "Harvest Queen" making the last steamer run to Astoria in 1921.

Along with the new highway to Astoria came a demand for reliable ferry service from Astoria to Washington State. In 1921 Captain Fritz Elfving created a ferry service between Astoria and McGowan with a ferry named "The Tourist".

Between 1927 and 1930 the Union Pacific Railroad tried to compete with Captain Elfving by running a ferry between Astoria and Megler. In 1932 Elfving bought out the competition and combined the two companies, relocating all ferry landings to Megler, a better location for a landing than McGowan.

The 1941 The New Washington: A Guide to the Evergreen State, Federal Writers' Project, 1941 mentions a ferry from Astoria to Knappton.

"... South of Naselle on State 12-B is KNAPPTON, 7.9m, (133 alt., 39 pop.), a cluster of ancient buildings around a ferry slip. The KNAPPTON-ASTORIA FERRY (car and driver, $1; passengers, 25c; 4 times daily) crosses the Columbia River to Oregon. ..."

In 1946 the State of Oregon purchased Captain Elfving's company and assigned the operation to the State Highway Department (today's ODOT). This ferry service allowed people to travel along with their vehicles from Oregon to Washington. In good weather, a one way trip took about one half hour.

The opening of the Astoria to Megler Bridge in 1966 was the end of the Astoria to Washington State ferries. The last ferry run was the "M.R. Chessman" on July 28, 1966.



Astoria Ferry Landing ...

Image, 2011, 14th Street Pilot Station, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
14th Street Pilot Station and the old ferry landing, Astoria, Oregon. View from moving car. Image taken October 25, 2011.


Astoria to Megler Bridge ...
The Astoria-Megler Bridge stretches 4.1 miles (21,474 feet) from Astoria, Oregon, across the mouth of the Columbia River, to Point Ellice, Washington, at Columbia River Mile (RM) 14. The bridge replaced previous ferry lines running from Washington to Oregon.
[More]

Image, 2004, Astoria-Megler Bridge, from Astoria, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Astoria-Megler Bridge, from Astoria, Oregon. Image taken June 16, 2004.


Astoria to Washington Ferries

  • M.R. Chessman ...
  • North Beach ...
  • Tourist No.2 ...


M.R. Chessman ...

Penny Postcard, Megler Ferry Landing, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Megler Ferry Landing with ferry M.R. Chessman, Megler, Washington. Penny Postcard, Chrome, (1930s-present), "Megler, Washington". Published by Smith's Scenic Views, Tacoma, Washington. Color by Kyle Smith. Card #CM0061. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Caption on back: "Megler, Washington. This Ferry Landing is the sight of the junction of Highway 101 in Washington. The eight mile crossing of the Columbia River from Astoria requires 30 minutes and is a ride which will be long remembered."
Penny Postcard, Megler Ferry Landing, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Megler Ferry Landing with ferry M.R. Chessman, Megler, Washington. Penny Postcard, Chrome, (1930s-present), "Megler Ferry Landing, Megler, Washington". Published by Photo'neil, Long Beach, Washington. Card #C-29662. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Caption on back: "Megler Ferry Landing, Megler, Washington. Cars going aboard ferry M.R. Chessman for the trip across famous Columbia River to Astoria, Oregon."


North Beach ...

Penny Postcard, North Beach Ferry, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: North Beach Ferry. Penny Postcard, Real Photo, Divided Back (1907-1915), "Columbia River Ferry to Ocean Beach Highway, Astoria, Oregon." Card No.5. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


Tourist No.2 ...

Penny Postcard, Astoria Ferry Landing, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Astoria to Megler Ferry, Tourist No.2, Astoria, Oregon. Penny Postcard, Chrome, (1930s-present), "Astoria Megler Ferry". Anderson Sundry Co., Portland, Oregon. Card #AS.1. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Caption on back: "Astoria Megler Ferry. Picturesque transportation operated by the Oregon State Highway Commission, carrying passengers and vehicles across the wide mouth of the Columbia River, where it enters the Pacific Ocean."
Penny Postcard, Astoria Ferry Landing, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Astoria to Megler Ferry, Tourist No.2, Astoria, Oregon. Penny Postcard, Chrome, (1930s-present), "Astoria-Megler Ferry". Anderson Sundry Co., Portland, Oregon. Color By Mel Anderson. Card #AS.6. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Caption on back: "Astoria-Megler Ferry. Tourist No.2, Astoria, Oregon-Megler, Washington Ferry. This ferry connects Pacific Coast Highway 101 across the mouth of the Columbia River. The 10 miles trip takes approximately 30 minutes."


"The Golden Age of Postcards" ...

The early 1900s was the "Golden Age of Postcards", with the "Penny Postcard" being a popular way to send greetings to family and friends. Today the Penny Postcards have become a snapshot of history.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 15, 1805 ...




Journey to the PacificReturn to
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*River Miles [RM] are approximate, in statute miles, and were determined from USGS topo maps, obtained from NOAA nautical charts, or obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website, 2003

Sources:    (Astoria to Megler Bridge Sources);   

All Lewis and Clark quotations from Gary Moulton editions of the Lewis and Clark Journals, University of Nebraska Press, all attempts have been made to type the quotations exactly as in the Moulton editions, however typing errors introduced by this web author cannot be ruled out; location interpretation from variety of sources, including this website author.
/Regions/Places/astoria_to_washington_ferries.html
February 2013