Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Lightship Columbia"
Includes ... Lightship Columbia ... National Register of Historic Places ... "Colossal Claude" ... Columbia River Maritime Museum ...
Image, 2004, Lightship Columbia, Astoria, Oregon, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Lightship Columbia, Astoria, Oregon. View from the Columbia River Maritime Museum. This lightship was the last lightship on the Pacific Coast, until replaced by a 42-foot-high buoy, similar to the one on the left. Tongue Point is in the background, right. Image taken June 16, 2004.

Lightship Columbia ...
The Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Oregon is home of the last lightship serving the Pacific Coast, the "Lightship Columbia". Officially known as "WAL-604" (later "WLV-604"), the 128-foot welded-steel lightship was built in 1950 for the U.S. Coast Guard, and was stationed at the mouth of the Columbia River near Cape Disappointment between 1951 and 1979. Columbia Lightship "WAL-604" retired on December 13, 1979, after 28 years of service, and was replaced by a 40-foot-diameter and 42-foot-high navigation buoy. Lightship Columbia "WAL-604" was sold to the Maritime Museum in Astoria in 1980, replacing its previous exhibit "Columbia Lightship 88" (see more below). Lightship "WAL-604" displays the name Columbia, is afloat, open to the public, and capable of operating under its own power. On December 20, 1989, the "Lightship Columbia" was added to the National Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark #89002463. The "Lightship Columbia" can be seen at the docks of Astoria's Columbia River Maritime Museum, with views of Tongue Point upstream, and the Astoria-Megler Bridge downstream.

Image, 2009, Columbia River Maritime Museum, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Columbia River Maritime Museum, with Lightship Columbia, Astoria, Oregon. View seen and image taken from moving car. Image taken October 18, 2009.

Columbia River Lightships ...
1892 to 1909 ... "LV-50": The first Lightship on the Columbia River was "LV-50" which began operation in 1892, becoming the first active lightship on the west coast. This wooden-hulled vessel, equipped with sails, needed to be towed into position. The 1903 "Coast Pilot" listed the Lightship as having two fixed white "Reflector" lights 30 feet high and a 12-inch steam whistle which "blasts 5 seconds, silent intervals 55 seconds". The ship itself was:

"... Two masts, schooner-rigged, no bowspirt; red, circular, iron, cagework daymark at each masthead; hull red, with "COLUMBIA RIVER" in black on each side and "No.50" in black on each quarter."

1909 to 1939 ... "LV-88": In 1909 a steel-hulled ship driven by a steam-powered propeller, the "LV-88", replaced the wooden lightship. Throughout its career it was upgraded with electric lights and a diesel elecric engine. In 1978 the "LV-88" was listed on the National Register of Historic Places Structure #78002282.

1939 to 1951 ... "LV-93": In 1939, the "LV-88" was replaced by the "LV-93", a ship of similar design. The "LV-93" served at the Columbia River station until 1951, when "WAL-604" took over. From the 1942 "Coast Pilot":

"... Columbia River Lightship is moored on the Main Channel range for entering Columbia River, and is 8.2 miles 213o from North Head Light. It has a red hull with COLUMBIA on each side and two masts. The light, shown from the foremast, is 67 feet above the water, and visible 14 miles. The fog signal is sounded on a steam diaphragm horn. The lightship has a radiobeacon equipped for distance findings; the station receives and transmits emergency radio messages. Storm warnings are displayed at the lightship during daylight hours. ..."

1951 to 1979 ... "WAL-604": The last lightship serving the Pacific Coast was the "Lightship Columbia", officially known as "WAL-604" (later "WLV-604"). This vessel is a 128-foot welded-steel lightship built in 1950 for the U.S. Coast Guard. It was stationed at the mouth of the Columbia River between 1951 and 1979. Columbia Lightship "WAL-604" retired on December 13, 1979, after 28 years of service, and was replaced by a 40-foot-diameter and 42-foot-high navigation buoy. On December 20, 1989, the "Lightship Columbia" was added to the Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark #89002463.

Lightship History ...
"Lightships were essential partners with America's lighthouses as part of the federal government's commitment to safe navigation on the nation's coasts and on the Great Lakes. While the first American lighthouse dates to the colonial era, the use of lightships is a more recent 19th century phenomenon in the United States, though employed earlier in Europe. Moored over treacherous reefs, or marking the narrow approaches to a channel or harbor entrance where lighthouses could not be built or placed in areas too far offshore for a shoreside lighthouse's lens to reach, lightships were fewer in number than the estimated 1,500 lighthouses built in the United States. In all, 179 lightships were built between 1820 and the 1952. In 1909, the heyday of the United States Lighthouse Service, there were 51 lightships (46 on the eastern seaboard and five on the Pacific Coast) on station in the United States. ...

The Coast Guard built six lightships. The first two, WAL- (later WLV-) 189 and 196, were built at Bay City, Michigan, in 1946. Somewhat similar in appearance to the 1930s lightships, the Coast Guard lightships, WLV-189 and 196, as well as the four lightships that followed them were the only completely welded lightships, built with a high degree of structural integrity and transverse bulkheads. These vessels were also the only lightships built with alternating current electrical systems throughout. They were direct diesel propelled, reflecting improvements made in high-compression diesel engines since the 1930s.

In 1950, two additional lightships, built to the same general plan of 189 and 196, and with the same features, were launched from the Rice Brothers shipyard at East Boothbay, Maine. WAL-604 and 605 were the last lightships built under contract for the government. In the same year, the Coast Guard built at its Curtis Bay, Maryland, yard Lightship WAL-612, another sister ship to 189 and 196. The last lightship was also built at Curtis Bay. Constructed in 1952, WAL-613, like her five preceding sisters, was a 128-foot welded steel vessel. However, the lightship mounted a single tripod mast of British design with the light on top. The Coast Guard-built lightships were the last in service, as all others were gradually retired. Technology brought an end to manned lightships about the same time manned lighthouses were being considered for automation. Large navigational buoys, 40 feet in diameter and 42 feet high, painted lightship red with automatic lights, fog signals, and radio beacons began to replace lightships in 1967. In 1983 the last two lightships, marking the Nantucket station, retired, ending a 150-year lightship tradition in the United States. ..."

Today, 22 lightships exist in various conditions in the United States, with the earliest survivor from 1902. All six of the Coast Guard-built lightships survive."

Source:    U.S. National Park Service Marine Heritage Program website, 2005.

Lightship Columbia, etc.

  • "Colossal Claude" ...
  • Columbia River Maritime Museum ...

"Colossal Claude" ...
The Columbia River has "Colossal Claude", it's very own version of Scotland's "Loch Ness Monster".

The following history of Claude was obtained (2011, 2017) from "Strangeunknown.com", "Cryptozoo-oscity.blogspot.com", and "OregonLive.com".

In 1934, the Columbia River Lightship "LV-88", along with the lightship tender "Rose", encountered a large unknown sea creature swimming near the mouth of the Columbia River. First Mate L.A. Larson described what the men saw:

"... about 40 feet long. It had a neck some eight feet long, a big round body, a mean looking tail and an evil, snaky look to its head."

News reports at the time say the crew studied the animal for a while through field glasses with some men wanting to investigate further by taking out a lifeboat and pursuing it. The officers of the LV-88 however turned down their request, worried that the animal might swamp the boat or attack them.

Claude was again spotted in 1937 by the troller "Viv". Skipper Charles E. Graham described the beast:

"... long, hairy, tan colored creature, with the head of an overgrown horse, about 40 feet long, and with a 4-foot waist measure."

Claude was again seen in 1937 near Yachats, about 150 miles south of the Columbia River.

"In that sighting, a couple just south of Yachats, near a rocky outcrop known as the Devil's Churn and the Heceta Head Lighthouse, reported seeing an animal estimated at 35-feet long swimming in the Pacific Ocean. According to their accounts, the creature had a head similar to that of a giraffe's, complete with "incessantly fluttering" ears and eight-to-10-inch-long horns. The sighting resulted in the locals dubbing the animal the Yachats Serpent." ["Cryptozoo-oscity.blogspot.com", 2009]

In in 1939 the crew of a halibut fishing ship, The Argo, "came face-to-face with a creature near the mouth of the river. The creature reared up over 10-feet out of the water and was said to looked directly at the crew."

"The men stood and watched the large serpent that was about 10-feet from the ship's hull, while it was eating a fish. Argo Captain Chris Andersen reportedly had to step in when the men grabbed a large boat hook with plans to punch the monster. According to Andersen, "He could have sunk us with a nudge." In another newspaper interview about the account, Andersen reportedly stated, "His head was like a camel's. His fur was coarse and gray. He had glassy eyes and a bent snout that he used to push a 20-pound halibut off our lines and into his mouth." ["Cryptozoo-oscity.blogspot.com", 2009]

Sightings continued until the 1950s, then they appear to have stopped.

Then, in 1963, Shell Oil Company explorers on an oil-drilling expedition off the Oregon Coast supposedly filmed the creature swimming in 180 feet of water.

"... the underwater cameras picked up something strange. The film shows a 15-foot long creature with barnacled ridges along its body caught on camera, swimming in a sort of corkscrew fashion at a depth around 180-feet deep. The film footage caused a bit of a sensation when it was screened and the creature was called rather jokingly , Marvin the Monster. There have been various theories put forward that the creature is anything from a species of jellyfish to an animal that was leftover from the prehistoric era. Others claim that it is Colossal Claude." ["Cryptozoo-oscity.blogspot.com", 2009]

Columbia River Maritime Museum ...
The Columbia River Maritime Museum was founded in 1962 by Rolf Klep, a native of Astoria who retired back to his home town. Kelp was a long-time collector of marine treasures, and with a group of his collegues wanted to establish a museum to preserve the maritime heritage of the Columbia River region. The Columbia River Maritime Museum is the result. The museum is located along Astoria's historic waterfront and displays one of the most extensive collections of nautical artifacts on the west coast. It is 44,200 square feet of exhibit space, was designated Oregon's official state maritime museum, and was the first nationally accredited maritime museum in the western United States. It is the home of the "Lightship Columbia".
[More Astoria]

Image, 2009, Columbia River Maritime Museum, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Columbia River Maritime Museum, Astoria, Oregon. View seen and image taken from moving car. Image taken October 18, 2009.

From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 18, 1805 ...

Journey to the PacificReturn to

*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

  • Columbia River Maritime Museum website, 2004;
  • "Cryptozoo-oscity.blogspot.com", 2009, "Claude, Caddy or Marvin, the Columbia River sea monster ?", 2017;
  • "LighthouseFriends.com" website, 2005;
  • National Register of Historic Places website, 2004;
  • NOAA Office of Coast Survey website, 2005;
  • "OregonLive.com", March 20, 2016, "Beyond Bigfoot: 11 legendary monsters of the Pacific Northwest", 2017;
  • "strangeunknown.com" website, 2011;
  • U.S. Coast Guard website, 2004;
  • U.S. National Park Service website, 2004, "Marine Heritage Program";

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.
April 2011