At pre-dawn the National Geographic Quest slipped into our berth in the port of Astoria, Oregon. Hundreds of miles and hundreds of feet downriver where we began, we began the last full day of our voyage.

A cloud-filled sky reminded us that we’re in the Pacific Northwest, at the junction of the ocean and the Columbia River. This spot has earned the title “the Graveyard of the Pacific” due to the treacherous bar that has foundered many a ship on its shoals. There is no better place to illustrate this history than the Columbia River Maritime Museum, our first stop of the day. Here we learned not only the past stories of those who plowed these waters before us and their struggles, but also the modern pilots and efforts to keep this important shipping port running safely.

As the clouds started to give way to hints of sunlight, we made our ways out to Fort Stevens and Fort Clatsop. At the former, our first stop was the wreck of the Peter Iredale. This mighty four-masted barque ran aground over a century ago but some of the ship still remains. Seeing this wreck linked the history we had just learned about in the museum, and the strong winds from the Pacific were a reminder of just how dangerous these waters can be. Bull kelp and goose-neck barnacles scattered the beach, abandoned by the surf and tide, giving us up close looks at some of the life that inhabits the sea.

Fort Stevens showcased another side of the rich history of Astoria. From the Civil War to World War II this location was utilized by the military as a defense outpost in several conflicts. The abandoned forts and earthen mounds told a long history that touched many lives. In addition, the gentle weather and expansive views showed us just how beautiful this area is. Elk and deer tracks, along with the burrows of ground squirrels, showed us who primarily occupies the fort these days.

After a wonderful lunch the day warmed as we set out again to these locations. Our typical night-time activities were spiced up by a farewell from the Captain and a memorable dinner. Astoria is a gorgeous city with a rich history that we were happy to scrape the surface of on our last full day of travel. As the night set in we departed upriver for Portland Oregon, like many a sailor has done before us.