Named for John Jacob Astor who founded Fort Astoria in 1811, the Port of Astoria is the seat of Clatsop County, Oregon. Located near the mouth of the Columbia River, the Port of Astoria is about 75 nautical miles downriver (103 kilometers or 64 miles northwest) of the Port of Portland. The Port of Astoria is about 160 kilometers (100 miles) southwest of the Port of Tacoma in Washington State. The 2010 US Census reported a population of almost 9500 people living in the Port of Astoria.
The Port of Astoria is located near the first military outpost in Oregon, Fort Clatsop, built by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805-06. Later, John Jacob Astor sent an expedition to the future Port of Astoria area to establish a fur trading post. The British took Fort Astoria in 1813, but it was returned to the United States in 1818 and resettled in the 1840s. Abundant natural resources attracted many Finnish and Chinese immigrants to the Port of Astoria area where they established lumber and fishing industries. By the 1880s, there were many tuna and salmon canneries, and the deep-water Port of Astoria supported other industries.
Today, the Port of Astoria is a popular destination for visitors who want to enjoy its seaside recreational facilities and for hunters and fishers. Fort Astoria is restored, and the Port of Astoria is home to Oregon's official maritime museum, the Columbia River Maritime Museum. An old military base, Fort Stevens, is a state park. The local Clatsop Community College offers maritime training programs and classes through its affiliated Marine and Environmental Research Training Station.
Before Europeans arrived in the area, the Clatsop-Nehalem people had inhabited the region. While they were separate tribes, the Clatsop and Nehalem people shared the same sacred places and natural resources. They had different languages, but most of them were bilingual, borrowing words from each other's languages. By the time Lewis and Clark entered the territory in 1805, the two people were integrated and indistinguishable.
In 1851, the Clatsop-Nehalem people signed the Tansy Point Treaty with the Superintendent of Indian Affairs; however, the US Congress did not ratify the treaty. Left with no treaty and no reservation, many of the people stayed in their traditional homeland. In the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, non-native people coming into the area displaced the Clatsop-Nehalem people who merged with the Tillamook.
The Clatsop-Nehalem Confederated Tribes began to pursue federal recognition as an independent tribe in the 1980s, enrolling members and creating a non-profit group to coordinate their efforts. The modern Clatsop-Nehalem people have a strong attachment to their homeland on Oregon's northern coast, and they are committed to maintaining their culture and ensuring the well-being of future generations.
The Lewis and Clark Expedition wintered at a small log building to the southwest of the modern Port of Astoria in 1805 and 1806. While they waited there in hopes of being picked up by a ship that would take them home, they spent a long wet and cold winter there. In 1811, the Astor Expedition founded Fort Astoria as a fur-trading post for the Northwest United States that was the first permanent American settlement on the country's Pacific Coast. The first European navigated the length of the Columbia River in 1811.
Astor's Pacific Fur Company did not survive, and the British purchased Fort Astoria in 1813. While the structure was returned to the United States in 1818, the British maintained control of the fur trade until the middle 1840s when American pioneers began arriving via the Oregon Trail. In 1846, the British ceded all rights to the territory to the United States.
As the population of the Oregon Territory grew, so did the Port of Astoria. Located at the mouth of the Columbia River, the Port of Astoria offered the best access to the region's interior. In 1847, the Port of Astoria became the home to the first US Post Office west of the Rocky Mountains.
In 1876, the Port of Astoria was incorporated by the State of Oregon. The Port of Astoria attracted many immigrants in the late 1800s, including many settlers from Finland and China. Nordic immigrants found work in the fishing industry, and the Chinese worked in the canneries.
Built of wood on pilings that raised them from the marshy ground, the Port of Astoria's buildings were almost completely destroyed by fire in 1883 and in 1922. In 1922, residents blew up whole buildings in their efforts to stop the fire from spreading.
In 1910, Clatsop County's voters approved the creation of the Port of Astoria, and the first pilings were put in place in 1914. In 1920, the country's second biggest pier, Pier 3, was completed in the Port of Astoria. The Port of Astoria faced a major downsize as it became part of the worldwide Great Depression. The same year, however, the development of a mooring basin was authorized.
The Naval Air Station at Tongue Point was dedicated in 1938, and the Port of Astoria was used by the US Government during World War II. In 1945, construction of the East mooring basin was begun. The next year, West Coast Airlines began its regular air service from the Port of Astoria's Clatsop Airport.
The Port of Astoria has been an important port of entry for more than 100 years (celebrating its Centennial in 2010). It is still the main trading center in the lower Columbia basin, although it was long ago eclipsed by Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, as an economic hub for the Northwest Pacific coast.
As late as 1945, as many as 30 fish canneries lined the Columbia River. The headquarters for Bumblebee Seafood left the Port of Astoria in 1974. In 1980, the last cannery in the Port of Astoria closed. The Port of Astoria's timber industry also declined in the mid-20th Century, with the Astoria Plywood Mill closing in 1989. In 1996, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway discontinued its service to the Port of Astoria.
In 1958, the US Army Corps of Engineers granted a permit for the building of the Astoria Bridge. In 1965, the Port of Astoria leased part of the Clatsop Airport to the United States for use by the US Coast Guard. In 1980, the eruption of Mount St. Helens forced emergency dredging in the Port of Astoria. In 1984, the Port of Astoria's Pier One was renovated and redesigned to accommodate cruise ships.
Today, tourism, light manufacturing, and the city's growing art community are the foundation of the Port of Astoria's economy. Since the late 1990s, the Port of Astoria has been the site for the Fisher Poets Gathering where singers and poets come to honor the fishing industry and lifestyle. The modern Port of Astoria is the western terminus of the bicycle touring route, the TransAmerica Trail.
In 2006, the Port of Astoria welcomed several cruise lines in addition to those already calling at the port. They included Celebrity Cruises, Princess, Royal Caribbean, and Holland America. For the first time in 15 years, the Port of Astoria exported lumber in 2010, the same year it signed a Sister Port Agreement with Korea's Busan Port Authority.