By Tracy Beard
Skamokawa is a quiet escape from city life, but in the 19th century it was one of the largest towns in the state. Thanks to its prime location on the Columbia River between Portland and Astoria, the logging and fishing community thrived as a premier steamboat landing, with daily steamboat stops. Although construction of State Highway 4 in 1933 brought the steamboat landing to extinction, Skamokawa’s fortunes remain tied to the river―today, as a recreation community.
The best way to take in the tugboats, ships and barges plying the Columbia is from a kayak or chartered fishing boat. Reserve a kayak trip with Columbia River Kayaking (columbiariverkayaking.com). Trips range from easy three-hour beginner routes on one of the nearby sloughs to full-day excursions on the river. Boat guides are available in the area for chartered fishing trips, making it possible for you to experience an exciting day catching salmon or steelhead for dinner or reeling in sturgeon for sport.
In addition to sportfish, the other well-known wildlife inhabitant of the area is the Columbian white-tailed deer. The nearby Julia Butler Hansen National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1917 specifically to protect these threatened ungulates. The refuge’s 6,000 acres of brushy bottomlands and tidal swamps also attract a bevy of birds. Bring binoculars and scan for great blue herons, bald eagles and brown pelicans.
Steamboat Slough Road is an ideal two-mile stretch for cyclists searching for a flat, traffic-free place to ride along the water, and nearby Vista Park is ideal for fishing from the shore or enjoying a short nature walk.
After a day on or around the water, head back to Skamokawa for dinner at The Duck Inn. The local hangout serves tasty American fare; try the Captain’s Seafood Platter or the clam chowder, a locals’ favorite.
Spend a night at The Inn at Lucky Mud (luckymud.com) and play disc golf or hike on their 40 acres of forest. Or, for a lodging experience right on the river, book a room or vacation rental at the newly renovated Skamokawa Resort (skamokawaresort.com). Choose from eight rooms above the fully stocked general store, or stretch out in a condo next door. Many units have decks overlooking the river, providing ample opportunity to relax while you watch ships, barges and boats travel up and down the river.
Go to skamokawa.com for more information.