Explore Washington

Photo © Ron Reiring

Life Before and After the Astoria-Megler Bridge

Prior to July 29, 1966, people living or traveling near the mouth of the Columbia River between Washington and Oregon really had to plan ahead. There was no bridge crossing the 4-mile width of river. They relied on a hard-working ferry. Those traveling by automobile often had to wait in long lines and sometimes did not get on a ferry crossing from Astoria to Megler. During foul weather, not an uncommon occurrence at the crossing, ferry runs were canceled.

Going to Astoria, Oregon, from communities on Washington’s Long Beach Peninsula was a special event for many families and made for a full day outing.

“The opening of the bridge marked a change of life for all of us on the Long Beach Peninsula,” recalls David Campiche, native of Seaview, Washington, and owner/operator with his wife Laurie Anderson of the historic Shelburne Inn. “It marked the end of a slower-paced, in retrospect, more romantic though less predictable means of crossing.”

Donella Lucero, of the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum, also grew up on the Long Beach Peninsula. “My family only went to Astoria perhaps six times a year.” she recalls. “Riding the ferry was more of an event, where now going over the bridge is just travel.”

Times have changed, indeed. The Astoria-Megler Bridge was the last link in making U.S. 101 an unbroken route from the Canadian to the Mexican borders. Today, an average of 6,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily.

To help the local community celebrate the 50th anniversary of Astoria-Megler Bridge this summer, visit funbeach.com for event information.

Elwha River Interpretive Center

For more than a century, the web of ecological and cultural connections in the Olympic Peninsula’s Elwha Valley was disrupted. Then in 1992 Congress passed the Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act, authorizing dam removal to restore the altered ecosystem. After nearly two decades of planning, the largest dam removal in U.S. history began in 2011, finishing in 2014. The Elwha River originally thrived with salmon and ran wild, providing a habitat for many species. Then two dams were built, disrupting the salmon’s upstream migration and causing major flooding problems.

The Elwha River is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, Strait of Juan de Fuca and Hood Canal. The ecosystem is perfect for fish and other wildlife while connecting the mountains and the sea.

The surrounding communities celebrated when the river returned to its former glory, not only for their sakes, but also for the sake of preserving nature and wildlife. To mark the removal of the dams, the Elwha River Interpretive Center was built.

Here, you can learn all about the river, the dams and their removal, and everything else Elwha-related. For more information on the restoration, please visitnps.gov/olym/learn/nature/elwha-ecosystem-restoration.htm; for more about visiting Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, go to olympicpeninsula.org.

The Hotel Maison, Yakima

Once the tallest, grandest building between Seattle and Spokane, the Hotel Maison opened its doors recently following a dramatic renovation. The boutique hotel was originally constructed as a lodge hall and meeting space by Yakima Freemasons in 1910. Now, hotel guests and visitors can experience its unique, historic beauty while visiting the Yakima Valley and its exceptional wine region.

The most dramatic feature of The Hotel Maison is its architecture, which was strongly influenced by the Freemason craftsmen who built the structure. The hotel maintains the original facades and architectural details, including an elegant Mansard roof and elaborate dormers in the Second Empire Style paired with Corinthian capitals and brick pilasters topped with elaborate decorative designs.

The Hotel Maison offers 36 newly renovated, spacious suites with spectacular views of the Yakima Valley. The lobby includes an art gallery, courtesy of the Yakima Larson Gallery, which showcases local artists’ work.

Inside the hotel, look for the universal logo of the Freemasons, the square and compass, hidden within some of the former rooms and meeting halls. Future expansion of the hotel includes converting the ornate, well-preserved ceremonial lodge on the 6th floor, designed to replicate the throne room of King Solomon’s temple, into a public meeting space.

Located in the downtown area, the hotel is within walking distance of a variety of restaurants, coffee shops, breweries, tasting rooms, spas, boutiques and antique stores.

To book your stay in one of the Northwest’s newest boutique hotels, visit the Hotel Maison website at thehotelmaison.com. To find out more about the Yakima Valley, go toyakimavalleytourism.com.

Clatsop Paddleboard Tours

Exploring incomparable bays and rivers by paddleboarding the shores of the Lower Columbia River gives you close-up views of coastal areas rarely seen.

Clatsop Paddle Company offers guided tours throughout northwest Oregon and southwest Washington. While the company is based in Skamokawa, Washington, with a mobile unit in Astoria, Oregon, they offer tours throughout Oregon in Astoria, Seaside, Knappa and Warrenton. They also offer tours in Washington in Skamokawa, Cathlamet and Puget Island. On the tours, you learn about the shoreline environment, the history of the area and the region’s wildlife.

Once known as “Little Venice,” Skamokawa provides a landscape rich in history and adventure as you paddle the inland waters. Not only do you get to learn about history along the shoreline, but as long as the conditions allow, you also may have the chance to wander into the Columbia River a bit. Cathlamet and Puget Island offer a variety of wildlife viewing along with exceptional views of the Columbia River.

Most of the tours last 2-3 hours and include a beginner’s lesson. The company sells and rents gear as well if you don’t have your own.

To reserve your tour, visit clatsoppaddle.com. For nearby lodging and other services, go to funbeach.com.

Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, Eatonville

Babies are booming in Eatonville’s Northwest Trek Wildlife Park. The park recently welcomed five orange bison calves, one elk calf, two bighorn sheep lambs and three beaver kits. As the summer goes on, deer fawns and more elk calves are expected to join the newborns.

President Obama recently named the bison the official mammal of the United States, and Northwest Trek is the best place to see them in the Puget Sound area. Starting with only six bison in 1971, the park is now home to the second biggest herd in U.S. zoos, with 23 bison and counting.

Every ticket to Northwest Trek comes with a 50-minute narrated tour aboard a tram through the 435-acre Free-Roaming Area of forests, meadows and wetlands. Riders can often spot bison, elk, moose and other animals from the tram. On the walking tour, visitors can view animals like wolves, bears and snakes in a more traditional zoo setting with enclosed exhibits. The park also features a half-acre Kid’s Trek playground and five miles of walking trails.

Visit nwtrek.org to learn more about the animals and newborns at Northwest Trek. To find out more about staying in the Tacoma area, go to traveltacoma.com.

Vancouver’s Quirky Art Scene

Portland, Oregon, takes pride in “keeping it weird.” But their neighbor just across the Columbia River, Vancouver, is giving Portland a run for their money when it comes to quirky art.

Vancouver recently unveiled a new public art project, a giant steel tentacle with menacing suckers rising from an Uptown sewer. The tentacle, holding an authentic Vancouver manhole cover, is controversial but not surprising. This piece of art is added to a collection of interesting public art including a talking Salmon Clock and a Rosie the Riveter sculpture with a stained glass head.

This latest tentacled addition to Vancouver’s public art collection is dubbed The Visitor. Seattle artist Matthew Dockrey created the piece, which causes people strolling along Main Street in Uptown Vancouver to do a double-take. Some consider it a bit frightening and others see it as whimsical steam punk art.

Downtown Vancouver recently designated the Vancouver Arts District in the heart of Downtown. Included are visual arts galleries, performing arts groups and public art. On side streets, you’ll encounter quirky, colorful murals. On First Fridays, there are gallery openings, special events at local wineries and music.

You’ll find The Visitor at the corner of Main Street and West 23rd.

To learn more about discovering Vancouver, Washington, go to visitvancouverusa.com.

The Inn at Lynden

The century-old Waples Mercantile Building has become home to the new boutique Inn at Lynden. With the building’s newly renovated, yet historic charm, The Inn at Lynden offers luxury, comfort and style, no matter which room you stay in.

The Inn offers a 40-person executive meeting room, two extended stay suites, a celebration suite (perfect for special occasions), along with three different room types: town rooms, skywell suites and loft rooms. Many of the rooms offer an enjoyable view of historic downtown and the surrounding scenic area. The inn provides free overnight parking in one of the nearby city-owned lots.

Various shops and merchants occupy the ground floor and lower level of the Waples Mercantile Building. The shops include Avenue Bread, Overflow Taps, Village Books, Drizzle and Bellingham Baby Company. Each one offers wonderful goods and services to enjoy.

If you want to get out of the building and explore more around town, the Inn offers complimentary cruiser bikes with helmets to explore all of Lynden’s charm and the surrounding countryside. You can even bring your own bike and store it overnight with their Bicycle Valet Service.

To reserve your stay at The Inn at Lynden, visit innatlynden.com. To plan your trip to scenic Whatcom County, Washington, visit bellingham.org.

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