4/27/2012. The staircase spirals up from the base like a corkscrew inside the column. The interior lighting is muted and echoes of voices bounce off the stone walls. The rhythmic thump of heavy footsteps vibrates through the metal treads and hand rails. You can’t help but count the steps. 97-98-99 . . . how many before you reach the top? 164, but the view is worth it! When you finally step out onto the viewing platform, the world falls away in a sweeping vista of blue and green.
The Astoria Column is an iconic local landmark perched atop Coxcomb Hill. At 600 feet above sea level, Coxcomb is the highest point in Astoria OR. Add the height of the column, another 125 feet, and the view is breathtaking. A quick stroll around the platform can yield some spectacular snapshots of the Pacific Ocean, the rugged coastline, the Columbia River, and the rolling hills of the Coast Range.
The monument was built in 1926 to honor explorers and early settlers for their roles in developing what would become the Oregon Territory. Patterned after Rome’s Trajan Column, it has a ribbon of historical scenes that winds around the exterior. The scenes depict figures important to the region’s early history, such as Captain Robert Gray and the Lewis and Clark Expedition. If unwound from the column and laid out flat, this “ribbon” of artwork would be over 500 feet long.
The Astoria Column is open to the public from dawn until dusk. Ample parking available, though the lot does tend to fill up quickly during the height of the tourist season. A half dozen picnic tables are scattered about the lawn for those who want to linger. There’s also a gift shop on site that offers snacks, sundries, and souvenirs–including the super popular balsa wood gliders that can be launched from the viewing platform at the top of the column!
Special Note: The column itself is free to the public, but there is a $1 per car parking fee. (payable at the gift shop) And for those unable or unwilling to attempt the stairs? The view from the top of Coxcomb Hill is still incredible!