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Secret Beaches of Clatskanie

Just over an hour west on Highway 30 from Portland lies the unassuming town of Clatskanie, otherwise known as "the place with that Safeway on the way to Astoria." I probably wouldn't have given it much time except that my father now is one of the 1,700 people who live there.

There are a few great things about Clatskanie: the huge city park, which contains not one, but three playground structures; Bundy's Café Drive-In, with blood clotting fried food and delicious ice cream; and the amazing river adventures that lie in wait just beyond the Clatskanie city boat launch.

If you happen to have a boat (or a friend with a boat), I highly recommend launching at the town boat launch ($2 day use fee) and following the lazy Clatskanie River as it winds its way past cattle fields and lush, marshy woodland into the wide Columbia River. 

There you'll find wide, open waters, flocks of cormorants and white pelicans, and islands spotted with hidden sandy beaches.

Be aware, though, that the waters can become quite rough, especially during peak high and low tides. You are only 50 miles up river from the Graveyard of the Pacific - so be sure to carry a river chart or drive a boat equipped with a depth finder, as the island sand bars stretch far into the river, putting water craft at risk of being stranded in the sand. And, of course, be sure to have life vests on board for every person as well as all required equipment.