For centuries, mariners have battled the Columbia River Bar, naming it the “Graveyard of the Pacific.” This June the treacherous Bar, where the Columbia River’s mighty current collides with Pacific Ocean swells, claimed another fatality.
On June 20, 2014 at 9:20 a.m., the U.S. Coast Guard reported that a boat had capsized while attempting to cross the Columbia River Bar near Astoria. Six people onboard, all wearing life jackets, went into the water. One man, found tangled in fishing gear and other debris that had come from the capsized boat, did not survive. The other five were rescued uninjured.
At about 8:30 a.m. that morning the Coast Guard had told boaters of worsening conditions, saying officers would be closing the Columbia River Bar within hours. The 25-foot aluminum boat began to head back, attempting to navigate between the mouth of the Columbia and the ocean, about ten to fifteen minutes away from the shore. Suddenly, a swell came underneath the boat, the waters crashed into the windshield, and the boat immediately went down.
Coast Guard Advises Boaters to Heed Warnings
The Coast Guard maintains a recorded bar and weather forecast radio report at each station. The recording is updated every 3 hours during daylight or when weather conditions change. Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment can also be contacted via VHF-FM Channel 16 for conditions of the bar.
New “Restricted Bar” warning signs and lights have been installed at Ilwaco, Chinook, Hammond, and Skipanon boat ramps. If these lights are on, there is some type of safety restriction for the Columbia River Bar.
Bar weather reports can be found in the following ways:
- Columbia River bar report – (360) 642-3565
- Grays Harbor bar report – (360) 268-0622
- Tillamook Bay bar report – (503) 322-3234
- Radio Stations KVAS (1230 kHz) and KAST (1370 kHz) give bar condition reports 15 minutes before and after the hour.
You can go to http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/pqr/marine/bars_mover.php to see bar camera images and latest bar observations and Coast Guard restrictions.