The Columbia River Bar lies between the Peacock Spit in Washington State and the Clatsop Spit, about 82 miles (132 km) northwest of Portland and 9 miles (15 km) northwest of Astoria, Oregon. The Clatsop Spit was formed by Columbia River sediment brought to the coast by the river after the last ice age ended approximately 8500 years ago. The name Clatsop Spit usually refers to the northern end of the spit, or the area that is bounded by the Pacific to the west and the Columbia River to the north. In the past, the spit was known as Clatsop Sands.
The Columbia River Bar is a system of shoals at the mouth of the Columbia River spanning the states of Oregon and Washington. The bar is about 3 miles (5 km) wide and 6 miles (10 km) long. The submarine bar is now prevented from fully developing by jetties on the north and south sides of the river entrance and by active dredging to maintain a shipping channel. Since 1792, over 2,000 large ships have sunk in this area called the Graveyard of the Pacific. The nearby U.S. Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment is renowned for operating in some of the roughest sea conditions in the world and is home to the National Motor Lifeboat School.
Despite these conditions, the Columbia River Bar Marine Pilots routinely navigate ships across the bar. Approximately 16 bar pilots guide ships across the bar and up the Columbia River. They generally consider “the bar” to be the area between the north and south jetties and Sand Island. The bar pilots often board ships from a pilot boat or by helicopter. Read more here and here. See a short video here. Explore more of Clatsop Spit here: