I visited Astoria, Oregon over the weekend with a friend of mine over the weekend.

Astoria started off being a fur trapping town that transitioned into lumber and canning in the 1800’s. By the time the middle of the last century the canning started to leave the town. The timber industry mostly left as well. In the late 1980’s the last of the canneries closed down. In the middle of the 1990’s the last train rolled out as well.

This leaves me to wonder what went wrong.

Why do ships navigate the narrow channel of the Columbia all the way to Portland instead of offloading there in Astoria itself? It’s not that Astoria doesn’t itself have a deepwater port. What got Portland to win?

From walking around the town you can tell pretty dramatically when the money left.

The newest buildings we saw were built in the 60’s. The houses are left with their last paint job from the 80’s.

Most of what seems to be left is tourism and a bit of shellfish. Even things like the “Scenic Riverwalk” along the Columbia isn’t really as scenic as we were expecting. It’s odd walking through a town in a transition state like this. It seems like it’s at the cusp of either moving all the way to just tourism or all the way down to moving to a ghost town.

I hope for its own sake that it doesn’t wind up dying like so many other towns we’ve seen do.