A Historical Look at Astoria's Columbia River Ferry
Published: 06/28/2016 Updated: 08/13/2019
Ferry crossings are found in historical documents, nostalgic photographs and etched into our memories long after the boats sail away for good.
Ferries have always been a lifeline in the Pacific Northwest. In the early 1900s, bridges were starting to cross northwest rivers in all the large cities, but where bridges were not possible and in areas with smaller populations, the car ferry came into existence. In a brilliant business move Captain Fritz Elfving, an immigrant from Sweden, converted a gravel barge to a car ferry in Astoria and established Oregon's first commercial ferry service across the Columbia River. In 1920, the improvised ferry transported over 700 vehicles during the summer. Ferry traffic rose quickly and Captain Elfving commissioned a dedicated car ferry in 1924. The wooden hull vessel measured 98 feet and could hold 22 autos and 155 passengers. Named Tourist No. 2, the ferry would provide service until the Astoria-Megler Bridge was built in 1966.