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Columbia River Bar Pilots

100 16th Street
Astoria, OR 97103


Columbia River Bar Pilots were established in 1846 to ensure the safety of ships, crews and cargoes crossing the treacherous Columbia River Bar, which is recognized as one of the most dangerous and challenging navigated stretches of water in the world.

The first recorded crossing of the Columbia River Bar by a non-native was by Captain Robert Gray on May 11, 1792. As was the practice of that era, Gray sent the ship’s small boat ahead of his vessel to search for the deepest water for safe passage across the shifting shoals and sandbars.

In the interest of protecting goods and/or controlling trade between ships and settlers, local Native Americans, and later, members of the Hudson Bay Company, served as the earliest pilots to meet ships and provide piloting assistance across the Columbia River Bar.

Recognizing the need to protect the safety of ships, crews and cargoes crossing the dangerous Columbia River Bar, Oregon Territory established the Oregon Board of Pilot Commissioners in 1846. This legislation provided for formal licensing of the pilots. The Columbia River Bar Pilots trace their history to this date, and is one of the oldest ongoing businesses in Oregon.

One of the most notable early pilots was Captain George Flavel, who was granted State Pilot License Number 1 by the State of Oregon in 1851. He required all of his subordinate pilots to have been ship’s masters, establishing a higher standard for safety and service that endures to this day.

Much has changed since the early days of piloting the Columbia River Bar, when pilot boats were little more than oversized canoes and were rowed out to meet incoming ships. Advances in communications, equipment and technology – while doing nothing to change the relentless nature of this location – have better equipped the pilots to anticipate and respond to the violent conditions of the Columbia River Bar. The two current, state-of-the-art pilot boats are all-weather, high-speed craft with full rollover and self-righting capability, and are equipped with the most advanced navigation, communication and safety equipment available on the market. Coupled with their twin-turbine helicopter, the Columbia River Bar Pilots have one of the most advanced and capable pilot transportation systems in the world.


Media & Links

Columbia River Pilots & Foss Maritime: Training Video

Related content on Marine‑

Video Columbia River Bar Pilot via Helicopter

published on 1 November 2021

The departure of the Columbia River Bar Pilot with the Seahawk, an Agusta Westland AW109 chopper.


Video Columbia River Bar pilot transfer using helicopter

published on 3 May 2021

Columbia River Bar pilot transfer using helicopter from Articulated Tug and Barge Island Monarch / Island Trader, April 29, 2021 near Astoria, Oregon, USA.


Video Those Who Serve: Columbia River bar pilots risk their lives to guide cargo ships

published on 5 April 2020

Columbia River Bar Pilots risk their lives every day and night to keep cargo ships moving across the dangerous Columbia River Bar. They work in any weather and help protect the environment by making sure the big ships do not crash on their way in or out of the river.
Find KGW News online:


Video Columbia River Bar Pilots Helicopter Operations

published on 17 December 2019

Rotorcraft Pro gives an inside look at Brim Aviation's Columbia River Bar Pilots helicopter ops. CRBP uses an AW109SP to hoist ship captains onto ships crossing the dangerous river bar in Astoria, OR. This is part of a written/photo feature in the September 2015 issue of Rotorcraft Pro Magazine.