In 1846, the first Columbia River Bar Pilots were established to ensure the safety of ships, crews, and cargo crossing the dangerous and challenging Columbia River Bar, which is well-known for being one of the world’s most dangerous and challenging navigation routes.
Robert Gray was the first person to arrive on the Columbia River in 1792 aboard the Boston-registered ship Columbia Rediviva. Gray operated as his own pilot, sending a boat to search for the deepest water that he could find. As the trade expanded, locals began to serve as bar pilots. Pilotage on the river was regulated in 1846 by a bill passed by the Oregon provisional legislature. The Oregon Board of Maritime Pilots oversees bar pilots, determining how many pilots are required to work on the grounds, as well as how much ships should be charged for service. As of 2008, 14 pilots handled 3,600 ship transits a year on average. License requirements for Columbia River Bar Pilots are the highest in the country.