When you’re ready to slow down, you can find plenty to do and see near Westport and Knappa. Whether you plan to stay the weekend, all day, or just want to make a quick stop on a drive, there’s plenty to enjoy.
Sloughs and islands of the lower Columbia
This region along the Columbia River east of Astoria is the traditional territory of the native Chinook, Lower Chinook, Clatsop and Kathlamet people.
The 20 islands in the Columbia River from Svensen to Westport are part of the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge, which is crucial bird habitat. U.S. Highway 30 crosses creeks that flow down to the river, including Gnat Creek, Big Creek and Hunt Creek.
To really view the landscape, take a detour down Knappa Dock Road in Knappa or Ziak-Gnat Creek Road toward Brownsmead. On these roads you’ll get a better view of the creeks, sloughs and wetlands. Driving or biking slowly around Knappa and Brownsmead offers a tour of quirky older buildings, boat houses and farm animals.
Experienced cyclers can ride from Astoria or bring a bike along for shorter rides. In Westport, make a trip across the river to Puget Island on the Wahkiakum County Ferry, the last ferry crossing the lower Columbia River. It operates daily and leaves at a quarter past the hour from 5:15 a.m. to 10:15 p.m. Once on the island, take in the quaint and scenic landscape, then head over to the town of Cathlamet.
A boat or kayak is needed in order to experience most of the Columbia’s islands. Make sure to take a look at maps and tides before you go. For boats, try the Aldrich Point Boat Ramp in Brownsmead or the Westport Boat Ramp.
When kayaking, launch from the Knappa Docks (use the riverbank to launch) for a quick paddle in Warren Slough around a small island. Or launch your kayak from Autio’s Ramp on Ziat-Gnat Creek Road (a private ramp maintained for public use) to head along Blind Slough, under the bridge on Barendse Road and out past an old railway trestle. On a hot day, you could join the kids jumping from the bridge for a swim if you’re not too scared.
Trek along Gnat Creek
Opting for an adventure on foot? Head for a hike on the Gnat Creek Trail. This trail makes for a moderate, choose-your-own adventure since there are two main sections and both are out-and-back hikes.
One section of the trail runs from the trailhead at the Gnat Creek Campground turnoff (look out for the sign along Highway 30), 1.5 miles to the Gnat Creek Hatchery. This first section is relatively flat, with many opportunities to stop by the creek. It is not wheelchair accessible. The trail meanders through the forest, featuring impressively large old stumps now acting as nursery logs for new trees. Bring a mushroom identification book and see how many different varieties are visible along the path.
The other section of the trail starts from the Gnat Creek Hatchery, though the hatchery grounds are currently closed due to COVID-19. From the hatchery, follow trail markers to Barrier Falls, a small waterfall in Gnat Creek. Informational signs dot the trail here. To continue, follow the Upper Gnat Creek Trail, which heads upstream through dense rainforest. Marking the end of the trail is a loop which intersects Bigfoot Creek and a cleared section with two benches overlooking Gnat Creek.
The out-and-back section from the hatchery is four miles, making the full out-and-back from the campground seven miles.With so many places to stop and enjoy the creek, this hike could easily be a 3 hour excursion.
A bite to eat
After you’ve built up an appetite from all that adventuring, grab ood at a local eatery. In Westport, stop by The Berry Patch, which serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and of course, pie. The Berry Patch currently offers take-out or dine-in options. Don’t leave without a slice of the restaurant’s famous huckleberry or marionberry pie.
In Knappa, stop at the intersection off Highway 30. Enjoy a hearty meal at The Logger, open daily. And since there is no such thing as too much pie, try one of The Logger’s cream pies.
Big Creek Coffeehouse, across the street from The Logger and Knappa Market, serves coffee, sandwiches, salads, and Tillamook ice cream to-go and at a drive-thru window. If pizza and beer is more your style, order a “Knappa Supreme” and hang out in the lounge at Knappa Pizza and Bar.
On a clear day, grab food to-go or pack a picnic and head to Bradley State Scenic Viewpoint, a rest stop with a view. Follow the sign for the entrance, west of Westport on Highway 30. Claim one of the many picnic tables to eat with views of the Columbia River, Puget Island and Cathlamet. The park at the viewpoint is currently closed due to the coronavirus.
Gnat Creek Campground is a first-come, first-served site with four available walk-in spots ($15 a night). Camping here is great for anglers who want to take advantage of nearby fishing holes and those who want to adventure farther into Clatsop State Forest via the Nicolai Mountain OHV Area entrance.
Dispersed camping is also allowed in the Clatsop State Forest, across the highway, from the Nicolai Mountain OHV Area access.