Pilotage across the Columbia River Bar and up or down the river is compulsory for U.S. vessels sailing under registry and for all foreign vessels, except foreign recreational or fishing vessels not more than 100 feet in length or 250 gross tons international.
Pilotage is provided by the Columbia River Bar Pilots for the river entrance, from the open sea in at least 30 fathoms of water to the easternmost wharf at Astoria, Oregon.
The Columbia River Bar is approximately three miles wide and six miles long. This entrance channel is 2,640 feet wide. The bar channel is dredged to 55 feet in the northern three-quarters, and to 48 feet in the southern quarter. The channel then narrows to 600 feet wide and 43 feet deep.
Columbia River Bar Pilots board inbound vessels in the vicinity of the CR Buoy (Columbia River Entrance Buoy), and navigate ships beyond the Astoria-Megler Bridge, where vessels are turned over to a Columbia River Pilot.