Posts Tagged With: Columbia River

Cruising the Columbia River

Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Is it a river boat? A paddlewheel boat? A paddle steamer? A sternwheeler? A boat operated by paddle wheels appears to be known by all of these names. But on the Columbia River, it’s referred to as a sternwheeler. I’ve always wanted to take a ride on one and finally we had a chance on the Columbia Gorge, based in Cascade Locks, Oregon. My mother-in-law’s birthday had been earlier in the month and since we prefer to give experiences rather than “stuff,” we wanted to take her on this cruise.

As we drove into town, traffic was bumper to bumper. Then we notice the sign on the side of the road – “Sternwheeler Days.” “Oh, no, I hope we’re not caught up in a parade!” I quickly pulled out my iPhone and looked up the celebration. Whew! The parade must have just ended. We crawled along for just a few blocks until we spied the well-marked sign to the turn-in for the boat, at the Cascade Locks Marine Park. We easily found a parking spot, and headed into a small building, the Visitor Center and Locks Cafe. Inside was the ticketing desk off to the left, a small food area to the right, and behind that was a gift shop.

Visitor Center and Locks Cafe, Columbia Gorge

Visitor Center and Locks Cafe

The whole building had fascinating old pictures and bookcases with antiques highlighting life years ago.

Old Items in the Visitor Center, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Old Items in the Visitor Center

We already had our tickets but stopped at the ticket desk to ask if we were OK wearing sandals (we were) and if it was OK to take the camera on the boat (yes we were, as a matter of fact it was highly encouraged!) Then we stepped outside on the deck to enjoy the view until the boat came back from its trip upriver. It runs about ½ hour downstream, turns around, comes back to the dock and lets some passenger off and others on, then goes upstream about ½ hour and again returns to the dock. So there are different lengths of cruises you can take, as well as dinner cruises. We were taking the two-hour cruise.

When the boat came back to the dock, it was moving pretty rapidly. David and Josh were debating between themselves if it was truly operated by the paddle wheels or if it had supplemental power. Later we would find out, yes, it was truly operated by the paddle wheels! And its name was – Columbia Gorge!

Paddles, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Paddles

Before getting on the ship, there was a sign that said for safety reasons everyone had to have their picture taken. We wondered if this was because we would be going close to the dam. Group pictures were allowed so we had ours all taken together. I did have to wonder later if it really was for safety reasons, because later, staff took all the pictures around to the guests and people could choose to buy one if they wanted. We had already planned and pre-paid for two pictures anyway, so we got ours.

Sue, Josh, Nancy, David. Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Sue, Josh, Nancy, David

Inside the Sternwheeler, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Inside the Sternwheeler

Inside the vessel was gorgeous, a combination of antique looking decor with modern amenities such as a restroom and snack bar. There was a lower dining area for the lunch dinner cruises, and seating upstairs where the snack bar was located.

Snack Bar, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Snack Bar

As we pulled away from the dock, looking north we were awestruck to see the scar on the land where a massive landslide happened hundreds of years ago. The captain, Michael Cain, explained how this landslide had completely blocked the river, backing it clear up to Idaho. Eventually the river broke through underneath, creating a natural land bridge, named, “The Bridge of the Gods” by local Native Americans. Crossing under the new steel Bridge of the Gods built to replace the natural bridge that eventually collapsed, we were taken back in time as we thought about how we were re-enacting a trip Native Americans might have taken under the natural bridge.

Josh and the Bridge of the Gods, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Josh and the Bridge of the Gods

Under the Bridge of the Gods, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Under the Bridge of the Gods

One fun unusual thing that happened – kayakers and paddleboarders would catch the waves from the boat and ride along on them!

Paddlboarder riding the wake, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Paddlboarder Riding the Wake

Kayakers and Boarder Riding the Wake

Kayakers and Boarders Riding the Wake

Strong winds blasting up the Columbia River were a welcome relief from the heat of the day, even though the sky was overcast. On both sides of the river were odd-looking docks. The captain explained that Native Americans used to fish the falls in the area before the dam, and now use these docks to fish.

Native American Fishing Docks, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Native American Fishing Docks

We continued on up near the dam, passing a rock that the captain told us was named, “Hermiston Rock.” Apparently rocks are named after the boats that crash on them! Yikes, let’s not have one named “Columbia Gorge Rock” OK?

Hermiston Rock, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Hermiston Rock

Bonneville Dam from the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Bonneville Dam

We went as far as we could then turned around and headed back upriver. I overheard someone say, “Anyone can go in the wheelhouse” so of course, we headed in. Inside was the captain and two young men, crew members. The captain was more than happy to answer all of our questions, and then the dream of a lifetime – let Josh steer the boat! He was thrilled! He did it for quite a ways, until we got back closer to the bridge, then the captain took over. We finally left the wheelhouse but Josh just stayed in there, visiting and asking questions until we docked again.

Captain Michael Cain, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Captain Michael Cain

Wheelhouse, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Wheelhouse

Josh Steering the Sternwheeler. Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Josh Steering the Sternwheeler

We waited while the other passengers boarded, then headed upriver. By now the sun was coming out, the clouds were disappearing, and it wasn’t near as windy going east. The views along this route were more rural with lots of beautiful hills and trees. By the time we turned around and headed back, I think we were all relaxed as Jell-O. I didn’t want to get off the boat, I felt like all stress had drained away into the river, and all that was left was thoughts of the here-and-now.

Gorgeous Views, Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler

Gorgeous Views

We highly recommend this little cruise. The price is extremely reasonable, with different rates for different lengths of trips. For prices, check out their website at http://portlandspirit.com/sternwheeler.php.

 

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Categories: Boating/Kayaking, Historical, Oregon, Outdoors, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Washington State’s Own Stonehenge

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Stonehenge at Maryhill

Stonehenge in England is surrounded by theories and speculation. It’s fun to try to think about what the circle of stones really meant and why it was created. But Stonehenge in Maryhill, Washington has a definite known reason and purpose.

This full-size replica of the stone structure was built by Samuel Hill, a businessman, and was finished in 1929. It is however, not made out of stone, but out of concrete. Its purpose is to honor those who died in World War I. The names of soldiers from Klickitat County are engraved on markers. It is also the very first Memorial to World War I Veterans in the entire United States.

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Hill had heard that the original Stonehenge was thought to have been created as a sacrificial place, so he envisioned the Maryhill Stonehenge as a tribute to those who were sacrificed in war.

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There are 40 stones on the inside circle and 30 stones on the outside. As the original Stonehenge marks the solstice, so does the Maryhill one. The Altar Stone is aligned to the sunrise on the Summer Solstice.

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Altar Stone in the center

Standing in different parts of Stonehenge the sun throws shadows that look both beautiful and intriguing. It’s interesting to stand there for awhile and watch the shadows move with the sun.

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Shadows

Maryhill Stonehenge sits high on a bluff above the Columbia River in the Columbia Gorge. The view is spectacular every way you look. On the beautiful spring day we were there, the sky was deep blue and the grass was still green, not having turned brown yet from the heat.

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The Columbia River and Gorge

With no mountains to block the view, you can see west to Mt. Hood.

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Sam Hill Memorial Bridge and Mt. Hood off to the left

Looking down on the river you may see fishing boats, speed boats or even barges and tug boats transporting their goods upriver. You can see the Sam Hill Memorial Bridge crossing the Columbia River to the town of Biggs on the Oregon side. In a time-warp feeling of old vs. new, wind turbines can be seen on the Washington hills north of Stonehenge.

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Wind Turbines

There is no cost to visit the memorial and it is open from 7am to dusk.

Directions: On the Washington side of the Columbia River, go east on Hwy. 14 and follow the signs to Stonehenge.

On the Oregon go east on Hwy. 84 to exit 104 and the Sam Hill Memorial Bridge at Biggs, Oregon. Take it north, crossing onto Hwy. 14 and continuing east following the signs to Stonehenge.

 

Categories: Historical, Keatons Out and About, Oregon, Outdoors, Parks, Roadside Attraction, Uncategorized, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Columbia River, Transportation Giant

big2_2Last weekend we decided to take a day trip to Astoria, Oregon for a quick getaway. There is a quite a bit to see and do there, but this particular day one fascinating thing was watching all the container ships in the Columbia River. I’ve seen them before, but never so many.

The Columbia River is the biggest river in the Pacific Northwest at 1243 miles long. It starts in Canada, flows south through Washington, then turns west and is the border between Oregon and Washington. There are 14 dams on the river.

Ships coming into the Columbia River have to pass over the bar, which can be treacherous in bad weather. The bar is where the mighty Columbia River meets the powerful Pacific Ocean, creating enormous waves. It is so dangerous that ships must have a Columbia River Bar Pilot (experts in crossing the bar) get on the boat and guide it through the bar.

Once over the bar they then pass under the Astoria-Megler Bridge which was built in 1966 and is 208 feet high.  Upriver the ships also have to pass under the Lewis and Clark Bridge at Longview which is 198 feet high. The Columbia River is 55 feet deep for the first 5 miles, then is 43 feet deep for the next 100 miles or so into Portland, Oregon. Neither of those depths seems like enough when you look at how absolutely HUGE the ships are that are in it!big1_1

About 3600 ships go through the Columbia River every year. Most of the particular ships we saw this day were Articulated Tug and Barges, basically a combination tug boat and barge. The tug can be detached from the barge if needed. I believe we also saw some General Cargo Ships which can carry logs or large amounts of other cargo.

We watched the large group anchored up out in the bay from the dock around the Columbia River Maritime Museum. They were just sitting there, no action, but just fascinating to see so many of them sitting out there lined up. You can see from the amount of red showing above the water that the ships are empty. We assumed they would be heading upriver at some point to load up with cargo. When they are fully loaded and heavy, they sit much lower in the water and the red part is nearly covered.

IMG_2813We went to Fort Stevens and that’s where we saw this ship heading back out to sea. As you can see from the small amount of red showing above the water line, this ship is loaded and heavy. Surprisingly, though, it moved amazingly quick even though it was loaded up.

Watching the boats we wondered – what kind of people worked on the boats, where were they from, where were they going, what kind of cargo did they carry, would we be using any of the items they were bringing in and out? We’ll never know but it was fascinating to see the importance of the great Columbia River as a massive transportation system and the amount of traffic using it.

Categories: Historical, Keatons Out and About, Oregon, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

What a Ride! Apple Capital Loop Trail, Wenatchee, Washington

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Entrance to trail at Wenatchee Confluence State Park

Wenatchee knows how to do a bike trail right. I’m new to bicycling. Well, new since I was a kid. I just bought my first bike with any kind of gears this past year so I’ve been trying to get out on it riding trails. I don’t want to do road biking because cars just make me too nervous. But trying to find good, long trails that are mostly easy enough for a beginner and a 50+ year old woman, but also a little challenging in spots to build strength and endurance, has been a little difficult. So I was thrilled when we discovered the Apple Capital Recreation Loop Trail in Wenatchee, Washington.

The trail is 10 miles long and loops from one side of the Columbia River to the other. It is the longest loop trail in Washington State. There are several access points and we chose the Wenatchee Confluence State Park to enter simply because that’s where we stumbled onto it. There is plenty of parking and you can enter the trail right there. It took us for a short ride with slight inclines and declines until we got to the bridge. Then it was enough of an incline that Josh and I had to walk our bikes up. David was impressive – he rode all the way up it and his bike is a cruiser – no gears!

While this bridge also carries car traffic, the bike trail is completely separated by a concrete wall so I felt very safe. Once on the other side of the Columbia River, you go a few miles along the river and behind some beautiful houses. There are several spots to pull over and look out over the river, some with benches to sit on. There are two access sites, one at 27th Street and one at 19th Street. The one at 19th has a restroom, water fountain, and even a place to put air in your bicycle tires.

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Water over trail

The inclines and declines on this part of the trail are perfect. Some places they are steep enough that going down them there is a 10mph sign. One small part even shows a 6% downgrade.

On the day we rode, the river was quite high and even went over parts of the trail. That was really fun as we were already pretty warm by then and the little bit of water cooled our feet.

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Old RR Bridge Part of Trail

About five miles down that side the trail then goes back over the Columbia River via an old railroad bridge, and is for bikes and pedestrians only – still no worry about cars. Going down the other side takes you into Wenatchee and along the riverfront. There are a lot of trailside rest areas, creative works of art, and colorful gardens.

A little further on you have the opportunity at Wenatchee Riverfront Park to take another bike/pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks and on Saturdays, stop at the farmers market. If you get to this spot after noon, take a break and stop in at the Saddle Rock Pub and Brewery. They have an impressive number of microbrews, a fabulous Chicken Caesar Ranch Wrap, and their own Wenatchee Pizza which has bacon and apple slices on it. A tasty alternative to the usual Hawaiian pizza.

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Bridge over the RR tracks from trail to Saddle Rock Pub and Brewery

Bike back over the bridge and ride through the Riverfront Park, which has more restrooms and water fountains. The trail then goes through Walla Walla Point Park, where there is a lot of activity going on such as sports fields, stand up paddle boarding, kayak rentals, etc.

Not too much farther until the trail enters the other side of the Wenatchee Confluence State Park, through the manicured lawns of the camping sites and soon back to the parking lot.

The ride took an hour and a half (not counting stopping for lunch). It was the perfect amount of time, a ride that was easy enough most of the time, yet challenging in spots, incomparable scenery, and safe from car traffic. The Apple Capitol Loop Trail is the perfect ride for beginner cyclists, young and old!

Map of the trail: http://www.chelanpud.org/documents/Apple_cap_Rec_loop_map.pdf

Categories: Bicycle Trail, Outdoors, Parks, Uncategorized, Washington | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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