They call Portland, Oregon the city of bridges. Some argue that Amsterdam is that city, but then there could be more argument that we are talking in the US here. Either way, there are lots of bridges. They are cool, unless you are sitting in a boat, waiting for a train to go by and the draw bridge to go up. Time schedules aside, they are nice to look at.
One thing everyone will tell you about Portland, is that the people are weird. I even saw a building painted on the side, it said “Keep Portland Weird”! In my opinion, the people are putting forth their best efforts to keep it up.
All that aside, I really like Portland. It’s got good places to go, things to do. Of which I know little about, because I work entirely too much. I do know, however, that the stores are awesome. Powell’s Books is world renowned, and there are several stores I had to stop in and check out along the way. I’m not a shopper, anyone that knows me will agree, but this is a good town for people like me.
Next week I’ll snap some shots of town. I neglected to bring my camera this time, because it was raining like crazy! Hopefully it will be a little calmer next go around.
There is quite a bit of traffic on our path. The Columbia and Snake rivers are kind of like the Dalton Highway, in a lot of ways. The amount of supplies that go up and down the river every day is immense. There are tractor tugs, like pictured above, that push barges up and down river. They are full with grain, logs, wood chips, and all sorts of other stuff. Some tugs may be pushing four or five barges at once! The other day we passed up one that had a barge full of parts going to Canada for an oil drilling project. It was quite the erector set.
The most amazing thing about the tugs is not the sheer power that they have, but the finesse that the captain show while piloting them. I’ve seen some of the most amazing boat handling the last few weeks. These guys have lots of practice, lots of skill and maybe some luck. My hat goes off to them.
As we were going through Lower Monumental Dam last night we had a good conversation with the lockmaster. He told us about their plans to replace the gate on the lock this winter. We were surprised to hear that the gate weighs in at 650 tons, and that they will be cutting it out in 6 pieces. The new gate will be installed in three pieces and weigh close to 900 tons.
This is going to be quite a feat! The crane that they are erecting to do the job is huge. It will be pretty interesting to see it once it’s completed next year.
I was thinking to myself, how cool it would be to come back and do this trip on my own. Maybe rent a boat in the 25 foot range and make the trip from Astoria to Clarkston and back. Take two weeks or so. I’m going to have to look into this a little more…..
As we make our way down the Snake River to the Columbia, we see that there are two types of gates on the down river side of the lock. One is like pictured in the post below, a big sliding gate that drops down from the towers over head, and the other is the two door type like pictured above.
At the Ice Harbor Dam Lock, we went in this morning with a tug and two barges. It was very cool to watch the pilot bring in the barges with just two feet on either side into the lock. The guy was so good, he never touched either side, until he was tying it up.
I have much respect for these pilots now, after watching them for a few weeks!
My next post, I’ll talk about them a little bit…..
As we speak, I’m following the last part of the trail left behind by Lewis and Clark. I’m at the confluence of the Clearwater and Snake Rivers, on the boarder of Lewiston, Idaho and Clarkston, Washington. It’s an interesting thing, being on a river boat.
The trip heads west from here, down the Columbia river and out to the infamous Columbia River Bar. This is the scene of thousands of wrecks over the last 100 years, and is still one of the most dangerous in the world. The Bar is the point where the Columbia reaches the Pacific Ocean. The tides meld and the water sloshes around like a toilet. When the wind kicks up it’s as rough as any spot on the planet.
As we head down river I’ll be sharing photo’s. Above is the Dam at Ice Harbor, right below Clarkston on the Snake. We travel through locks to get to the next level of the river. The eight dams between us and the Bar are all that are slowing us down.
Oh, and it’s nice to be back……