As those of us who have fought against major “improvement” projects know, at a certain point, all you can hope for is that when the inevitable happens, something worthwhile will be provided as mitigation.
Now, I’m not saying that was the case with the Bonneville Dam project on the Columbia River. But there is good reason to believe that damming the falls that had been Indian fishing grounds for centuries caused a bit of a stir. What to do? Well, it seems they did try hard to make it up.
Do not look to me for an explanation of dams, spillways, locks or especially fish paths. But I can attest that there is a way that the salmon on the Columbia River can get back to their primordial homes to spawn via a complex series of “ladders” that force them through an area that allows them to be counted before they do their spring thing.
You can watch from above or below, and while we did see many of them make it to the top, it was impossible to photograph this crazy drive they have to go against the tide. It was quite something to observe.
Add to that the fact that the dam area is beautifully landscaped, and that the native Indians were guaranteed the legacy fishing spots they had generational claims on, and all is well! And by the way, this made the second public restroom we saw with fresh cut flowers in both the men’s and women’s facilities. Doesn’t that alone make you want to move to Oregon?
But there is more. There is also a very complex fish hatchery near the dam, in which thousands of salmon are birthed, nurtured, and then sent on their way to the ocean. It’s an amazing operation, which also contains rainbow trout and sturgeon, and a viewing pond holding those they keep around. One of the sturgeon – Herman, by name – is 70 years old and weighs over 400 pounds. As Don always says. it can happen.
And that’s not all! They have done another gorgeous landscaping job here. The people of Oregon really have an amazing climate for rhododendrons, and we are here at just the right moment for the fish and the flowers.
Next it was back west to the town of Vancouver WA. On the way, we went past Beacon Rock, on the Columbia River. Besides being 800 feet high and immense, this rock is so important in the Lewis & Clark story. It was from here that they noticed the tide in the river, and realized that they were finally getting near the Pacific. It was an exciting moment for the Corps of Discovery.
Our history insights today came from the reconstruction of Fort Vancouver, which was built in the 1820’s, jointly occupied by the Americans and the Brits, who were represented by the Hudson’s Bay Company. It was all about the fur trade, my friends, particularly the beaver pelts needed to make those beaver hats that were all the rage in England and Europe – for a while. We saw them all baled up in the warehouse, ready to ship.
The Americans took over, of course, and this area stayed an important military base through both World Wars and beyond. It was an important post relative to the Pacific during WWII, and also the site of a major air field. Vancouver became a major shipyard, and sent over 150 battleships off to war from here.
We are staying here for Memorial Day, and it seems a fitting place to celebrate and remember.