the Columbia

37. the Columbia River

The 1200 mile flow manifests its winding start in the southern Rockies of British Columbia. it runs south into northeastern Washington, then southwest down to Oregon where it continues west forming 309 miles of Washington/Oregon border. It cuts through the cascade range, forms the C.R. gorge, and ultimately spits its fresh waters to the sea. Allhewhile its powerful flow feeds 14 hydroelectric dams along the path.

We enjoyed the merriment of woody G on both the Oregon and Washington stretches of highway. Falls and bridges, blasted tunnels, trains and sunshine.

Well the world has seven wonders, the travelers always tell:
Some gardens and some towers, I guess you know them well.
But the greatest wonder is in Uncle Sam's fair land.
It's that King Columbia River and the big Grand Coulee Dam.

She heads up the Canadian Rockies where the rippling waters glide,
Comes a-rumbling down the canyon to meet that salty tide
Of the wide Pacific Ocean where the sun sets in the west,
And the big Grand Coulee country in the land I love the best.

In the misty crystal glitter of that wild and windward spray,
Men have fought the pounding waters and met a watery grave.
She tore their boats to splinters but she gave men dreams to dream
Of the day the Coulee Dam would cross that wild and wasted stream.

Uncle Sam took up the challenge in the year of '33
For the farmer and the factory and all of you and me.
He said, "Roll along Columbia. You can ramble to the sea,
But river while you're ramblin' you can do some work for me."

Now in Washington and Oregon you hear the factories hum,
Making chrome and making manganese and light aluminum.
And there roars a mighty furnace now to fight for Uncle Sam,
Spawned upon the King Columbia by the big Grand Coulee Dam.

The grand coulee was far off so we stopped in on the Bonneville dam & Fish Hatchery. Guthrie is said to have written Roll on Columbia at the Bonnevile plot.

The U.S. dept of the interior paid Guthrie $266.66 to travel the great river and write some songs to promote dam creations along the river. Once he understood these dams would help the farmers and common folks, he agreed. He had a driver, a 1941 Hudson and his guitar. He wrote 26 songs in a month. Neither Guthrie or the Gov. forsaw the troubles of spawning salmon.

Today the Bonneville Dam has a fish ladder system to allow the fishes a clear passage against the current. In the lower level, people sit benches watching the fishes pass.

The Bonneville Hatchery hatches fingerlings, loads them into fish hauling water trucks then shoots them from a hose into various water bodies. They squirt 70 million fish into waterways each year.

They also have the touristy draw of a giant 90 year old sturgeon, and a few display ponds of splashing hungry rainbow trout with fish food vending pellets.

And like so many other spots, Lewis and Clark had spent a night in these whereabouts in 1806. The present site of the dam had been an island burial ground for native peoples.

Along the Washington side of the river, we passed through the many man holes in the canyon and watched the double stacked trained containers rolling east on the south side of the river.

Highway 80 carried away from the Columbia in the northeastern corner of Oregon. A winding night drive east of Baker City brought us to camp in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

Oregon state stats:

Oregon is the 9th largest state and the 28th most populous, around 3.5 million peoples. Its the 33rd state and became so in 1859. The state flag is the only two sided U.S. state flag. It is blue. A beaver perches on one side, on the other, a British ship departs while an American ship arrives. The state animal is the American beaver, the fish the chinook salmon, the bird the western meadowlark, the state beverage is milk.