Posted by: Columbia River | July 22, 2010

Hood River – Bonneville Dam

Waking up early, Paul met Ben and JP in Hood River who were in town for the weekend. Little White laps, debauchery, and other Hood River goodness were on their agenda. After breakfast Ben and JP headed for the Little White while Paul loaded up his cat to make his way down the Columbia to meet them at Drano Lake, the take-out for the Little White.

Hood River Bridge.

Hood River Bridge.

Not wanting to miss the crew at take-out, Paul paddled hard and was lucky to have a mellow downriver wind to ease the morning.

Gateway to the Little White. Drano Lake.

Gateway to the Little White. Drano Lake.

The Little White Salmon.

The Little White Salmon.

As Paul pulled into Drano Lake he wasn’t sure whether he had arrived after they had left. Soon the answer was clear.

Perfect timing.  Hawthorne & JP reaching take-out.

Perfect timing. Hawthorne & JP reaching take-out.

The Columbia Experience reaches the Little White.

The Columbia Experience reaches the Little White.

JP and Ben had a great run down the Little White and everyone was ready for lunch. Pulling out the Sun Catcher Solar Oven Paul had brought with him since Kennewick, they set it up and began cooking beans & rice.

Solar powered burritos with JP and Hawthorne.

Solar powered burritos with JP and Hawthorne.

After lunch was done Paul tried convincing Ben and JP that the Columbia was actually a really fun paddle and that they should join him for a day down the river. They laughed and headed for the Green Truss. Once again Paul was alone on his journey down the Columbia. Heading back across Drano Lake, Paul crossed under the highway bridge and headed west once more.

Columbia River Gorge.

Tidewater Barge Company.

Tidewater Barge Company.

Back on the Columbia Paul made great time. The slight flow through the gorge combined with a downriver wind made the Columbia River Gorge section of the Columbia one of the most enjoyable sections of the entire Columbia. Had the wind been going the other direction, it would have been by far one of the worst.

Shortly before dark Paul reached the last boat ramp before the Bonneville Dam.

Bonneville boat ramp.

Bonneville boat ramp.

Great day complete, Paul called Lana. In no time she was at the boat ramp. Together they loaded up the cat and drove back to Hood River for a film premier going on in town. Some may call it cheating, others call it getting after it, either way good times in Hood River. The next day Lana and Paul headed back to Bonneville to complete the portage.

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Posted by: Columbia River | July 22, 2010

Dalles Dam – Hood River

Paddling through the night Paul wanted nothing more than to be as far away from the John Day Dam as possible. Reaching the Dalles Dam in the early hours of the morning, he lied on the cat exhausted from the incident at John Day as well as the miles covered since then. It was during these miles in the middle of the night that he passed over the now drowned Celilo Falls.

“The name refers to a series of cascades and waterfalls on the river, as well as to the native settlements and trading villages that existed there in various configurations for 15,000 years. Celilo was the oldest continuously inhabited community on the North American continent until 1957, when the falls and nearby settlements were submerged by the construction of The Dalles Dam.”





Celilo Narrows

Celilo Narrows

Celilo is now gone, another resource drowned by “progress”.

Around 9am, Paul made his way up the road to where the dam administrative offices were located to ask how to go about portaging the dam. Unfortunately, once again there was no one around to speak with. Eventually, he gave up and began walking back to the cataraft. Just as Paul made his way back to the main gates a Park Ranger vehicle pulled up and one of the Army Corps of Engineers who had helped him at John Day got out. He looked surprised to see Paul at the Dalles but gave advice on how to portage the dam. Paul returned to the cat and paddled the 1/2 mile to a boat ramp on river right of the locks.

Dalles Dam Lockage Instructions - Not an option.

Dalles Dam Lockage Instructions - Not an option.

Reaching the boat ramp, Paul was optimistic about finding a ride around the dam. Most of the day passed and eventually it was obvious that he wasn’t going to be able to find a ride.

Barges increasing in size.


Perspective.

Perspective.

Sitting on the dock Paul called Lana who was in Hood River. About an hour later she was at the Dam and the portage began.

Dalles Dam - Photo: Lana Young.

Dalles Dam - Photo Lana Young.

Deflating the tubes and tying the rack and oars to the roof the team made their way around the dam and located a downriver boat ramp. Pulling out all the gear, inflating the tubes, and attaching the frame; the cat was once again ready to head downriver. Just as the sun set he waved goodbye to Lana and Jessica and made his way down the Columbia.

Lana & Jessica helping w/ the portage.

Lana & Jessica helping w/ the portage.


Around another Dam - The Dalles.

Around another Dam - The Dalles.

Downstream of the Dalles Dam. Photo: Lana Young.

Downstream of the Dalles Dam. Photo: Lana Young

After sitting most the day Paul was eager to begin making miles. Around two or three in the morning he spotted a bridge in the distance. The Hood River bridge was coming into sight.

Another bridge, another milestone, another night on the Columbia.

Posted by: Columbia River | June 21, 2010

The John Day Dam Debacle. John Day to The Dalles.

John Day Dam.

John Day Dam.

As told by Paul Gamache:

The only thing that happens suddenly on the Columbia is wind. Everything else seems to move in slow motion when you are traveling at 2-3mph. A nice way to be but in the end making any sort of distance is going to take a while.

As I slowly cruised towards John Day Dam the excitement of being able to go through the locks increased with every stroke. Having been told by the dam operator at McNary that it shouldn’t be a problem, I began trying to locate where I would be able to pass through.

Navigational tool / home.

Navigational tool / home.

After about an hour and a half from first being within site of the dam I was finally almost there.

Seriously?

Seriously?

For story on the sinking of the Celilo & Sea Mule at John Day Dam: Click Here

The locks.

The locks.

A barge prepares to enter the locks.

A barge prepares to enter the locks.

Upon arrival at the locks I began trying to locate the intercom system which I could use to communicate with the dam operator. Unfortunately, after a while of searching and then eventually yelling for help I started expanding my search area to locate any information on how to proceed through the locks. At one point I found myself on river (lake) left of the pier located above. After a short period of time looking for the intercom or a good area to tie off I began paddling back away from the pier and back towards the locks.

This is when things got weird.

“Hey! Hey! You! DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’VE DONE!” Screamed an irate Homeland “security” psychopath.

Glad to finally see someone who could help, I asked how I can go about getting a pass through the locks. He informed me not only was I not allowed to go through the locks but I had broken federal law by being in a no boating zone.

I tried explain that I was looking for the intercom system or an area to tie off and just wanted to be able to get around the dam. At this point the Dam Supervisor had finally gotten up and came outside to deal with the situation. As calls began being placed to the Army Corps of Engineers & the Sheriffs office I sat on my cataraft not sure exactly what was going on. Clearly I was in front of the dam when I paddled around the pier. However there are tie off markers on both sides of the pier and no signs informing boaters to stay away. Apparently, the major issue was that I was directly above the releasing spillway and obviously in a dangerous area. However, while staying close to the pier there was no current pulling towards the entrance to the dam, making the level of danger they were screaming about more extreme then it really was.

Captain Homeland Security Officer took this time to unleash a flurry of big words that he must have learned in “training”. During which he told me to paddle back around the pier and to the opposite side of the locks. Once back to the other side I sat in my cataraft looking up at the security agent and dam supervisor waiting to see what was going to happen next.

It really is amazing to watch someone try to obtain a superior position through the infliction of fear. If you can make someone afraid, you can make them say or do anything. This was the technique the Homeland Security Officer was trying on me. After tying off my cataraft I made my way up to the area next to the locks.

“You know I can search your boat since you broke Federal Law on Federal Land”. He claimed.

I told him he’s not searching my boat and questioned if he actually had any idea what he was talking about.

“You need to give me your camera”.

“No”.

This was about the time that the Army Corps of Engineers Park Rangers appeared. The security “officer” made his way over to the Rangers and informed them that I had refused to let him search my boat. Thankfully they were two of the most level headed officers I have ever spoken with. They discussed the situation with the homeland security officer and then one of the Rangers made their way over to talk to me. I explained what had happened and thankfully the Ranger was able to lower the terrorism threat level back down to yellow.

The rangers did their rounds talking to everyone and informed me they were going to have to write me a ticket for $100 simply to end the situation.

I mentioned repeatedly that I looked everywhere for the intercom system, was told by the dam operator at McNary that I could pass through John Day, and that I was literally screaming for anyone working at the dam.

“How did you not see me paddling towards the dam or hear me when I got here?” I asked the dam supervisor, shocked that the situation had escalated to such a ridiculous level.

“We don’t monitor that side of the dam.” He said.

I looked over at the Army Corps of Engineers Ranger with a “did he really just say that” look on my face.

Within twenty minutes or so the Sheriff was there, accessed the situation, confirmed I was just trying to get around the dam, and let me on my way. The ranger handed me the ticket and informed me of a culvert just up river on river right which I could go underneath to access a boat ramp around the dam. Again if there was any sign informing boaters of such a procedure this whole situation would have been avoided. It was almost as if the dam supervisor and security officer were waiting for me to cross the line so they could attempt to have me arrested or just mess with me. Pretty sad for individuals assigned with protecting the safety and security of one of our nation’s vital dams.

Thankfully as I paddled away from the dam I called my friend Lief in Seattle, after which he called the Army Corps and eventually the ticket was dismissed. In hindsight the slightest bit of front line government intelligence would have saved five government officials time, energy, gas, and wasted payroll funds.

As I headed towards the culvert I wasn’t sure what had just happened and wished I was once again in the freezing cold of British Columbia, at least there’s no one there to scream at you.

Looking back on John Day, heading towards the culvert.

Looking back on John Day, heading towards the culvert.

Paddling through the culvert I made my way to the boat ramp. Thankfully, there was a fishing boat that had pulled out and was loading up. I explained to the fisherman what had happened and they let me load the cat on top of the fishing boat for a ride around the dam.

The boat ramp was built as an easement for the Natives as part of the “agreement” for building the dam. On some level I could relate to the anger and frustration the natives at the time must have felt towards the U.S Government.

A little help from the locals.

A little help from the locals.

After a short ride around the dam the locals helped me unload the boat and drove away. Once again the kindness of others towards a random stranger was a saving grace.

Finally below John Day Dam.

Finally below John Day Dam.

Loading up, I pushed off from underneath the traditional wooden native fishing platforms that line the bank. Frustrated with what had just happened at the locks, I was glad to be in the current heading away from John Day Dam.

Posted by: Columbia River | April 6, 2010

McNary Dam – John Day Dam

McNary Dam bright and early.

McNary Dam bright and early.

Having been within sight of McNary Dam for two days, Paul was finally set to pass through the locks. After a quick breakfast he paddled up to the intercom and rang the bell to signal a request to pass through the locks. Once communication was established it became clear that not having a motor was going to be an issue. Frustratingly there are no signs or any indication that a motor is required to pass through the locks.

Lock Operating Procedure.

Lock Operating Procedure.


While waiting for a clear yes or no to being able to go through the locks, a discussion broke out between two of the employees at the dam. One of the employees was positive Paul was not able to utilize the locks since he did not have a motor, the other believed there was no reason why he couldn’t pass through. Thankfully after a short time the dam operator allowed him to pass through the dam.

McNary Dam, entering the locks

McNary Dam, entering the locks

Once inside the dam Paul was instructed to loosely wrap a rope around a buoy built into the wall of the dam. After doing so the upriver dam lock closed and water began draining from the lock. In about 5-7 minutes water levels drop roughly 85′.

Downriver Lock

Downriver Lock

Inside the locks.

Inside the locks.


Looking back upriver, McNary Dam

Looking back upriver, McNary Dam

Not long after passing through the dam, the wind picked up and stopped Paul once again. It wasn’t until later that evening that he would once again be able to make his way downriver. That night the wind stopped, leaving the Columbia absolutely still. Having no upriver wind made paddling unbelievably easy. Paddling all night Paul rowed roughly 30 miles until dawn came and the wind once again began blowing upriver.
In a final push before being completely shutdown by an incoming wind storm Paul raced a barge till it was obvious he wasn’t going to win.

Barge.

Pulling over alongside a cliff it was clear that Paul wasn’t going to be able to go anywhere for a while due to the increasing wind. Grabbing a few items: jacket, hat, gloves, some water & a few Clif bars, Paul climbed the rocky cliff to a “flat” area above.

Windmills = wind.

Windmills = wind.


The scenery was nice but the line of windmills lining the hillsides gave little hope of going downriver anytime soon. After a few hours of being pinned down Paul decided to go for a walk and explore the area. Unfortunately it wasn’t long getting up that he rolled his ankle making walking or standing on both legs impossible.

The rockpile campground that cracked my ankle.


Post rolling.

Post rolling.


That began two and a half days of sitting. Not wanting to risk falling into the river Paul was unable to climb down to the boat for the first day and night. Mice or little animals scattering in the brush, fear of the animals that eat little animals scattering in the brush, cold air, not being able to walk, and sleeping out under a jacket with little food or water, the night passed incredibly slow.

More Windmills

More Windmills

The next morning one thing became clear, Paul needed water and food which meant climbing down to the boat. Going excruciatingly slow he eventually made his way down to boat and in a final one legged roll/leap, was able to get back onto the cat. The effects of the wind were amazing. The cat was being fully rocked along the cliffs becoming covered in wood chips and Columbia River trash. Grabbing some food, water, sleeping bag, and pad; Paul climbed the cliff once again.

Around 3pm or so a random person appeared on the road above, heading Paul’s way. Turned out one of the barge workers passing by had seen Paul’s boat against the cliff and thought it had become untied, which somehow meant it was free game. He called his dad who lived 2.5 hours away to come get the boat. The random man walking down the cliff was the barge worker’s dad.

“After hearing his original plan to take the boat I had to sadly tell him I was still alive and didn’t really want to part with it. For a second I thought things were going to get scary.” Paul remembers.

That night while more comfortable than the night before, thanks to the sleeping bag and pad. Paul could not help but think of the random guy coming back. The wind continued to howl, the night passed slowly.

As daylight began to break the darkness, Paul began an attempt to leave the rocky prison. After eating breakfast he hobbled over to a bushy area wanting to clear some room before the paddle ahead. Once done “using the facilities” he stood up and noticed blood covering his stool. Bloody stool is generally not considered a good thing and the decision to take break became obvious. After a quick call to Ryan and Cody, Paul waited for a ride into Hood River. Wanting to speed up the loading process Paul climbed back down to the boat and drifted up river to an easier access point. Paul was picked up by Cody and Ryan and that evening the three returned to Hood River.

Taking about five days off, Paul’s ankle became less swollen. The bloody stool resolved itself, seemingly due to dietary issues Wasting no time the team headed to the EF Lewis race, paddling Money Drop along the way. After the race the team headed back to Hood River and waited for favorable wind conditions along the Columbia. Four days later the conditions were right and with the help of Lana Young, Paul pushed off from the banks of the Columbia where he had left off.

Nothing had changed. The ships were getting more and more frequent and the wind was blowing upriver nearly nonstop.

Wind & Barges, only getting worse.

Wind & Barges, only getting worse.

Two days later Paul reached John Day Dam. Keel was near the town of Hood River mixing sea kayaking days down the Columbia with raft guiding on the side.

John Day Dam

John Day Dam

Posted by: Columbia River | March 4, 2010

Priest Rapids Dam – McNary Dam

After a few days of rest at Chris Balken’s house in Kennewick (THANK YOU CHRIS!) the team set off once again for a float down the Columbia.

Putting in at Vernita Bridge Rest Area below Priest Rapids Dam we were excited that for the first time since entering the U.S to be paddling on a “free-flowing” stretch of river. Sadly it was also the last. Known as the Hanford Reach this section of river has had a very important role in our history as a Nation and World.

The Hanford Project

The Hanford Project

Hanford

For more info on the Hanford Project please visit: www.hanfordproject.com

Nagaski Bomb

WWII - Bombing of Nagasaki

The End.

End of WWII

George Washington University summary of the Atomic Bomb and end of WWII: Click Here

From the Spokesman Review:
Created as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb during World War II, Hanford has been a focus of extensive cleanup efforts for two decades. Today, it is the nation’s most contaminated nuclear site, with cleanup costs expected to top $50 billion.

Hanford produced plutonium for the world’s first atomic blast, the Trinity Test, and for the bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, effectively ending World War II. The site continued to contribute to the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal throughout the Cold War.

The remnants of that effort, 53 million gallons of radioactive brew, were left behind in 177 underground tanks. Some of those tanks are known to have leaked into the aquifer, threatening the neighboring Columbia River, and 144 tanks remain to be emptied.

From the USGS:
“Problem – The U.S. Department of Energy’s (USDOE) Hanford Nuclear Reservation was designed and operated to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. As a result of plutonium processing, and operation of 9 nuclear reactors, large volumes of liquid wastes have been generated and discharged to the ground. These wastes include a wide variety of radionuclides, organic, and inorganic chemicals contained in over 1,400 waste storage, disposal, and overspill sites. The USDOE operates a long-term ground-water monitoring program for selected radionuclide and inorganic constituents, and sampling has detected hazardous constituents in excess of EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) maximum contaminant levels. The Hanford site has been organized to 78 operable units, and the cleanup of each unit entails a detailed site characterization study to determine the nature and extent of contamination. EPA has oversight responsibility for the remediation and has requested the USGS to provide technical assistance.”

Hanford Environmental Dose Reconstruction Project

CDC’s work on the Hanford Environmental Dose Reconstruction (HEDR) Project represents the federal government’s first comprehensive attempt to estimate the amount and type of radiation releases that people were exposed to during plant operations at the Hanford Nuclear Weapons Production facility in Washington State. The purpose of the study was to address community health concerns by estimating the amount and types of radioactive materials that were released to the environment (via air and river pathways) from the Hanford Site and by estimating radiation doses to representative individuals within the communities downwind from Hanford. CDC first became involved in the HEDR Project in 1992, when responsibility for the project was transferred from the Department of Energy to the Department of Health and Human Services.

CDC released the first estimated dose results in April 1994. Since then, CDC researchers have been using the mathematical computer model that was developed during the HEDR project to address remaining community and scientific concerns. The dose estimation methodology developed during the HEDR project also was used by investigators conducting the congressionally mandated Hanford Thyroid Disease Study (HTDS).

Hanford Thyroid Disease Study (HTDS)

The Hanford Thyroid Disease Study was mandated by Congress in 1988. It is the first epidemiologic study to examine whether rates of thyroid disease are higher than normal among people exposed to releases of radioactive iodine from the Hanford site during the period of highest releases, 1944 through 1957. The HTDS consists of 5,199 people identified from records of births during 1940-46 to mothers whose place of residence was in one of seven affected counties in the state of Washington, and the Final Report of the HTDS was released in 2002.
1994: CDC First Estimated Dose Results: Click Here

All that history and impact aside Keel and Paul were excited to be back on the water and ironically about to pass through one of the best wildlife sections of the Columbia River.

Vernita Bridge - Put-in

Vernita Bridge - Put-in

The Hanford Project

The Hanford Project

Hanford Warning

Hanford Warning

Keel Rows the Cat

Keel Rows the Cat

Keel Fishing at Camp

Fishing at Camp

After a nice day of current, wildlife (mostly birds and deer), and fishing we arrived at camp: Ringold Fish Hatchery.

Keel tried his luck but couldn’t pull any fish out. As one of the fishermen pulled out of the parking lot he drove over to us and offered us one of the fish he had caught. We gladly accepted the fish and put it in a side creek to stay cold.

Keel’s girlfriend Ginny drove into camp late and after drinking a few beers we called it a night. Thankful to be at a relaxing pace we woke up, made breakfast, and hung out until Ryan, Cody, Lana, Leif, Yotes, and other locals arrived for a community float from Ringold Springs Fish Hatchery to Chris’ house in Kennewick.

Ringold Fish Hatchery Put-in

Ringold Fish Hatchery Put-in

Lana loving the Columbia.

Lana loving the Columbia.

Yes that's a 25' w/ a 150 yard slide lead-in.

Yes that's a 25' w/ a 150 yard slide lead-in.

Lip of the 25'.

Lip of the 25'.

The Nuclear Flume.

The Nuclear Flume.

Another drainage falls into the Columbia.

Another drainage falls into the Columbia.

That night we had a great get together with friends from the Tri-cities area. Thanks to everyone who showed up!

The next day we re-stocked some food supplies and Keel took off paddling down the Columbia headed for Hood River.

Making some coffee before pushing off.

Making some coffee before pushing off.

Sun Catchers Oven.

Sun Catchers Oven.

Wallula Gap - Where the Columbia turns West to the Ocean.

Wallula Gap - Where the Columbia turns West to the Ocean.

Shortly after passing through the gap the wind began to blow upriver and Paul was pinned down once again. Keel at this point was a ways ahead and was going on ahead to Hood River for some rest. During the course of the trip Keel’s hip was bothering him due to an old injury making it painful for him to sit in the sea kayak for extended periods of time.

Rocky camping spot just below Wallula Gap.

Rocky camping spot just below Wallula Gap.

Heading West.

Heading West.

The barges made paddling at night increasingly dangerous.

The barges made paddling at night increasingly dangerous.

McNary Dam

McNary Dam

Here comes the wind.

Here comes the wind.

Barge navigating the wind & upcoming dam locks.

Barge navigating the wind & upcoming dam locks.

Wind, Wind, Wind.  ~40-60mph.

Wind, Wind, Wind. ~40-60mph.

A day later, same place.  1/4 mile above McNary dam.

A day later, same place. 1/4 mile above McNary dam.

1/4 mile in 30 hours.  McNary Dam. Waiting for morning.

1/4 mile in 30 hours. McNary Dam. Waiting for morning.

Posted by: Columbia River | September 30, 2009

TCE -Video Update- Kennewick to McNary Dam

After a much needed rest in Kennewick, McNary Dam was a welcome site due to the locks, however Home Land Security has strict rules!

Posted by: Columbia River | September 20, 2009

Wenatchee to Priest Rapids Dam

Pushing off once again into the darkness of night, the town of Wenatchee provided thousands of nightlights, making the hillsides glow. Cop cars chasing criminals, stop lights controlling traffic, supermarket signs and gas stations advertising their business. A drastic change from the remoteness of British Columbia and far northern Washington, Wenatchee marked a turning point in the wilderness aspect of the Columbia River. The team was longer out in it away from the hustle and bustle of a commercial society, they were now floating through the heart of it.

As Paul paddled away from the park downriver of Rocky Reach dam he headed towards a boat ramp just a few miles downriver. Kirby Billingsley Hydro Park marked the last boat ramp before the next dam, Rock Island.

Only an hour or so of paddling and Paul reached the Hydro Park where Keel was waiting. Having left a few hours ahead of Paul the two communicated via cell phone where to meet up for the portage around Rock Island. By the time Paul had arrived Keel had already set up camp and started making dinner. Paul on the other hand was about to experience first-hand the horrible effects of food poisoning. As he neared the boat ramp where Keel was waiting Paul began feeling exhausted and nauseated. Tying off the boat Paul walked up to the picnic table where Keel was cooking and sat down. Once done cooking Keel began looking over maps assessing how much further the two had till Kennewick. Eagerly noticing the distance was much shorter then the two had previously calculated Keel began conveying the numbers to Paul. Staring at a plate of pasta Paul was unable to eat let alone do much more than stare at the ground. Over the next few minutes Paul began increasingly sick and eventually had to walk away from the table. Making it about 50′ away Paul dropped to his hands and knees no longer able to stand and began heavily vomiting on the ground. To the sound of Keel’s cheers in the background Paul vommited up everything in his stomach and then lied comatose on the ground for several minutes. Almost instantly after the wave post vomiting nausea past Paul felt unbelieveably better and walked back over to the table to try and eat something for dinner.

The rest of the night was uneventful and Paul and Keel retired for the night. Keel had met someone earlier that day while waiting at the Hydro Park and had plans to leave early the next morning for a ride around the dam. Paul had also secured a ride that day from Eric who agreed to come back and help Paul portage around the Rock Island Dam as well.

The next morning Keel woke up early, packed up, and took the ride around the dam. Paul on the other hand was just trying to survive the physically deteriorating effects of food poisoning. Sleeping most of the day and unable to do much more then simply lie on the ground, even putting on his shoes was as exhausting as running a marathon, any activity other than lying on the ground took an unbearable amount of effort.

Around 5pm that evening Eric showed up to help Paul around the dam. This time Eric had brought his horse trailer, complete with horse poop and all. Loading the boat into the back of the horse trailer Eric and Paul drove downriver to a boat access below the Rock Island Dam. Once unloaded the two sat and discussed how the rest of the trip was looking to go as well as Eric’s plans to convert his horse trailer into a outdoor shower / lounge for the upcoming Burning Man celebration.

Eric Degman and his horse trailer / portage vehicle.

Eric Degman and his horse trailer / portage vehicle.

As darkness once again found its way to the Columbia, Paul slid the cataraft into the water. Exhausted from loading and unloading the boat he only made it a few miles before camping for the night. The next day did not fair much better. Being about 4 days ahead of schedule for a planned party in Kennewick Paul decided to take a short day and only paddled about 10 miles before once again camping for the night. Having about 20 miles to go until the next dam (Wanapum) Paul called it a day.

Campground below Rocky Reach Dam.

Campground below Rocky Reach Dam.

The next day he woke up early feeling much better and easily made the remaining 20 miles to the last boat ramp on river-right above the dam. Arriving at the boat ramp, which more looked like a deserted sloping driveway into the water, the hope of catching a ride was slim at best. Tying up the boat, Paul began walking up the empty road towards the nearest town in search of a ride around the dam.

No further than 300 yards had he gone when a large pickup truck appeared. As the truck approached Paul asked how far it was to town. The couple in the truck told him not far and asked what he was up to. After mentioning he was paddling the Columbia and needed a ride around the dam the couple immediately offered up their vehicle and helped Paul load the boat into the back of their truck.

Lucky and random, a friendly couple helps Paul portage around Wanapum Dam in the middle of nowhere.

Lucky and Random, a friendly couple helps Paul portage in the middle of nowhere above Wanapum Dam.

A short drive later Paul was around the dam. Keel had already portaged the same dam a day earlier. Apparently, he portaged on river left just above the final bridge above the dam. To Keel’s good fortune he ran across someone who was driving around charging the battery in his car. So he had nothing else to do but drive around. Lucky for Keel he picks up hitchhikers with a sea kayak!

After driving around the Wanapum dam the couple in the pickup truck helped Paul unload and drove away to enjoy the rest of their vacation. Happy to be around the dam, which could have taken hours if not days had the couple not helped Paul, he headed up the road to a gas station to buy some good ‘ole gas station fried food. At the gas station Paul asked the women behind the counter how far it was to Priest Rapids and if she knew where the last boat ramp before the dam was located. She didn’t really have much of an idea of where the river went and asked where Paul was eventually heading.

“This river goes to the ocean!?” The woman behind the counter asked, shocked that the river went all that way. Staring blankly at the woman Paul explained where the Columbia starts and how it eventually makes up the Washington/Oregon border. The woman clearly had never thought to wonder where the river in her backyard wandered. Not sure what else to say Paul thanked the woman for her time and headed back to the boat.

That afternoon the wind once again unleashed its fury. Paul found shelter in the grass and lied on the ground trying to escape from the wind. During this time Keel who had been picked up a day earlier by Chris Bolken and Lanson was flying high above shooting photographs of the area in one of Chris’ friends experimental planes. Flying to the area where Paul was Keel spotted the cataraft and the piliot headed towards where the boat was tied up. Once above Keel and the piliot began feeling the strong winds pushing the plane in all directions. Scared of crashing the plane in the unpredictable and strong winds the two headed back to Kennewick.

Unaware Keel had been flying above Paul lied on the ground waiting for the wind to die down. Hours later it was apparent that the wind wasn’t going to take a break anytime soon. Setting up a tent (which was extremely difficult to say the least) he went to sleep hoping the wind would be better in the morning.

Dead salmon on the banks near Paul's tent.

Dead salmon on the banks near Paul's tent.

The next morning Paul woke up to a slight wind and pushed off hoping to make it the 18 miles to Priest Rapids Dam that day. Unfortunately, the wind had other plans for Paul. After paddling a few miles the wind began to howl, pushing the Columbia upriver making it impossible once again to paddle. Frustrated, tired, and wanting to reach Priest Rapids for a scheduled pickup Paul broke down. Muttering a wide range of swearwords and insults Paul walked along shore pulling, pushing, and dragging the boat along the water near shore trying to make it around a bend in the river ahead in hopes that the wind would relent.

Bald eagles were out and about.

Bald eagles were out and about.


Another Bald Eagle watches from above.

Another Bald Eagle watches from above.


Eventually, Paul made the mile or so distance to the bend and got back in the boat happy to be able to paddle once again. Not sure where he was heading all Paul knew was the last boat ramp was on river left in a town called “Desert Aire”. After miles of off again, on again wind, Paul eventually limped the boat into the Desert Aire Marina and called the support crew in Kennewick to let them know he had arrived. A few hours later Chris Bolken and Lanson arrived, helped Paul load the boat into their truck, and headed back to Kennewick.

Priest Rapids Dam sign at Desert Aire Marina.

Priest Rapids Dam sign at Desert Aire Marina.


Priest Rapids Dam

Priest Rapids Dam

Once in Kennewick, the team sat down to a feast of a dinner Keel had made. The team had arrived 3 days ahead of schedule for a community event through the Hanford Reach section they had planned months earlier. So all the team had to do now was eat, sleep, and relax!

Posted by: Columbia River | September 10, 2009

Wells Dam to Wenatchee

Once the dump truck was unloaded Keel and Paul took a break for the first time since the start of the expedition, nearly 17 days earlier.

After resorting gear and food, washing socks, dealing with foot-rot, and just taking a moment to relax; Keel and Paul once again pushed off as daylight faded. Their next goal was Rocky Reach Dam ~40 miles away.

Paddling through most of the night Paul made it to within 10 miles of the dam while Keel camped and started up early again in the morning. Paul knew he was ahead of Keel so most of the morning he spent waiting for Keel to arrive so the two of them could finish the final 10 miles to Rocky Reach and work on the portage together.

Campground 10 miles upriver from Rocky Reach Dam

Campground 10 miles upriver from Rocky Reach

Around 11am the wind once again began picking up speed and Paul was unable to paddle downriver. Fortunately this time he was at least at a nice place to sit and wait for Keel so he sat and read a book happy for an excuse not to be paddling. Soon after he received a call from Keel. Keel had made it to Rocky Reach, somehow he past Paul around 9-10am that morning unbeknown to them.

Keel was quickly able to get a ride around the dam and spent the night at a park downriver of the dam. Paul now behind, packed up his gear and headed out towards Rocky Reach. A few hours later he was there and camped for the night hoping to secure a ride around in the morning.

Lake Entiat - Rocky Reach Reservoir

Lake Entiat - Rocky Reach Reservoir

The next day around 8am Paul received a phone call from Keel. A Wenatchee World Photojournalist had come across Keel camping downriver and wanted to do a story on the expedition. After speaking with Keel, Mike Bonnicksen of the Wentachee World headed up and met Paul at the Rocky Reach Dam to take photos and work on a story. Paul in the meantime was working on finding a ride around the dam, in time the two would work themselves out as Mike became part of The Columbia Experience.  For Mike’s Photo Story: Click Here

Mike from the Wenatchee World.

Mike Bonnicksen from the Wenatchee World.

Throughout the day Paul asked several people for rides around the dam but no one had an empty boat trailer or any means for loading the gear. Eventually, a Chelan County Public Utility District employee who was counting wildlife species in the area saw Paul and came over to ask what he was doing (Chelan County P.U.D. owns and operates Rocky Reach Dam). After a quick talk, Eric of the Chelan County P.U.D. agreed to help portage Paul around the Dam in his truck when he got off work. Fortunely, Eric was a paddler and enjoyed canoeing sections of the Columbia. He always wanted to paddle the entire river and was happy to help out a fellow boater. In the meantime Mike who had finished his interview and left, called Paul asking how the portage was going since he was eager to photograph loading the boat onto a trailer and document the boat entering the water on the downriver side of the dam. Paul mentioned to Mike that he had secured a ride around 5pm and Mike planned to come back out around then to finish his story.

Boat Ramp just upriver of Rocky Reach Dam

Boat Ramp just upriver of Rocky Reach Dam


Good thing that Dam is there so we can all motor boat around! Thank You Chelan County P.U.D!

Good thing that Dam is there so we can all motor boat around! Thank You Chelan P.U.D!

Around 5pm Eric was nowhere to be seen. Eventually, Paul and Mike began discussing other portage options. Realizing they really had no other options Mike agreed to let Paul strap the boat and gear onto his brand new car. Scared of damaging the vehicle they slowly figured out how to get the Cataraft frame onto the roof. Fortunately, Eric showed up soon after and instead of strapping the frame to Mike’s car they were able to load the frame, oars, and other equipment into the back of Eric’s truck.

During this time Keel was downriver at the park he had been dropped off at waiting for Paul to make it around the dam. After sometime security officers, park visitors, and others became aware of Keel. Nervous about having too many people see him and not wanting to receive a loitering ticket he pushed off, heading downriver.

After loading all the gear into Mike’s car and Eric’s truck they headed out to the park where Mike had met Keel earlier that day. Once there they noticed Keel had left so they began reassembling the cataraft. Just as darkness set in the boat was once again together and loaded. Mike who thought the story was going to only take an hour or two was relieved to finally be getting the photo he wanted of the cataraft launching back into the water.

Upon launching below Rocky Reach Dam, Keel and Paul had successfully made it to Wenatchee, Washington. A major mental milestone this marked the largest town the two had arrived in since leaving Revelstoke nearly 20 days earlier.

Posted by: Columbia River | August 7, 2009

TCE-Video Update- Castlegar to Grand Coulee

Posted by: Columbia River | July 8, 2009

Grand Coulee to Wells Dam

Let the dam portages begin.

Not all that Grand.  Grand Coulee Dam.

Not all that Grand. Grand Coulee Dam.

After spending much of Saturday trying to get a ride around Grand Coulee, Keel and Paul finally arrived on the downstream side around 6pm. Once loaded up they headed out paddling hard to make it to Chief Joseph Dam by the next day. The hope was they would be able to catch a ride with a fisherman taking out and secure a ride around Chief Joseph which would most likely be easier on a Sunday then on a Monday.
The only problem was that Chief Joseph was 44 miles away.

Putting their heads down and paddling through the night the team pushed to make the deadline.  Around 1am the headwinds began and pinned Paul and Keel down at different points on the river.   After a few hours of sleep the wind died down and they continued on.  Making it to within a mile of the boat ramp the team was once again pinned down and forced to wait out the wind.  Frustrated and exhausted from the push the two waited in an eddy watching the river flow upstream.  Just as darkness closed in the wind mellowed and Paul and Keel pushed off making it the final mile to the boat ramp.

Chief Joseph

Chief Joseph


Chief Joseph: Born Hinmuuttu-yalatlat (alternatively Hinmaton-Yalaktit or Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt, Nez Perce: “Thunder Rolling Down the Mountain”) in the Wallowa Valley of northeastern Oregon, he was known as Young Joseph during his youth because his father had the same name.

While initially hospitable to the region’s newcomers, Joseph the Elder grew wary when settlers wanted more Indian lands. Tensions grew as the settlers appropriated traditional Indian lands for farming and grazing livestock.

Isaac Stevens, governor of the Washington Territory, organized a council to designate separate areas for Natives and settlers in 1855. Joseph the Elder and the other Nez Perce chiefs signed a treaty with the United States establishing a Nez Perce reservation encompassing 7.7 million acres (31,000 km²) in present-day Idaho, Washington, and Oregon. The 1855 reservation maintained much of the traditional Nez Perce lands, including Joseph’s Wallowa Valley. [1]

An influx of new settlers caused by a gold rush led the government to call a second council in 1863. Government commissioners asked the Nez Perce to accept a new, much smaller reservation of 780,000 acres (3,200 km2) centered around the village of Lapwai in Idaho, and excluding the Wallowa Valley. In exchange, they were promised financial rewards and schools and a hospital for the reservation. Head Chief Lawyer and one of his allied chiefs signed the treaty on behalf of the Nez Perce Nation, but Joseph the Elder and several other chiefs were opposed to selling their lands, and did not sign. [2]

Their refusal to sign caused a rift between the “non-treaty” and “treaty” bands of Nez Perce. The “treaty” Nez Perce moved within the new Idaho reservation’s boundaries, while the “non-treaty” Nez Perce remained on their lands. Joseph the Elder demarcated Wallowa land with a series of poles, proclaiming, “Inside this boundary all our people were born. It circles the graves of our fathers, and we will never give up these graves to any man.”

With 2,000 U.S. soldiers in pursuit, Joseph and other Nez Perce chiefs led 800 Nez Perce toward freedom at the Canadian border. For over three months, the Nez Perce outmaneuvered and battled their pursuers traveling 1,700 miles (2,740 km) across Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. General Howard, leading the opposing cavalry, was impressed with the skill with which the Nez Perce fought, using advance and rear guards, skirmish lines, and field fortifications. Finally, after a devastating five-day battle during freezing weather conditions with no food or blankets, Chief Joseph formally surrendered to General Nelson Appleton Miles on October 5, 1877 in the Bear Paw Mountains of the Montana Territory, less than 40 miles (60 km) south of Canada in a place close to the present-day Chinook in Blaine County. The battle is remembered in popular history by the words attributed to Chief Joseph at the formal surrender:

“Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before, I have it in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed; Looking Glass is dead, Too-hul-hul-sote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are—perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”

By the time Joseph surrendered more than 200 of his followers had died. His plight, however, did not end. Although he had negotiated a safe return home for his people, they were instead taken to eastern Kansas and then to a reservation in the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) where many of them died of epidemic diseases.

In 1879 Chief Joseph went to Washington, D.C. to meet with President Rutherford B. Hayes and plead the case of his people. Finally, in 1885, Chief Joseph and his followers were allowed to return to the Pacific Northwest, although many, including Chief Joseph, were taken to the Colville Indian Reservation far from both the rest of their people in Idaho and their homeland in the Wallowa Valley.

Joseph continued to lead his band of Wallowa for another 25 years, at times coming into conflict with the leaders of 11 other tribes living on the reservation. Chief Moses of the Sinkiuse-Columbia in particular resented having to cede a portion of his people’s lands to Joseph’s people, who had “made war on the Great Father.”Wikipedia

Chief Joseph Dam

Chief Joseph Dam

Chief Joseph Dam: is a 5,962 foot (1,817.2 m) long hydroelectric dam spanning the Columbia River, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) upriver from Bridgeport, Washington, USA. The dam was authorized as Foster Creek Dam and Powerhouse for power generation and irrigation by the River and Harbor Act of 1946. The River and Harbor Act of 1948 renamed the project Chief Joseph Dam in honor of the Nez Perce chief who spent his last years in exile on the Colville Indian Reservation. Like the nearby Grand Coulee Dam, Chief Joseph Dam completely blocks salmon migration on the upper Columbia River.

Construction began in 1949, with the main dam and intake structure completed in 1955. Installation of the initial generating units was completed in 1958. Eleven additional turbines were installed between 1973 and 1979, and the dam and lake were raised 10 feet (3 m), boosting the capacity 2,620 MW, making Chief Joseph Dam the second largest hydropower producer in the United States.[1]

The dam is 545 miles (877 km) upriver from the mouth of the Columbia at Astoria, Oregon. It is operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Chief Joseph Dam Project Office, and the electricity is marketed by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA).

The reservoir behind the dam is named Rufus Woods Lake, and runs 51 miles (82 km) up the river channel. Bridgeport State Park, on the lake, is adjacent to the dam.Wikipedia

After a much needed night of sleep Keel and Paul began trying to hitch a ride around the dam.  At some point a park ranger came across Keel’s tent and started informing him that camping was not allowed at the dam and could be subject to a fine. Keel agreed to take down the tent and the ranger left, heading straight to where Paul had camped the night before. Lucky for him he had already taken down his tent and the ranger informed him of the same rules about no camping.  In the team’s defense there were no signs from the river side which stated no camping so they had no idea when they showed up the night before that they were camping illegally.

Camping not allowed.

Chief Joseph Dam - Camping not allowed.

After their stern warning Keel came across a fisherman who started telling him that years ago the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was required to assist boaters and provide them with a means for portaging the dam.  It appears that changed in the last couple of years due to a lawsuit where gear was damaged and now the USACE no longer assists boaters.  The ranger even went so far as to try and talk the fisherman out of giving Paul and Keel a ride around the dam claiming liability issues.  Thankfully the fisherman ignored him and gave the team a ride around the dam.

Hitchin' a Ride.

Hitchin' a Ride.

Once around the dam the team pushed off into the moving current below Chief Joseph. Enjoying the flow and no wind the two made great time for a few miles.  Then came the wind.  Keel was able to push on for a few miles but Paul was instantly pinned down once again.

View from Being Pinned Down by Wind.

View from Being Pinned Down by Wind.

After a few hours the wind slowed and Paul was able to continue on for about a mile until he was stopped once again. Frustrated and tired he pulled up to a boat ramp, tied off, and went to sleep to the sounds of an angry couple living next door yelling throughout the night.

Around 5am Paul pushed off thinking Keel was miles ahead of him at this point.  Thankful that the wind had stopped Paul made great time covering the next 20 miles or so.

Sunrise on the Columbia

Sunrise on the Columbia

At one point the river opened up making a bend to the left as well as continuing ahead under a bridge. Not sure which way to go Paul turned left and paddled on.  Fearing he had gone the wrong way he pushed the button on the SPOT and uploaded his position online.  Once the signal went through he called Scott Waidelich who was working hard at Canoe & Kayak and asked him to verify he was going the correct way.  Scott confirmed he was going the right way and Paul continued on. Within a few miles the wind began once again, instantly pushing Paul back upriver.  Paddling hard for river right Paul tied off to a tree below railroad tracks and the highway.  Thinking Keel was probably at the dam at this point Paul sat down hoping to be able to catch up before dark.  After a few hours of waiting Keel paddled up, somehow once again Paul had passed Keel the night before. Fortunately, Keel had been on river left when he came around the corner upriver of Paul and had seen a glimpse of Wells Dam less than a mile away which was out of Paul’s sight on river right, obstructed by a right-hand bend in river.  Laughing at the fact they had made it to the dam the two began looking for the boat ramp which was located on river right near their location.   Looking through binoculars Keel noticed they had actually passed the boat ramp and the two untied and pushed off to head a 1/2 mile back upriver to begin looking for a way around the dam. Just in time for the wind to change directions and start blowing back downriver.

Keel made better time getting upriver and ran up to the road just in time to wave down a passing dump truck.  The driver had seen Paul hours earlier on his way to dump his load and when Keel came running up to the road he stopped to see what was going on.  Now with an empty container the driver helped Paul and Keel load their boats and gear into the back and drove the two around Wells Dam.

Getting a ride with a Dumptruck

Getting a ride with a Dumptruck

Somehow the boat and all the gear fit perfectly.

Somehow the boat and all the gear fit perfectly.

Wells Dam: is a hydroelectric dam located on the Columbia River, downstream from the confluence of the Okanogan River, Methow River, and the Columbia River in Washington State. The dam, associated structures, and machinery make up the Wells Hydroelectric Project. It is owned and operated by Douglas County Public Utility District.

It has produced electricity since August 22, 1967. Its operating license from the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is next up for renewal in 2012. In addition to the two public utility districts, the project provides electricity to Puget Sound Energy, Portland General Electric, PacifiCorp, Avista Corporation, and the Colville Indian Tribe. Its reservoir is named Lake Pateros.Wikipedia

Check back next week for Wells Dam to Wenatchee!

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