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On the Mighty Columbia River

semi-overcast 70 °F

Good day!

This blog is a couple of days old as there has not been too much to write about. Thursday I left the Seattle area for the Vancouver Elks Lodge where I made my base for exploring Portland, OR just across the bridge. I found the Elks Lodge to be large with about 15 RV sites, most of which were filled. My brethren at the Lodge were very warm and welcoming. Friday was spent unwinding and doing household tasks, such as laundry and cleaning. Friday night I had dinner at the Club with new friends from California. They are headed north in their RV to visit family.

Saturday morning I drove into Portland, a busy city with a metropolitan pop. of 2.4 M, to take a Gray Line City Tour to get an overview of the town. Portland, situated on the riverfront has many parks. In the South Park Blocks are the cultural district of Performing Arts, Historical Society, and the Art Museum. The city has a large Asian population and the Japanese Gardens' Rose display near the City Zoo/World Forestry Center is spectacular. There are also Chinese Gardens near the Convention Center which claim to be the most authentic outside of the Old Country. Atop one of the many hills are 4 or 5 Medical Centers. I call it 'Pill Hill'. The need for expansion of these facilities required locating new buildings to the bottom of the hill. An aerial tram (gondola) was installed to move people up and down the hill and to relieve parking congestion. A creative solution. Shopping districts are NW 23rd Ave, Pearl District/NW 13th Ave, Old Town, and Riverplace. I did not shop at any of them! I did visit the OMSI or Oregon Museum of Science & Industry. A special exhibit was devoted to Robots. It is amazing how far computer scientists have advanced into human-like functions of these machines. Demonstrated were human-like robots who stood erect, talked, and manipulated their hands, fingers, arms and legs as we do. There were robots that climbed vertical walls, robots than could throw a baseball and one who batted the ball thrown at it. Of course, robotic surgical procedures were shown. Much more, and I found it to be very educational and facinating. After spending a couple hours there I came back to the Lodge to join 'Happy Hour' and to listen (short time) to the Country & Western Band. I left after losing (not winning) the 8 pm 50/50 drawing!

While here I wanted to learn more of the Columbia River Basin and Gorge. The River winds westward through the Cascade Mountain range forming the boundry between Washington & Oregon. The canyon or Gorge stretches 80 miles with heights of up to 4,000' above the river. Before the river was tamed with hydro-electric dams this stretch of water was very dangerous to early travelers/settlers forcing them to portage around the many cascading waterfalls. Through the Gorge the river dropped 265' in its final descent to the Pacific Ocean. I visited the Bonneville Hydro-electric site, one of the 11 dams that I mentioned after visiting Grand Coulee Dam 2 weeks ago. Bonneville Dam and the others have locks (500' long) for barge traffic, and fish ladders which enable Salmon and other fish to return to their spawning areas where they lay their eggs. These dam projects were all part of FDR's New Deal Program to put people back to work during the Great Depression and to produce electrical power to promote commercial and industrial expansion in this region. I visited the Columbia River Basin Interpretive Center to learn more about the history of the area. It covered topics, such as, the Native Americans who lived along the river for 10,000 yrs. depending on its bounty for their existence. I learned that salmon was the mainstay of their diet. Each family had to catch & process at least 100# of fish to sustain them through the winters. They also depended on berries and dried fruits, and animal meat for their diets. After the coming of the white man the Indian population was decimated with diseases, sometimes wiping out entire villages. The white settlers established sawmills to process the lumber from the vast forestland. The lush Williamette Valley of OR made farming attractive, and with the government's Land Gift program settlers could receive 1/2 section or 320 acres provided it was used productively. The Center covered, of course, the Dam projects of the 1930's and how they brought prosperity to the region. Not only construction jobs but agriculture-related commerce with the hydro-electric power, and irrigation provided to the region. In yesterday's travel from Portland to Hermiston, OR I passed by Bonneville, Hood River, and John Day dams. Along the way I observed river barges pushed by 'tow' boats loaded with bulk cargo of some sort headed toward the Port of Portland to be off-loaded onto ocean-going ships. Unlike the Mississippi River barge floatillas, the size of these were limited to 2 abreast and maybe 3 in length, due to the limited 500' locks. In the MIssissippi I once counted 27 barges lashed together, 3 abreast and 9 long, pushed by one powerful tug boat. At each damsite on the Columbia are storage elevators and port facilities.
The scenery of the Gorge is 'gorgeous'! It gradually changed from sheer cliffs extending down to the water on the western end, to canyons, to high plains agricultural land on the eastern end 200 miles away. Spectacular sights.

Posted by dixter 09:13 Archived in USA Tagged a variety

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