A Pacific Northwest Outing

It was time. Time to explore again. With all the snow, sickness, busyness, birthday parties, baby showers, and work schedule this winter, it felt like forever since we explored this new state of ours.

After lunch we drove east to the Columbia River Gorge to visit the Bonneville Lock and Dam. The drive along the river was breathtaking as the fog hung low and greeted us with a vibrant rainbow kissing the mountains. Because of the melting winter snows in higher elevations, there were a dozen or so waterfalls cascading down to the river. I even spotted a bald eagle!

The Bonneville Dam has two powerhouses–one in Oregon and one in the Washington half of the river. A giant spillway spans the border between the two states. Water from upstream constantly flows to the ocean and allows baby salmon to pass through safely. Even if baby salmon happen to swim through the powerhouses, the dam’s newly installed turbines have been redesigned for a 95-98% survival rate for the fish.

The ranger took us to an observation deck inside the Oregon powerhouse where we could see the ten turbines and generators that power Portland. The dam was built back during the Great Depression, and is maintained today by the Army Corps of Engineers.

It was fascinating to learn about the fish ladder that allows adult salmon to safely swim upstream around the dams so they can spawn in the mountain streams. The salmon weren’t running during our visit this past Saturday, but the visitor center is equipped with observation windows so visitors can see the salmon underwater as they navigate the fish ladder. September is the best month, but April and May also have a lot of salmon running, so perhaps a second visit is in order.

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