TRAVEL THERE: LOCKS AND DAMS, IT’S A GUY THING
Welcome to Oregon! Well, sort of. This past summer my husband and I spent twelve days traveling the state and now I’m sharing the experience with you. I’ll tell you about the attractions we visited, the meals we ate and where we stayed. Maybe you’ll decide you want to visit Oregon, too. Today’s focus is the Bonneville Lock and Dam.
Something for Bill to Enjoy
Ladies, when you plan your vacation, don’t forget that guy you’re traveling with. My husband is uber-patient with all the museums and historic homes I drag him to, but I try to throw in things every once and a while that I think he’ll enjoy. Sure, he loves gorgeous scenery as much as I do, but he’s really excited by industry, architecture, navigation and that sort of thing. So, the Bonneville Lock and Dam sounded like something he might appreciate.
Me? Not so much. Hoover Dam was jaw-dropping, but we merely drove over it on our way someplace else. The last time I visited a dam, on purpose, was the electrical power plant in Augusta, Georgia. My fourth grade teacher took us there on a field trip. I don’t remember much about the facility, but I do remember how often the teacher scolded Walter Pendelton. He was the class bad boy with a grin I’ll never forget. And I did run onto some antique locks just outside Stratford-on-the-Avon which were pretty interesting, but this lock was all about Bill.
Visiting the Lock
Luck played games with us throughout the trip to Oregon. The air travel had been just short of disastrous, but then we’d ended up in Portland for the Rose Festival without planning it that way, so chance wasn’t completely against us. Good luck showed up for this stop along the Columbia River Gorge, too. We found the visitor’s parking lot, took a stroll across the lock and peeked into an enclosed observation deck with a few relevant exhibits. That would have been the end of it were it not for a crusty old guy who told us a boat was just around the bend. We hung around to watch the show.
Sure enough a stern-wheeler, reminiscent of the old Mississippi River steamboats, came into view and navigated into the locks. The vessel was tied up in the lock and large gates closed behind it. Then someone pulled a plug and the water drained out of the lock – lots of water. According to the Corps of Engineers site, the lock is 86′ X 675′ and the average lift is 60′. Multiply that all together and you’ve got 3,483,000 square feet of water and watching it drain out in ten minutes is something to see. Add to that the festive tourists hailing you from the stern-wheeler and you’ve got a nice break from the highway.
Bonneville Dam & Fish Ladder
Before we got back on the road, we went over to the dam and enjoyed three floors of exhibits. This is not a must see, but if you’re there, you might as well take time for it. If nothing else, the restrooms were very clean. The place was full of kids all agog about hydroelectricity. Any minute I expected Mrs. Lanham to hollar, “Walter! Walter Pendelton! You quit that and come stand here next to me.” (Rumor is that Mrs. Lanhamwas committed to an asylum the summer after she taught me. I’m not sure whether it’s my fault or Walter’s.)
Something that was pretty interesting about this particular dam was the fish ladders for salmon. That’s something Hoover Dam and the Augusta Power Company didn’t have to worry about, but on the Columbia River salmon is king. They might do without ship traffic and electrical power, but the salmon must spawn.
So, when you’re traveling the Columbia River Gorge, do stop by the Bonneville Lock and Dam. With any luck you’ll get to see some water-going vessel make it’s way through the locks. At the very least, you can learn a little bit about locks and dams and fish ladders at a very well-maintained restroom facility.