Tuesday, September 21, 2010; SUNNY!!! and 64 degrees
Last night we wanted to see a Pacific Ocean beach, so we made a brief stop in Seaside. We drove down a narrow street of pavers to an oceanfront circle where we could see a great expanse of sandy beach. We found a place to park and walked back. Motels and condos, with unobstructed views, line the wide promenade. Shops are packed tightly together and snuggle against the street. Seaside is a little of Hollywood, FL, mixed with a smidgen of Tarpon Springs, and a dash of Myrtle Beach. People were milling around, popping in and out of shops and others perusing dinner menus. Although it is a typical resort town, it has its own charm, too.
Today we planned to complete a circuit of the Columbia River Gorge via the Historic Highway. Our first stop was the Vista House atop Crown Point where there are expansive views up, down, and across the river. "Built between 1916-1918, it has 360 degree views of the river below and features inspiring artistic designs in the stonework, marble flooring and walls, stained glass windows, carved plaques and skylights." It is a very grand structure for what was intended to be a "comfort station" for those traveling the gorge.
From there the Historic Highway weaves its way past a series of waterfalls; Latourell, Shepperds Dell, Bridal Veil, Wahkeena, Multnomah, and Horsetail Falls. We walked short trails to the first four to see the beauty of each in its own setting. All were well worth taking the time to visit. But of the six falls, Multnomah is the highest, plummeting 543' to the upper plunge pool, descending another 69', plus an additional 8' in between for a total of 620'. It is the second tallest year-round waterfall in the US.
Our next stop along the Columbia River Gorge was the Bonneville Dam. We headed to the lower level of the Visitor Center to watch salmon approaching a fish ladder through windows. Nearby someone was on duty counting the fish by species, monitoring the health of the river by the fish population. We also went outside to watch salmon which were actually climbing the ladder. The current is so strong that it is surprising any make it.
We also took a self-guided tour of the Fish Hatchery. Beginning in October, salmon eggs are incubated after they are fertilized during spawning. The eggs develop into small fry and are placed in the outdoor rearing ponds the following February. Once the fry become fingerlings (1"+), they are released into Tanner Creek, and they swim down the Columbia River into the Pacific Ocean, returning to the hatchery in 2-4 years to spawn.
However, we were most interested in the spawning room. We arrived in time to watch workers collect and sort the returning salmon. The wild fish are returned to the river above the dam, and the tagged salmon are retained in holding ponds to be spawned. Once the fish are "ripe," the workers collect the eggs of the female salmon and the sperm of the male salmon to fertilize the eggs and start a new life cycle. Up to 30,000 Chinook and 50,000 Coho salmon are handled each year, and up to 5,000,000 fingerlings are released.
Located behind the spawning room is a second fish ladder. It is there that the salmon are returning to spawn. But they are contained within a channel before being sorted by species, Chinook or Coho. As we watched, the salmon jumped higher and higher against the walls. It was fascinating to watch their determination to complete their journey against the force of the current.
As we were about to leave, we met one woman and one couple who were anxious to share with us the sights we need to see and the places we need to visit while we are in Oregon. Their suggestions take us from the Pacific coast to the Idaho state line. Tonight we are in The Dalles (Dals), without having completed the river gorge loop. We are now torn as to which way to go, east to Pendleton, south to Baker City, or back west for the Mt. Hood loop tour. As of this moment we will stay here to see the site of the terminus of the Oregon Trail and a spring camp of Lewis and Clark on their return trip. So much to see!
TODAY'S ROUTE: US 30E to Bonneville, then I 84E to The Dalles