Beyond the Gorge

Miller Island Anchorage

From Cascade Locks, in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge, we next passed through locks at The Dalles and John Day dams. John Day lock, with a maximum lift of 113 feet, is one of the largest single-lift locks in the world.  Transiting those two locks put us well into desert country, at an elevation of 265 feet. Desert it may be, but barren it is not. With help from massive irrigation systems, orchards and vineyards fill these shores.

Here’s our log for the next three days of the trip through to the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge. You also can display these on the map view.

04/24/12: Columbia Gorge
View of the Columbia Gorge as we leave the marina at Cascade Locks. Maneuvering room was limited, so we just backed the whole way out.
04/24/12: Landslide
Above the Bonneville dam, the Columbia Gorge narrows and steepens. Landslides are common along these shores.
04/24/12: Tunnel
Road and train tunnel cut through the rock.
04/24/12: View home
Some pretty specatcular houses have been built on the hills above Hood River.
04/24/12: Kiteboarding jump
Hood River is famous for windsurfing, but also has international kiteboarding competitions.
04/24/12: Hood River Bridge
Passing under the bridge at Hood River.
04/24/12: Windsurfer
We saw only one windsurfer on the way up, and he was really sailing. Here’s a video we shot.
04/24/12: Dalles Dam power transmission
A huge number of power transmission line towers lead from the Dalles Dam.
04/24/12: Hurricane leaving the locks
The tug Hurricane was locking downstream through the Dalles when we radioed an hour or so in advance. But once the locks were clear, we were able to enter without delay.
04/24/12: Spillway
No water shortage today.
04/24/12: Entering the Dalles lock
The Dalles locks lift 90 feet, another 20 feet over the Bonneville locks.
04/24/12: Doors closing
04/24/12: Checking the fenders
We mainly relied on two large ball fenders on either side of our mid-line to the bit, but used a few others for backup.
04/24/12: Gate actuating arm
The massive actuating arm that swings the lower gate. Nothing here looks under-engineered.
04/24/12: Heading out
We’re now 160′ above sea level.
04/24/12: Lockmaster
The lockmaster thanked us for radioing so far in advance. That way he could keep the gate open after Hurricane had exited.
04/24/12: Power transmission line towers
Big towers carrying power away from the dam.
04/24/12: Loading logs
This grappler was loading logs at 2-3 transfers a minute.
04/24/12: Desert
The scenery is decidedly more desert-like now.
04/24/12: Celilo Bridge
The Celilo Bridge has a 20′ vertical clearance down, too low for our 31′ air draft, so we radioed the bridgetender for an opening. She lifted it as soon as we were near.
04/24/12: Hells Gate, west entrance
Bluffs above a train tunnel as we transit Hells Gate on the north side of Miller Island. Depsite the name, the passage is easy, and the scenery is impressive.
04/24/12: Landslide detectors
We believe these are landslide detectors, strung between posts, along the north shore of Hells Gate. A rock breaking through the wire alert the train controllers.
04/24/12: Hells Gate, east entrance
Nearing the east entrance to Hells Gate. The scenery has been amazing the whole way.
04/24/12: Miller Island
Anchored for the night. Douglas and Gerry Cochrane, who are writing a Columbia and Snake River cruising guide, highly recommended this anchorage. We agree. The US Army Corps of Engineers owns the island, and we went ashore to climb a high bluff west of the cove. To the north, windmills filled the hills.
04/24/12: Which way to go?
Trying to determine the route up to the bluff. The wild lavender covering the island smelled and looked wonderful.
04/24/12: View from the top
The bluff was about 500′ high and has sweeping views. The white bar in the distance is the John Day Lock and Dam. We’ll pass through there tomorrow morning.
04/24/12: Birds
Birds packed the small islets east of the anchorage.
04/24/12: Dinner
Gusty winds blew through the anchorage, but the cockpit has good shelter.
04/24/12: Sunset
The evening sun lit up the bluff east of the anchorage.
04/25/12: Dawn
Dawn looking east from the anchorage
04/25/12: Miller Island bluff
As we leave the anchorage, looking back on the bluff we climbed yesterday.
04/25/12: Sunrise
Sunrise at the I-97 bridge.
04/25/12: Stonehenge
Replica of Stonehenge, built as a monument to Klickitat County World War I casualties.
04/25/12: Tug Cascades
Tug Cascades heading downstream after exiting the lock.
04/25/12: John Day lock
Approaching the navigation lock. It sure looks dark in there.
04/25/12: Tug Lori D
Tug Lori D moored to the seawall west of the locks.
04/25/12: Entering the locks
With a maximum lift of 113 feet, John Day is one of the largest single-lift locks in the world.
04/25/12: Dropping the gate
This video, sped up 8 times, shows the guillotene gate dropping behind us once we’re secure.
04/25/12: Lockmates
These geese and goslings rode up with us.
04/25/12: Going up
The water level rose much faster than in the Bonneville Dam. Here’s a real-time video of us going up.
04/25/12: Spillway
A view to the spillway from inside the locks near the top.
04/25/12: Gate going down
The gate dropping down at the top.
04/25/12: Arlington
You can’t see it, but a small marina is tucked in behind the grain elevators.
04/25/12: Roosevelt
Grain elevators at Roosevelt, just upriver from Arlington. The current is slower here–we’re able to make over 7 knots now.
04/25/12: Cowboys
Cowboys herding cattle way up in the hills above us. The new camera, although inexpensive, has a surprisingly good image-stabilized 840mm long lens.
04/25/12: Pickers
Pickers with transportation high on the Washington side.
04/25/12: Crow Butte State Park
A bit of a tight squeeze with 10′ at the entrance, but we have 13′ feet at the dock.
04/25/12: Picnic
… and a beautiful spot for lunch.
04/25/12: Avocet
Striking plumage of an American Avocet working the shore near our picnic table.
4/25/12: Blalock Islands
Dinner in the pilot house. This is a wild anchorage–we’re in the middle of the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge, and bird calls fill the air. In the distance, the synchronous red flashes of windmill lights look like faraway Christmas trees. Although the islands surrounding the anchorage are low, and don’t provide much wind protection, they do break the waves.

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2 comments on “Beyond the Gorge
  1. Hey thanks Chris. Its been a phenomenal trip. I wasn’t really expecting it to be an exceptional trip thinking that there would be long boring periods on the rivers but it just wasn’t the case. Everyday was busy and we only saw two breif periods of rain. Great weather and lots of excitement each day.


  2. Chris Swanson says:

    Welcome Home!!

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