liveonearth (liveonearth) wrote,

Willamette River: Paddled up to the Falls

Yesterday, starting at noon, I took my Embudo kayak to the boatramp that is just downstream from Mary S Young state park and launched. I paddled upstream, I think about a mile, to the falls. It was a very interesting paddle. I stopped under the I-205 bridge because there was a sunny beach there where no one else was. It was kind of loud, but I managed to talk on the phone for about an hour, until I started to get really cold. I didn't realize it, but the falls is just around the corner from there.

As I was working my way up the river, I kept noticing these large sleek animals in the water. In the biggest swirling eddy below the falls one of these creatures was having a giant meal. He was diving down, then coming to the surface with a 1-2 foot long fish in his mouth. He would then flail the fish back and forth and crush it in his teeth. Sometimes a part of the fish would fly off and the seagulls would swoop in to grab it. The creature would munch down most of the fish and then dive again for another. The motor boats wouldn't go even as high up as this eddy. Everyone I talked to said the river was low--lower than they have ever seen it.

I paddled right up to the foot of the falls. There's a little bit of class II whitewater up there, and I ferried back and forth just to remember the feel of current under my boat. I was surrounded by roaring whitewater falling from 20-30 feet, on all sides except for downstream. You can see how I was surrounded by these images from the air. It is quite built up around the falls. Oregon City was the first US city west of the Mississippi to incorporate.

This image shows the falls area with even less water pouring through than I saw:

There was a distinct smell of sewage up there, though I couldn't tell exactly which spout of water was the source. It reminded me of the whitewater play park in Denver, CO (Cherry Creek is the name of the park, I believe), which is just downstream from the sewage treatment plant. I am not scared of sewage. My skin is a robust protective layer, and my immune system is strong. I clamp my lips tight so I don't get any in my mouth, and just keep on paddling. I hung out long enough that I stopped smelling the sewage, and talked some more on my cell phone. It's good to have contact with distant friends. It is taking me a while to make real friends here in Portland. But I'm OK with that. My true friends will show themselves in time. For now I am happy enough to hang out on my own and meet whoever is out there doing the same sorts of things that I like to do. Which doesn't appear to be many people.

On my way back down I stopped at a small marina in Oregon City, where I noticed an older woman leaving with a red sea kayak. I asked the shopkeeper if they had any kayaks for sale and she said the red fourteen footer was her very last one. She started selling them immediately after labor day weekend. I missed it. Oh well. I'll mark my calendar to check on purchasing old rental boats again next year in August instead of September. I tried the little red boat and it was many times faster than my Embudo, but still not that fast. And it was terribly uncomfortable. I want a 17 footer or so, something light made of kevlar....I want a nice boat, of course.

I told the shopkeeper about watching the creature chowing down the fish below the falls, and she was alarmed. She said that they are sea lions and that somebody is going to have to do something about them because "they eat all the fish". Obviously. That critter was at least 300 pounds if not 500, and he was eating fish like there was no tomorrow.

I found myself wishing for one of those funky looking old downriver racing boats from the 1970's. They look funny because there was a minimum width requirement on the boats, and to satisfy that requirement the designers put geometric "wings" on the boats behind the cockpit that were well above the water line. To make a boat really fast you have to keep the water line long and narrow. There are lots of those laying around in muddy spider-infested heaps against garages in Tennessee and North Carolina. They are fast boats and nobody wants them. I want one.

I ended up spending four whole hours on the river, which was what it took to relieve my mind of the stress from the morning's attempt to fulfill the school's CPR requirement. Then I was exhausted, and could barely manage to study. My first exam is next wednesday. Cell bio. You'll be seeing some study-posts later today.
Tags: friends, kayak, river, wildlife

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