Wild Oregon

April Doornbos Starred Page By April Doornbos , 5th Oct 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>North America>United States>Oregon

Journey threw Oregon, the local people including native American's that still survive and continue their tribal traditions and the many wild inhabitants they live there.

Preparing for the Journey

While still living in California I found myself unemployed so I planned to use that time and do something I had always dreamed about and travel in my motor to the most northern states of North America. Getting ready for the time was simple as far as going to the local Auto Club for maps and of course a trip tic to get there as directly as possible because gas is a huge expense in a recreation vehicle. So I saved and got ready for my imminent departure date that was set for April 20, 2013.
As I approached my departure date I became increasingly more excited and was sure to stock up on important necessities that I could purchase at a better price locally than once I hit the highway where things are always way higher along those interstate highways. Cat food , canned foods, eggs and every day essentials I bought on sale or supermarket specials really saved plenty when embarking on a five month extravaganza, which it was since my main objective was to fish the whole time I was up there.


After leaving California via the I-5 freeway all the way north straight threw the state and the abundant San Joaquin valley that was once desert but threw the aqueduct that we incidentally copied from the ingenious Romans turned this once huge area of parched earth into a thriving fertile valley where much of America's food and cattle can be raised and grown but besides that there is nothing out there and during the summer months the heat can be unbearable. Finally after climbing 4,000 feet over Mount Shasta I was on my final approach into the beautiful and lush state of Oregon.
For the record most people think this state is cold and wet most of the time and it is during the winter months and the closer you are to the Oregon coastline the wetter it can become and in fact is a rainforest but on the other hand going east on I-84 it becomes mostly desert into Idaho. After I crossed the state line into Oregon I hit the states first rest area located near the beautiful Rogue River, one of my favorite rivers in the state and I had stayed over night once before many years ago and that was when I vowed that one day I would return to this RV friendly state, after leaving that scenic rest stop I slowed down to take in my beautiful natural surroundings and observe the abundant wildlife and birds that inhabited this wonderful state.
Once I reached the I-84 heading east along the highway I finally got my first glimpse of this immense wild river however man tries to tame it, I could not get over the width of this river and the fast current that cared it to the Pacific Ocean, eventually I reached the official scenic Columbia Gorge area and it went on for miles and miles with breathtaking scenery on both sides on the river dividing Washington Sate from Oregon.

The Gorge

The Columbia Gorge is an astonishingly breathtaking natural area that runs threw the state for hundreds of miles with many tributaries branching off it along it's way deep into the states core. It is the nations second largest river and the width of this once overly abundant river that at one time time was so over fished and there were millions of huge fish that it became clear protective and conservation measures would have to be implemented to preserve this mighty legacy for future generations.
As I traveled east bound along the river I soon came to an attraction unbeknown to me at the time as I just pulled in to rest but got out to have look around and didn't even see it at first and then I looked up and spotted the second largest continuous year round flowing waterfall in North America Multnomah Falls dropping 260 feet, wow what a surprise and a delight to see this natural wonder. On my return four months later I stopped again at this amazing tourist attraction that can become quite crowded causing parking problems but it is worth the effort once you begin your journey up the steep paths that climb ever higher threw the cedars and a variety of other large trees that grow in the moist air that surrounds them to the head of the falls.

Bonniville Dam and Fish Hatchery

This is conservation and a hydroelectric dam that produces much of the electric for the area but it has it's draw backs and they are severe, disorientating migrating different fish species that instinctual travel back to their spawning grounds which lead to the invention of fish ladders and I have my reservations as to how well these contraptions work and how difficult it is for a fish to figure out how to find its way up these fish ladders so that they many continue to that particulars species specific spawning grounds. As for myself the main reason to fish the Columbia was not to catch the highly prized salmon or steel-head, very delicious and sought after game fish and lets not leave out the incredible sturgeon that grow slowly but to immense sizes and lengths.
No I was after bounty and it came in the form of the predatory pikeminnow, aka the squawfish that preys a pond the fingerlings or salmon smolt as they are often referred to, they are ambush predators that hide behind rocks for protections in the fast waters and as the small smolt are expelled by the turbulent waters of the dams often become disorientated in the rough water and are snatched up by the pikeminnows as an easy but expensive meal.
Enter the Bonneville dam early one morning I began following the well marked paths with what else fish arrows that lead you around the facility that was beautifully landscapes and observed the many tanks filled with the next generations of Chinook Salmon and Steelhead, a relative of the trout family. As I walked around I came a pond a viewing tank with the first ever seen by my eyes this enormous fish called a Sturgeon. Meet Herman the Sturgeon who is about 100 years old and even goes on exhibit, these are the craziest fish you ever hook, the regulations are stiff and so are the fines if you poach an illegally sized fish or during a no-sturgeon fishing period and in fact there will be no fishing for this prehistoric fish that has no bones only cartilage that dates back nearly 200 million years.

The Dalles

Once a rowdy northwestern territory where gunfights were the norm and so were hangings and I even stopped at once local court house turned mortuary turned Clocktowers Ales but one of the bar maids took me on a tour and we even went into the basement where there were still remnants of its old mortuary days and upstairs there were several nooses around the walls from the hangings that took place there. Weird!
Not far from town was The Dalles marina and boat launch also the pikeminnow station was located there, after you bought your fishing license which is 106$ for us out of staters you are ready to start fishing but the Pikeminnow program didn't begin until May 1 so I still had some time to kill so I continue up river to the John Day dam.
During the late afternoons once I returned to The Dalles I would sit riveted inside my RV just staring at the breathtaking wonders of these sprawling scenic vistas that lay before my eyes until the sun went down behind the mountains that adorned both sides of the mighty Columbia River. As it gradually grew darker since there were few lights the clear night sky's would fill brilliantly with so many vivid stars and even the Milky-way could be viewed with the naked eye, what a sight to behold and one I shall never forget.

The John Day Dam and Giles French

I drove up the river heading east another twenty miles or so until I reached The John Day dam and spent several days trying to fish for bass and watched other anglers try there luck at the spring Chinook that were on their annual migration to their spawning grounds, if you think fishing from the those steep and rocky banks is easy consider yourself naive because even veteran fishermen have taken serious tumbles on those treacherous steep unstable rocks and when they get a fish-on oh my God you should see them actually try and run to their poles before the fish gets off those now required by Fish and Game barb-less hooks.
In my photo of the dam you can clearly see the John Day dam along with those dangerous rocks and Indian fishing platforms when the different Native American tribes fish as part of their agreement with the American Tribal Treaty to settle this once hostile land.

Louis and Clark

All along my journey there are landmarks citing the exploration of these famed American explorers and their journey lead by the squaw Sacajawea with a papoose on her back and her baby as she lead our explorers across the wild and untamed landscape to the Pacific ocean, after traveling threw this region in modern times was difficult enough but back then with untamed rapids that claimed the lives of many pioneers that attempted to cross this magnificent wilderness. One of the areas that was sadly submerges were the Celilo Falls but that didn't take place until somewhere in the 1950's and there is still footage of those falls at the Columbia Gorge Discovery center and the abundant amount of fish that once crowded into this amazing river well worth the nine dollars admission fee to see what once was and it puts everything in perspective of just how many and how extremely large those fish were one hundred years ago.
On my return I stopped at another rest area and far out in the middle of the river was a long narrow island that was named Memaloose which means Island of the Dead because Indians did not bury their dead they took them out to this island and left them their. All this information is clearly on display for the casual traveler as they embark on the own journey threw this amazing country called America the beautiful.

In search of a Predator

Like catching those pikeminnows wasn't hard enough in this massive river after spawning season that takes places for about a month near the water being expelled by the The Dalles dam and it is crowded with anglers 24\7 as they try and capitalize on this large concentration of soon to be spawning of Pikeminnows, of course they can be found all over the river but the vast majority spawn near this dam, by the the first of second week of July the fish that haven't been catch and turned in for bounty disperse and where they go after that is yet another mystery especially for me. Many of these local anglers have been enrolled in this program since its beginning but it still attracts would be anglers from far and wide to try their luck like me for example.
After visiting many areas to fish and camp at one of my personal favorites was a remote boat launch west of The Dalles called Rowena, I just loved the solitude, not a house in sight on both sides of the Columbia where Bald Eagles and Ospreys abound and I was even able to catch a few pikeminnows from the shores. Nicoli shown in the photo at Rowena was the top money maker earning over 80,000$ in five months in the pikeminnow program last year here here he is with a cooler full or 8$ fish for his efforts, not bad for something most of these guys love to do any way.
So all and all I didn't catch that many fish but the whole experience was enriching and a great adventure, there is no doubt that I will be back next year but this time with reinforcements, I have a friend in Florida and he and his brother are great fishermen so I contacted them and told them about the program and the bounty on these fish so next spring we will meet up at The Dalles but this time with a boat because you had no shot to catch the vermin from the shore. I guess the program is having a desired effect because the Bonneville dam keeps close tabs on all fish coming and going counting as the go up the fish ladders they are also being counted, so it is estimated that 40% reduction in the Pikeminnow numbers and a rise in the salmon and steel-head populations, it a move in the right direction for the preservation these fish and for future generations. Like the Terminator says "I'll be back".


Camping And Wildlife, Fishing

Meet the author

author avatar April Doornbos
In my younger days I exercised famous racehorses until I injured my spine since then I have traveled to Europe many times and all over the Unite States.

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
5th Oct 2013 (#)

super travel piece..i love Oregon...thank you April...

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
5th Oct 2013 (#)

I have not traveled to Oregon, my wife has and she remembers the Oregon coast being very beautiful, perhaps one day we shall take a trip. Thank for this great guide to Oregon.

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author avatar Johnny Knox
6th Oct 2013 (#)

Such a beautiful place, April and a most interesting virtual tour to Oregon!

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author avatar glittle
8th Oct 2013 (#)

Very interesting article on Oregon and the pikeminnow-

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