Columbia River Gorge Tour w/Bonneville Dam

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Columbia River Gorge Tour w/Bonneville Dam

Table Mountain 2634s.JPG

Table Mountains sheer face (seen from Bonneville Dam) is the result of an earthquake 300-600 years ago (debate still ongoing) which shook the landscape so hard that the massive south face slipped off and slid down to push the Columbia River 1 mile south and block it with a 300 foot rubble dam, forming an inland sea and the Bridge of the Gods. This event is known as the Bonneville Landslide.

Columbia River & Bonneville Dam, Oregon. 1939A 'stones throw' from Multnomah Falls, this addition is convenient to add or substitute for other stops.  See salmon & sturgeon up close and view the inner workings of this magnificent dam.

Built in the 1930s during the Great Depression, the lock & dam is the oldest of about 14 federal dams built on the Columbia River.  Enjoy watching salmon and other fish swim up the ladders; take a tour and visit the powerhouse and the navigation lock.  The historic  Bonneville Fish Hatchery is located just below the dam and has pools of sturgeon (see below) and trout.  You may view young salmon in the rearing ponds and during the fall see them process the adults.

It was a FDR New Deal project aimed at providing hydropower production, fish and wildlife protection, recreation and navigation.  Inside the visitors center you may view the fish ladder, where fish return from the ocean to their birthplace to spawn. You may take a guided tour through the powerhouse, and watch the turbines at work.  We can also visit the neighboring historic  sturgeon pond & viewing center (see below). And if we see a tugboat or barge coming, we can hurry to the shipping canal to see them locked through to the upper level of the river.

The Dam spans the Columbia River and links the two states. Since 1938, Bonneville Dam has supplied the region with inexpensive electrical power. Today, they work with other federal, state, local agencies and Native American Tribes to accomplish their mission.  With one of the largest public viewing facilities in the U.S. Corps of Engineers; visitors have lots to see and learn at Bonneville Lock and Dam.

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Take a guided tour through the visitor's center & powerhouse, and watch the turbines at work. The Washington Shore Facility offers something extra special. You can walk on top of an operating generator and look inside the spinning shaft. 



White Sturgeon in the Viewing Center
- Photo by Kathy Munsel-

The fish hatchery and dam are open year-round from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. It is best to visit the dam in the months of April through September when the salmon are more abundant, but you can view fish at any time of the year.  There are fish viewing windows and visitors' centers on both the Oregon and Washington sides of the dam*.

We also can see the spectacular, historic fish hatchery, sturgeon pond & sturgeon viewing center (view video).  You'll see Herman the Sturgeon, the 11 foot long, 500 lb., 70 year old resident lurking among his huge pre-historic relatives in the Sturgeon pond. Sturgeon are 'dinosaurs with fins', the oldest fish on the planet, about 200 million years old.  The Columbia River has the largest population of white sturgeon on the planet, about 1,000,000 below Bonneville Dam.  Hatchery and dam are open year-round from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

* Because of security concerns, visitors may be required to show ID, and it is not possible to cross the entire dam. During most of the year, more fish use the Washington shore fish ladders, so fish viewing may be better on the Washington side of the dam.  Guided powerhouse walks (free; 45 minutes) on the Oregon side are scheduled hourly or bi-hourly from 10-4 daily and on the Washington side they are scheduled at 10:30, 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. every day. Call 541-374-8820 on the morning of your tour to check on tour availability or schedule a private tour for large groups. Self-guided tours of the facilities (9-5pm) are available anytime.   For security reasons: Backpacks & purses are not allowed on the Powerhouse tour.  In Addition, A COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF ALL ATTENDEES ON THE POWERHOUSE TOUR IS REQUIRED.  Give the list to your Bonneville Dam guide when you arrive at the Dam visitor center.

Bonneville Dam website

top photo courtesy of:

* Wikipedia GNU Free Documentation License applies.

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