Saturday, December 10, 2011

Wading Across the Willamette

The bar at the mouth of the Clackamas

The earliest stories of our city are well known, even the legendary coin toss between Maine and Massachusetts. It is still a bit thrilling for a nerd like me to run across a bit of very early history. I came upon this letter by Captain John H. Couch to the Oregon City Spectator defending the notion that Portland was as far as anyone could reasonably believe that ocean going vessels could navigate. He even mentions seeing natives wading across the river at the Clackamas bar. The letter receives an amen from gentleman farmer, and riparian land owner Thomas Stevens.

The Spectator, Oregon City, Jan 10, 1850


 The main obstacle to navigation is the bar that is formed from sand pushed out from the mouth of the Clackamas river. I have canoed that area many times. Once, during high waters in the spring I was surprised and terrified to come upon a place at the bend below Hog Island that had turned to standing waves higher than anything I had ever maneuvered in my cumbersome Klickitat canoe. Time is relative, and so is white water. For me it was a terrifying rapids, for the average kayaker, a piece of cake.