Brownsmead (Autio’s Ramp)

26 January 2019: Up, Down and Sideways on Blind Slough

The Brownsmead plain looked ripe for kayaking as it includes many quiet miles through farm country adjacent to the Columbia River.

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It lies east of Astoria and north off the main highway. The Columbia River is up to six miles distant. The roads wind around and it’s easy to get disoriented, but it’s a pleasant place to be lost.

Early October 2016 I drove around Brownsmead looking for places to launch onto its waterways and blogged about that trip here. I found no public ramps to access the interior.

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The Blocking Berms need a look at.

The waterways are wide, deep, and calm and look to be isolated from the tides.

Taken at the town of Brownsmead October 2016.

With a light boat and a strong set of legs, it would be possible to slide the boat down here across the road from Brownsmead’s Grange.

So steep it’s fit for a rope swing.

Autio’s ramp (not in the canon of Google Maps) is across the water from one of those blocking berms. There is no public road on the berm, so the best and most pleasant way to check it out is to push a boat into the water and look. I parked with the pickup trucks and trailers.

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The Autio residence is atop the hill. They also keep a boat garage next door.

This waterway is called Blind Slough, but Google maps just labels it the Columbia River. There is a site called Lewis & Clark’s Columbia River – “200 Years Later”  that has hundreds of pictures to enjoy and lots to read. Here is their section about Blind Slough.

Today the tide would be rising from two to nine feet, and the breeze would be less than ten mph. The rising tide would help on the return trip to make sure the launch would be out of the mud. As I was unloading, a truck went by with a hunting boat so camouflaged by tree boughs that I first thought they were landscapers.

A memorial at the launch for Snooky who passed away March 15, 2013

One of the locals was waiting there for a ride and recommended I head upstream for about a mile and a half round trip. I managed to take a wrong turn portending the rest of the day.

Reflected flotsam made me think of navy camouflage.
WW1 ‘razzle’ camouflage.

There was a fork in the stream. I took the one less traveled.

The boat got stuck just past this tree.

If I had stayed to the right, the channel went about a half mile further to a road.

The reflections ahead looked like shallow plant life and more shallow water. Fun for a simpler paddled kayak, not so much for this boat.
I’m thinking these might have started out as nests, set roots, and then grew too dense for the returning birds.
Across from Autio’s ramp are these doors to the interior.

 Couldn’t go through it, can’t go around it, so I landed and climbed over it.

One of several snakes sunning on the hillside.
Looks inviting. I’ll try a portage later today but leave the birds to their peace for now.
About a 75 foot up and down and not impossibly steep either.
Next, a two mile trip down to the Columbia River.
net pens similar to the ones on Youngs River that raise fingerling salmon to smolts before releasing them.


working dog on a commute
Further downstream there is a swing bridge.

The old railroad recently ran again from Astoria carrying passengers from 2002 to 2005, but landslides have since closed it.

I had last been to this idyllic community in 2016.
Nature moving in
Adjacent to the bridge
A washbasin awaits repair on the second floor.
A powerboat quietly passed through the bridge, then gunned it.
The small community continues downstream.
probably  for sale
There was another piece downstream but it didn’t look to be a match for the boat above.
Fallen trees near the shore reaching out.
Another sunken craft to explore.


I saw a few holes in the deck and prepared to board for inspection. Then I imagined the likely pool of water inside. It wouldn’t be much to see, so I continued down the river.

An ivy sentential where Blind Slough widens into the Columbia at Knappa Slough.
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The red arrow shows where we are now.

Ahead of me were several offshore islands. The public use USFWS map (above) in my book listed the island below as Karlson Island with Marsh Island just upstream. They are both uninhabited and are part of the Lewis and Clark National Wildlife Refuge.

A line of birds floating near the shallows in the middle of the bay.

The wind picked up as I got closer to the main channel. I had seen this happen before when I launched downstream at Svensen. I headed for Marsh Island for the excitement and to put on warmer gear.


Here are 25 seconds of the windy crossing, then cruising later.

Marsh Island was brushy, low and not easy to explore.

Oregon’s Wickiup Ridge is in the background. I sailed back towards the slough as can be seen just to the right of the ridge, or so I thought.

It was an hour from the dock to here. I had two hours until sunset. There was a rising tide and a breeze from the side as I started for home.

On the way back I planned to check out the other side of Blind Slough.

The right shoreline led me down the wrong channel.
No wind but I was enjoying the scenery and expecting to see a swing bridge around the next bend.

I invested 45 minutes down this route. When I went around the bend there was no bridge in sight. I studied my little Garmin GPS much closer, mumbled things, crossed the channel and tacked back. Then I recognized the Knappa dock that I had visited last year on a trip upstream from Svensen. I’ve read and written that it is important to use maps to navigate these islands. I must remember to use the maps more next time.

A familiar dock at Knappa.

I passed a retired boat just downstream of the bridge.

I had lost an hour and a half by the time I got back to the swing bridge.

I carry a lamp and whistle and kept close to shore but still, I would be tieing the boat down at dusk.

No wind to help, just good old leg power trying to achieve a 4 mph average.
Last bridge, last wake.

I waited while two power boats trailered themselves out as all of us were getting in as much boat time as possible before the sunset.

Bad news and good news. I didn’t get to paddle into Brownsmead but I do get to come back and explore new waters next time.

The phone’s MapMyTracks app.
The Garmin showed 12.4 miles traveled in 3 hours 50 minutes with a maximum speed of 6.3 mph averaging 3.2 mph.

7 thoughts on “Brownsmead (Autio’s Ramp)

  1. Alan, I love reading your stories mate. I wish I had the boat and time to join you. See you in July, or is it June for the Garden tour?

    On Mon, Feb 4, 2019, 7:52 AM Southwest Washington Paddle Trips Tangly Cottage posted: “26 January 2019: Up, Down and Sideways on Blind > Slough The Brownsmead plain looked ripe for kayaking as it includes many > quiet miles through farm country adjacent to the Columbia River. It lies > east of Astoria and north off the main highway. The Columb” >

    Liked by 1 person

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