22 June 2020: Aldrich Point
The Lewis & Clark National Wildlife Refuge is on the lower Columbia where the river widens around many low grassy islands. Svensen, Knappa, and Autio’s Ramp, are among the places I have launched on the Oregon side, but Aldrich Point is the easiest way to get into the middle of these islands. A close look at Google’s satellite map revealed cabins in the water near two of these islands, and those are what I wanted to see today.
Brownsmead prairie has many waterways if you are willing to pull off the road and trespass to use a steep bank. I found access by portaging over a dike near Autio’s ramp.
Aldrich Point has a good size parking lot, a dock with a rough concrete ramp next to a rocky beach and a small sandy beach nearby. Today I had the heavy sea kayak fitted to deal with the predicted 15 mph sideways breeze and choppy water. It would be blowing from the side for easier paddling and the tide would be incoming.
The islands’ protection helps to reduce the wind and smooth the water. The incoming tide today seemed to balance the river’s outgoing current.
I looked it up two days later on marinetraffic.com and found it had moored near Vancouver.
A dozen floating cabins float in a protected reserve a mile and a half from the launch. Best information I can find is they are vacation homes for recreational fishermen or at least boaters. They were grandfathered in when the refuge was created in 1972. The cabin to the right is partially sunk with a broken deck. Repair parts aren’t easy to come by.
Actually looking at the cabins wasn’t really what I remembered when I got home. They were more interesting than suburbia, but still plain.
I got brave and paddled through the cabins’ shared back yard and watched an active bird nest in a piling.
I stayed still while the swallows resumed their personal housekeeping chores, leaving it to someone else to tidy up the rest of the house.
Then I headed downstream towards where I had once paddled out from Blind Slough. A highlight of that trip (lowlight?) was that I spent an hour accidentally trying to return on the wrong slough. Besides a sealed paper map, a compass, a phone map app, I now also use a small Garmin GPS loaded with nautical charts that marks my route home.
Here’s a short 25 sec. video as I was traveling about 6mph downstream:
A microphone with better wind noise cancellation is on order but the extra wind noise does add a gale type excitement.
The weather being good, I continued around Marsh Island to the Columbia’s main channel towards home.
The African Jay bulk carrier was passing by on the main channel. According to marinetraffic.com it left for New Zealand the next day. The site also has photos taken by ship spotters around the world. There is one of this ship loading logs in Port Chamlers, New Zealand. A long trip for logs.
Just across the river, at the end of a 10 mile dead end road lies the ghost town of Altoona founded in 1903. It was only accessible by river until the early 1950’s. Here is the Pillar Rock Salmon Cannery, looking a little in need of repair. There are also three isolated B&Bs close by.
Just upstream is the razed site of Brookfield and its cannery. Its dunes and harbor are a popular recreation spot accessed down a long dirt road. I’ve seen remnants of the garden planted at the site of the Megler mansion. The ski boats returned from there.
A very well done illustrated trip across the river to Pillar Rock and back to Aldrich Point by a group of kayakers from the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership can be found here.
Then my route went around the north of Tronson Island because I just wanted more time out on the water.
Then it was back to civilization and a curious wet dog.