A View of Planet Earth With Summer - Page 1
On August 1st, we picked up 7-year-old granddaughter Summer in Sunnyside, Washington and headed out to discover and learn new things about our planet Earth. Last year we took her sister Katelyn on a Lewis and Clark excursion, but now it was Summer's turn. Summer had previously been given a book to read which introduced her to some of the earthly things we would see on this journey, and her challenge was to learn and to recognize some unique things about this planet she lives upon.
It was not long before we were presented a wonderful view of the mighty Columbia River with long vistas from the bluffs above the river. This river pours more water into the Pacific Ocean than any other river in North or South America. It originates in Columbia Lake on the west slopes of the Rocky Mountains in Canada where its waters begin the 1,270-mile journey to the ocean while crossing four mountain ranges. It now supports 11 major dams in Washington State (including the John Day Dam seen below) producing electricity for the Pacific Northwest as well as providing irrigation for farming and many opportunities for recreation (such as wind surfing and sturgeon fishing).
In years past, huge numbers of migrating salmon passed through this former pristine river habitat to their spawning grounds. When Lewis and Clark traveled on this river in 1805, they noted that, "the multitudes of this fish are almost inconceivable". Besides finding the river teaming with salmon, they found that the Indians were primarily occupied with catching them and drying them on racks.
The bluffs we stood upon to view the river were part of the ancient Columbia River Flood Basalts that inundated 63,000 square miles of this area with molten lava that flowed like water into eastern Washington and northeastern Oregon from about 6 to 17 million years ago. This became one of the largest basaltic lava floods ever to appear on the earth's surface. Most of the lava flowed out from miles long vents or cracks (fissures) in the earth surface during the first 1.5 million years and accumulated to a thickness of over 6,000 feet in over 300 individual high-volume flows and many other smaller ones. We could see many of these flow layers in the cliffs beside the river.
Prior to settling into camp at the Maryhill State Park campground, and prior to Summer taking a cooling dip in the river while we watched wind surfers, we first toured Sam Hill's Stonehenge as we did the year before with Katelyn. The next morning, we were off again and crossed the river into Oregon. We then traveled a short ways up the river to the John Day Dam. The long entrance road to the dam has several beautiful park areas where it is possible to picnic or to camp overnight for free. We thought that this would be a great place to come back to one day as the scenery next to the river was fantastic and the cost was quite affordable. Unfortunately, the dam is currently closed to visitors, but it's possible to get close enough for some good pictures. We found that Indians had set up some fishing platforms along the river near the dam with salmon traps and they were selling salmon at a good price. We also visited with some sports fishermen who were fishing for sturgeon. They had set up some giant slingshots that would throw out their line (with attached bait) about 150 yards. It was amazing to see their fishing technique and to then watch them latch on to and reel in a sturgeon that had taken the bait. They were very friendly and informative gentleman, although one was quite intimidating in size and stature (his friend informed us he had once been a world champion wrestler from the Ukraine). In viewing the dam, Summer learned of the power of the river and where electricity is produced that allows her to watch TV at home and to turn on a light. She saw the electric lines leading from the dam on great power poles that disappeared far into the distance and over the hills.
From the dam we continued south up out of the river gorge and stopped briefly in the small town of Wasco to see the old Union Pacific caboose that is parked there next to the old railroad depot. From here, we could see the Klondike Windmill Farm just east of town and so we headed in that direction to get a better look. We latter learned that a good portion of eastern Oregon is powered from windmills such as these. So now, Summer discovered another way that electricity is produced.
Then it was off to Moro, Oregon to tour the Sherman County Museum, which has become known as an excellent local area museum. It presented information on the Oregon Trail, Indians of the region, and early pioneer life in this area. It was a very worthwhile place to visit and we learned a lot about the history of this part of Oregon.