Monday, October 21, 2013

Newest Portland Bridge Paddle

Newest Portland Bridge Paddle

It is a very curious and enlightening experience to view a city from low on the river. You get to see the buildings and bridges from a different perspective. Why, just the light off the water adds that little addition of dazzle and beauty that enhances the everyday urban adventure. Today I am paddling with a group from my meetup (my partner has softball games) and we are starting at one of our usual put-in areas at the Sellwood park and then heading down into the city.

View The Newest Bridge Paddle in a larger map

It was a bit cold and dark when we started at 11:00. Very overcast. Many of my fellow kayakers had put on their drysuits for the winter. I wasn't quite mentally prepared to make that step yet, so I just put on my farmer john wetsuit. Yes, I have both. I like gear. And it is important to explore the differences cause you just never know.... The wetsuit is a neoprene rubber one piece. Pants and farmer john top integrated into one unit. Mine zips up the front. There are also zippers on the bottoms of the legs to make them easier to put on, especially if you are wearing shoes. I usually wear my 10 toes when it is still warm enough for a wetsuit. Today I had a Columbia tech thermal on under the wetsuit and a nice fleece on over top. But it was just warm enough that I put the fleece into my bow compartment before we launched out onto the water. This turned out to be a great decision as the sun came out half an hour later and it turned into a glorious day. It actually turned into the first day of a glorious week or so, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.


We had a good group turnout, 10 or so of my fellow Kayak Portlanders headed down the Willamette in good spirits. We did the usual Ross Island Traverse in the East channel and ended up eating lunch on Agate Point (so named by ME). It was an usually good Agate hunting day.

River is low. A month ago we paddled through there

Some boat racers out practicing.

I was combing through the little round rocks out at the point, finding lots of little agates, when one of the club members walks over. He says, “Hey, I was just reading a blog about how great this place was for finding agates. Did you read that Blog?” Then he bends down and picks up a huge agate right at my feet, “Wow, Guess that blog was right. You should read it sometime.”

You would have been proud of me, I didn't kill him or nothing.

At this point I started to admire the newest bridge that is going up in Portland. You can see it just past the Ross Island Bridge from Agate Point. If you are a Portlander, you know that Portland is the “City of Bridges”. You can see that quite clearly as you paddle down the river. Parts of the city are on either side of the Willamette and there are numerous bridges from various eras that stretch across the water connecting up the sides. There are Train Bridges, Car Bridges, Interstate Bridges, and now, the first new bridge in many a long year, is going to be a beautiful light rail and pedestrian bridge. It is also going to be the first suspension bridge across the Willamette.

A view of Bob from under the Ross Island Bridge

This new bridge from Portland to Milwaukee (Not to be confused with the City that made beer famous) doesn't have a name quite yet, but I have submitted my recommendation and since it is clearly going to be the winner, I have decided to go ahead and be the first international publication to call the bridge by it's new official name, “Bob”.

Bob is pretty cool. It is being constructed from 4 points at the same time. Of course it is starting on both shores, with anchor points and on-ramps and such, but it is also being built from the towers out in the river, with the supporting cables being used to build out in a balanced manner toward the shore and toward the other tower. It is going to be so cool on the day that it meets in the middle. I would love to be out in kayak on the water on that day. As is, I have some great shots of the bridge from underneath.



With the completion of Bob, there will be a complete circuit of the greater downtown area by the Portland Street car. Currently the street car crosses the river down by the convention center and then goes up toward OMSI. When the new bridge and light rail tracks are completed you will be able to ride the circle past OMSI and back over into town near the OHSU cable car lower hub. It will also have 2 14 foot wide paths for pedestrians and cyclists. You won't be able to drive your car over, but they will be able to drive emergency vehicles across. So perhaps you can arrange some sort of bizarre bicycle accident on one side during a major traffic jam on all other bridges and get to ride across in an Ambulance !!

I like the clean looking construction of the concrete and cable lines. It appeals to my engineering sensibilities.

Bob will be complete in September of 2015. Quick check the date. I need to get a bicycle before that so that I can peddle over it.

Today we float under Bob, taking pictures and commenting on the architecture. We are headed yet further down river.

Just past Bob, we do a little stop and group photo op in front of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) at the cool pre-nuclear attack sub that is parked there. The Blueback was one of the LAST non-nuclear fast attack subs and the first class to use the torpedo shaped hull. It was also in the movie, “The Hunt for Red October” (that sub breaching scene). It is always good to get your picture taken along side a movie star. Hey, if you like, you can take a nice tour inside of the Blueback (which I, affectionately, call “Bob”). Get your tickets at OMSI.

A Great shot of the two Bobs

Cool as a Sub

Just down stream from OMSI is the hulking expanse of the Marquam Bridge. This is the Steel and Concrete monstrosity that carries I-5 over the river. It isn't even beautiful from underneath. When you are driving over it, however, you do get a good view of the two Bobs.

Now we paddle past the Portland Boathouse, home to many a crew team and rich local rower as well as the downtown site for Alder Creek Kayak. My Partner and I were down at this dock a couple of weeks ago checking out a demo for the Oru Kayak. This is a cute little Origami inspired folding kayak. Not a bad design. We demoed it and paddled it around a little. Very quick and easy to maneuver. Good secondary stability. Goes up on a edge pretty nice. I guess I was slopping some water over the side when I was testing it and freaking out the demo guy. He made my partner wear a skirt. Silly Demo Guy.

Did I already put these in a blog?

But on this Glorious day, we just waived at a Dragon Boat crew that was loading up for practice and continued off down the river. Our final destination was the Hawthorn Bridge. This is another of the historic bridges in Portland. It is a drawbridge (which many of the older bridges are) and was built in..... Hey, Wikipedia says it is the oldest vertical life bridge in the United States!! Cool. (oh, built in 1910). It was actually raised when we were crossing the river underneath of it to allow the Portland Spirit to pass through. Not sure what other large boat traffic would ever have to go up the Willamette past the Hawthorn. There used to be piers and shipping up where Bob is being built, but all that is there now is a slip for making river barges and some old wooden piers. Perhaps the tugs that would take a new river barge down to the Columbia would need the bridge raised.


I have been out on this part of theWillamette in November (just looking from the shore, mind you) when the current is running much faster than a person could swim. In fact, I thought it might be moving faster than I could kayak, and I wouldn't go out in it. Today, though, there was pretty much no current at all. Total slack. I know (from our time on Agate Point beach at lunch) that the tide was coming in. Perhaps that was counteracting the river current and making for essentially slack water. Sure made it an easy paddle back up river.

This time we paddled on the West bank, retracing our steps past the Marquam, Bob, Ross, and so on back to our cars. The sun shining all the way.

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