A "Magical Day" on the Willamette
September 3, 2012

The Willamette River is a designated Water Trail, with all the put-in and pull-out spots mapped and documented. You can find - and buy - guides here: Willamette River Water Trail

Labor Day, 2012. I spent last year trying to cut off my thumb, Keely thought maybe we should do something different this year. We decided to to a quick trip on the Willamette, from Corvallis (RM 131) to Hayak Park (RM 122). You might remember us paddling from Hayak Park to Albany in this write up. We decided to be on the water at dawn, as that's when most of the animals are out and about (and we were right.)

Michael's Landing in Corvallis is reputed to be the "Best access to the river in the city." The other access points must suck, because Michael's is just a barely improved, partially asphalted, craptastic launch with no docks or nuthin'. Way to go, Corvallis, can't be bothered to spend a nickel on your world-class river that runs right though your town?

PS: That car behind my Subaru? Dude was smoking weed like a FIEND in there. Keely thought she got a contact high just getting out of my car.

On the water at 6:20a. It was a little chilly. Keely hadn't been canoeing since we lost Boadicea, and it took her a little while to get used to all the room on her seat.

First thing we saw was a Great Blue Heron hunkered down, waiting for fishes to swim by. We saw a lot of Great Blues today.

I'm not sure if this is a beaver lodge, but Corvallis is home of the Oregon State Beavers, so it might be. What I do know is just upstream from here, I saw a beaver dive and go over to the side, where it surfaced, then dove again, and it swam under the canoe. Keely never saw the animal itself, but she did see the trail of bubbles it left as it went under us.

I do know this structure right across the river, while probably designed and built by Beavers, is neither beaver lodge nor beaver dam.

I passed the camera up to Keely,so she immediately took my picture with it.

Our next bird with this youngster - either a Green heron (he was fairly small - and we ended up seeing LOTS of Green herons today) or an immature Blue. I'm leaning towards an immature Blue, as every single Green I have seen has been quite skittish and fly away before ou can take a picture. Shortly after this, Keely spotted a very large and healthy looking raccoon.

What you can't see here is a large number of fresh water clam and mussel shells. There used to be mussel harvesting dredges on the Willamette, until everyone decided the river was their personal toilet and pretty much killed off everything. The Willamette was declared biologically dead in the early part of the last century (sorry, all the reference links are to .PDF files.) The presence of clam and mussel shells is a testament to the health and vitality of the river today. Give a Hoot, goddamn it.

Oh oh oh, I live in a beautiful part of the world. Don't move here. Don't even visit. Just send your money.

This is why you never see vampires canoeing.

I wasn't going to include this picture, but it is a) beautifully colored and b) odd. For some reason, the pumps were running, but a significant amount of water was being blown back into the river. Silly farmers, doin' farmer stuff, growin' our food.

Keely thought there needed to be a picture of me with the waning moon in the background.

Besides being a beautiful composition of color and light, this is a very nice picture of an otter who'd come out to get some chow this morning. That's him on the left.

We learned something about river otters today - they don't seem to use their hands while eating. This guy would just pop up and go "Crunch crunch crunch" in the sunlight, then drop back down again for another hunting run. We watched him for 5 minutes or so, until the current carried us on.

Across the river, we saw a lot of green foliage. Mostof the stuff in our rivers is pretty pokey, but these were fairly broad leaves - must be wapato, or "Indian Potato" Whitey also calls it Sagittaria latifolia and Broadleaf Arrowhead. The roots were an important source of starch (perhaps the only source of starch) for native Pacific Northwest Indians.

Wapato is a aquatic plant, so the first thing I did was drive the canoe as far into the patch as I could. Keely, while looking amused, was most assuredly not.

Did I tell you this was a magical day? Beaver, Great Blue herons, Kingfishers, Green herons, a raccoon, osprey, red tailed hawks, an otter, and now deer. Way Frigging Cool.

And to top it all off, we decided to pull over and hunt for agates. Keely is a well known agate luster. We were paddling along and I'd say "Want to stop here and look?" She'd say "Nope, no agates there." Finally, she let me stop.

and oh,my, what a pile of agates we found.

That's it, ladies and gents. A nearly perfect day on the river. It really doesn't get a whole lot better than this.