Drought Turns Columbia Into Obstacle Course

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Drought Turns Columbia Into Obstacle Course

July 18, 2001, 04:15 PM By Bruce Sussman and Abe Estimada, KGW Staff

These days on the Columbia River, Reed Island is a misnomer.

Thanks to some of the lowest river levels on record, Reed Island near Washougal resembles a peninsula. It’s now possible to walk from shore to the island without getting wet.

Reed Island is one of many snapshots of a region in drought. Already, shallow areas on the Columbia River are too widespread to mark.

And river forecasters say the Columbia will finish the summer with its second lowest water flow on record.

From Sky 8, it’s easy to see that the river near Troutdale is only half as wide as normal. The bottom of the river is clearly visible from the air.

Along Marine Drive, boat ramps shift around as they rest on land. The Port of Portland moved its fireboat out of its “floating” garage because the garage is no longer on water.

But the greatest danger is in the middle of the water, where boats face obstacles because of the low river. Just east of Portland on the Columbia River, someone tied life jackets to a gigantic tree – a warning to other mariners that danger lurks just inches below.

“It’s a lot, lot lower than people imagine,” said Tom Sawyer, a Multnomah County marine deputy. “You’re out here in the middle thinking it’s 20 to 30 feet, but it’s not. It’s 3 or 4 feet.”


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), July 19, 2001

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