things you CAN’T see from a bike

Wait, what? A post about something you can’t see from a bicycle?

Heh. Yep. It’s true. It turns out there are some things that you can’t see very well from a bikey vantage–unless you have an amphibious bike, that is:)

Last week, I stumbled across Willamette Riverkeeper, an organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of the Willamette River. Part of what they do is teach people about the river and various conservation issues surrounding it–which meant, last weekend, that they organized a river paddle from OMSI to the St John’s Bridge. For free!

Thus it was that James and I found ourselves awake unspeakably early for an end-of-a-loooong-week Saturday, bundled up in a ridiculous number of layers, strapping on our personal flotations devices, fumbling our begloved fingers over our oars, and schlepping our very own (borrowed:) canoe down to the river. Whee!

It turns out that the view of Portland from the middle of the Willamette is way different from any view I’ve ever seen of it before.

paddling broadway bridge(paddling our way under the Broadway Bridge. Notice the huge ship appearing out of the fog in the distance)

It’s kind of fun to go under the bridges that one always goes over, for one. And to paddle past the ginormous ships that dock all along the shores. But really the craziest thing was seeing the backside of all the riverfront industry. This falling-apart building, for example (that had an RV parked in it; not sure if someone was actually living there or not) –I had no idea this existed.

willamette riverkeeper paddle

There isn’t really access to a lot of this kind of thing from shoreside, since it’s hidden in the bowels of private industrial land, sequestered behind fences and barbed wire.

back of UP

This whole shoreline, for example, downhill from University of Portland, is basically condemned. Or rather, there’s a whole stretch from here that was totally toxicified from creosote and other industry byproducts, so a lot of it has just, landfill-style, been “capped.” That is, all the pollutants are contained by–yep–putting a cover over them. It makes for a rather bleak shoreline, all ridged in concrete to keep the toxics in.

But it’s not all gross. In fact, a lot of it is healthy, vibrant ecosystem. We saw a few bald eagles…

willamette bald eagle

…a whole bunch of other birds, and the day was even sunny sometimes, with crazy intermittent fog that shrouded the whole thing in magic. It was pretty awesome, especially so because Willamette Riverkeeper offered it for free, just to get people out on the river and learning about what’s in our backyard.

And, you know, because it was a side of Portland that I never see on my bike:) That was pretty awesome too:)

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