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Thursday, August 16, 2018


They say Native Americans carved petroglyphs at the base of Willamette Falls, an ancient fishing site. I’ve paddled up to the falls a couple of times to find the old markings, but always seem to miss them. The massive horseshoe-shaped falls are over a quarter mile wide and are blended in with concrete and steel industrial structures that make its natural configuration something of a puzzle.

I figured a fresh set of eyes would improve my chances of finding the petroglyphs, so I invited Karen, who had previously expressed an interest in learning to kayak. Karen and I are part of the same extended church family, but more like cousins who almost never visit each other. In the past, she has tried to kill me with a heavy piñata stick and also a spring roll (the spring roll wasn't really her fault). Having Karen along makes even the most pedestrian outing more like a life and death adventure — at least for me.

Smoke, presumably from California’s wildfires, interfered with the dawn and colored the landscape and everything in it with a hellish red tinge.

We launched from behind an R.V. park, leaving our vehicles on the beach.

clicking on the photo should result in the display of a larger image, the same one, just larger
The falls are visible from high atop the bluffs of Oregon City or the I-205 overlook, but to get to the base of the falls requires a boat (or bolt cutters) (or a particular set of skills).

Nope. No petroglyphs here.

I try to imagine what the falls looked like before we bent them to our will.

Noting the artificial structures rimming the top of the falls, I wonder if this is really a waterfall or a dam. 

The height of the falls is listed at 40 feet. I don’t think that includes the concrete structures above the falls. Scampering among the boulders at the base of the falls, it is unsettling to remember what this place looks like when the river is near flood stage.

The concrete structures inundated in the tumult above are the same concrete structures at the top of the falls pictured in the previous picture. This is the view from the Oregon City bluffs during a high-water event in January of 2012.

Karen secures her kayak, spontaneously fitting available equipment to nature’s proffered landscape. 

We look everywhere, but can’t seem to find the elusive petroglyphs.

So is it just me, or, painted on the spider’s abdomen, is there a picture of Osama Bin Laden sitting in a chair, facing the viewer with legs all akimbo?

Big industrial parts, complexly designed, intended to spin, possibly refractory,  and abrasive in nature.

I thought it was just a pretty flower — like maybe a morning glory, but Karen called it bindweed, an invasive monster that chokes out native species. Then I was able to trace its red tendrils spreading through the grass and shrubs like a cargo net.

The back end of a turbine system?

Purple loosestrife, another invasive species, brings my invasive species count up to two. Then I glance at the rusting industrial facilities perched on the river banks and add a third species.

The Oregon City Bridge

At the end of the adventure, sharing a picnic lunch with yellow-jackets, I thought this one’s face looked familiar. 

Zanti misfit courtesy of The Outer Limits.

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