Saturday, January 30, 2010

McNary Dam and the Pacific Salmon Visitor Information Center

My birthday was a week ago, and on the way from Pendleton to Tri-Cities, WA to enjoy a celebratory day with the family, we decided to stop at the McNary Dam Visitors' Center, just off I-82 at the Oregon, Washington border, or the Columbia River. For those of you who don't know, there are a series of hydroelectric dams on the Columbia River and this is one of them. Since it is winter time, there were no employees present at the center and the fish ladder viewing room was, sadly, closed. The Pacific Salmon Visitors Center was open though and we were able to view the exhibits, as well as climb up to the top of the viewing platform to see the river and dam. There is also a short movie to view in a small theater that we got to enjoy, as well as a fish sorting room, although no one was working the day we visited.

All in all though it's an excellent (and totally free) place to stop and view the dam and to learn about the Columbia River, it's dams, and the efforts to protect the fish that now must navigate the river through man-made ladders and barges. Yes, that's right, barges. As the young fish leave the headwaters, there are screens along the turbines that divert the small fish through huge pipes over the dam into waiting barges that take them downstream. Many fish die during the process. It's of course a very controversial process and reminds me that renewable "green" energy comes at a high cost.

I must admit though, that the whole concept of making energy from running water fascinates me. I even found out that there's an event February 20th at the Bonneville Dam, Great Electrifying Event that I'm hoping to drag the family to.

I can't mention salmon on my blog without mentioning my friend, Jeannine, a fish biologist who let me tag along with her many years ago to help her do fisheries research. She's really the person who introduced me to the underwater world of fish. I also spent a few afternoons working with another fish biologist when I was working at the BLM finding fish "redds", or nests that the fish dig out in stream beds to lay their eggs. It's amazing to see these and to think of all the work these fish performed to reproduce.

I also have to mention that there's a current exhibit at the local Tamastslikt Museum, near Pendlton about the Pacific Salmon, "A Litany of Salmon", that's there from now until April 18th. I plan on going to see it soon, and hope to make it to a book signing and lecture there if I can on Feb. 13th.

Below are a few pictures I took of the dam. Enjoy!!


Beth said...

Becky you are such a tourist!!! I like to be one too. I find almost everything fascinating... and fish hatcheries are interesting. Haven't been to one in years.

Beth- Near Chicago

Becky said...

Coming from someone who just got back from South Africa it's funny to be called a tourist. But I do love to explore, even if it's my own back yard.... Backyard tourist...kind of has a certain ring to it...