[liff] Broughton Beach, August, 2012

As my friends know, my The Wife™ and myself were not born in Portland. She was born in Ohio but has been living in Oregon since she was 6 months old, though I am a native-born Oregonian, I was born in Silverton (which didn’t count for much when I was a kid but seems to matter more and more as the years pass, but that’s a digression and will cost me). And my wife is as Oregonian as any native born, and more fond of Portland than I am.

All these thoughts came back to me as I looked over these pictures at Broughton Beach which, as any local knows, is this wonderful broad sand riverbank along the Columbia River on the northern edge (where else?) of the city, by the western end of Portland International Airport. And that northern-edgeness brought on another thought, about the Columbia River itself.

 While Portland is famous for being a Columbia River town, it isn’t, not really. It’s a Willamette River town. and for all its stature amongst North America’s rivers, and despite the notability that it’s the biggest North American river to flow into the Pacific, And that it was the main street of the people of the Chinuk Wawa, it’s not exactly the Main Street of the Pacific Northwest, when it comes to where people live. The biggest single city along the Columbia is Portland and, as I said earlier, it actually fonts the Willamette.

Other drainages, the Missouri, the Mississippi, the Ohio, all have remarkable famous cities that front on to them. Not the Columbia, which is an awesome river … but it belongs to small-town Cascadia. Maybe it’s the geography, after all, before the dams were built the lower Columbia was much more well known as a river you had to portage rather than sail down (and eventually led to a cutoff that went south, around Mount Hood, and completely away from the river), and the truly clement and fertile weather that the white man came to enjoy were along the Willamette anyway.

I don’t think it’s a good or bad thing; just a thing, an interesting thing. To the Willamette belongs Cascadia’s cities and population – to the Columbia belong the small places, the wide open vistas. The outback.

It simply is.

Another thing a child of the banal Mid-Willamette valley never gets used to are the big boats. During this afternoon, a Tidewater barge sought its way up river. It entranced both of us for a long long time. You just don’t see this growing up around Salem, which lost any interesting river traffic when what amounted to Oregon’s steamboat era ended. The Willamette at Salem is an adorable thing in comparison to the Columbia (or even the Willamette at Portland), the rivers here in the metro area are this muscular, working thing, always busy.

How will you keep ’em down on the farm?

And a sunset is a sunset is a sunset.

 But a sunset on the river like this …

… is a special thing, and makes me glad I’m here.


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