Batwater Station: A gem on the river

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As we motored upriver from Cathlamet, the day warmed to summer like temperatures and the wind slowly trickled in from behind us. Using the assistance of the breeze, we rolled out the genoa and picked up half a knot of speed towards a destination we had yet to decide on for the night.

With evening upon us, we needed to make that decision though and while rounding Crims Island I re-read our reader tips and found Batwater Station. A quick call had me on the phone with Karin Hunt — who owns the quaint river retreat with her husband Michael Tillson — and she said they had plenty of room to accommodate us before texting me a small chart that had pilot notes on it for reaching their docks.

Our track from the Columbia River into Batwater Station
Our track from the Columbia River into Batwater Station

Fortunately the notes were very accurate, more so than our charts anyway, and had us tracking directly over a spot that was labeled as dry when the tide is out. Yahtzee draws 6.3-feet and as we navigated off the main channel and towards the docks of Batwater Station, we stayed in no less than 10-feet of water at a mid-tide.

Yahtzee tied up in front of the river house at Batwater Station
Yahtzee tied up in front of the river house at Batwater Station

Karin and a few fisherman were waiting dockside to catch our lines in the wicked current and we instantly felt at home. The four anglers were at Batwater for spring salmon season and though they were bunking in the floating home, said we could have the run of the place as well. After meeting everybody, Karin swept the four of us up for a tour of the property and its numerous amenities.

She and Michael had purchased this 60-acre waterfront parcel of wetlands and pasture in the early 90s and have since transformed it from a derelict farm on the river to a beautiful property that they graciously share with passing boaters for a nominal fee (we paid $30 for the night). Batwater can also be booked for private events, and camping platforms built along the river are perfect for those who prefer to pitch a tent.

Michael told me that when they bought the property, the pilings were broken off and almost everything was unusable, including the abandoned main house. Over the past few decades they have completely renovated the old pier, added 320 feet of linear dock space, a gorgeous floating home and a boathouse that houses a fully restored 1946 Shain Cabin Cruiser named Merlin.

The lovingly restored Merlin
The lovingly restored Merlin

Aside from the main house that is up by the road, we were able to use the docks and floating home as well as a small river kitchen at the head of the pier that has a propane or wood fired grill, kitchen, bathroom and shower. The Wi-Fi worked well on the docks and though we didn’t need it, there is a limited amount of shore power available to boaters. Karin also pointed out the raised beds where summer guests will find fresh spices and vegetables growing.

The river kitchen is a great place to cook a meal, take a shower or hang out on the porch
The river kitchen is a great place to cook a meal, take a shower or hang out on the porch

Mike and Karin’s vision for Batwater is to have hiking trails throughout the wetlands and placards that identify the various plants. They have been working with several state agencies to improve the wetlands and protect and improve wildlife habitat, and their work shows.

That evening we had a birthday dinner for Porter and then cake on the dock. Before turning in he wanted to go see Merlin again and we also got to meet the two resident horses who trotted over to say hi.

Porter blowing out his candles on the dock
Porter blowing out his candles on the dock

The following morning we made breakfast in the river house and I worked while Jill took the boys for a hike. To nobody’s surprise, Porter got into some mud, which gave him a chance to get in the house’s jacuzzi tub. It was big enough that both boys were basically doing laps.

After lunch on the porch it was time to keep our Columbia River adventure rolling on. And as we pulled away from Batwater Station we chatted about how neat of a place it was, how welcoming and kind Mike and Karin were and that we just might need to make one more stop there on way back down river — it’s a true gem.

6 thoughts on “Batwater Station: A gem on the river

  1. Hi Andy, I am enjoying your articles! After living on the Columbia River for 26 years, this is the first I have heard of bat water station! I also enjoyed your previous article regarding safety equipment! I have been meaning to get a danbouy so finally ordered one! Are you going to get up to my town (Hood River) during this trip? If so let me know when I can look for you!
    Happy Sailing!
    Sincerely your old apprentice ! 😜
    Laney Gale
    S/V Blue Martini

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