Voyage to the Columbia River: Batwater Station to downtown Portland

While it was hard to pull away from a fun morning at Batwater Station, we were excited to continue our river cruising adventure. Back on the Columbia, the sun shined once again and before long a nice westerly breeze started helping us towards St. Helens, Oregon.

Porter and Magnus play on deck as we motor up river
Porter and Magnus play on deck as we motor-sailed upriver

This stretch of the river got a bit more industrial than the lower Columbia as ships were tied to mooring buoys and industry on the Washington side near Kalama changed the setting. Also, motor-sailing upriver next to heavily trafficked I-5 was quite something. Having driven that stretch many times before it made me glad to be on the river — and to not be a car owner.

When we reached St. Helens, we opted to stop for the night at Sand Island Marine Park, which is a small island across the channel from town that has two public docks. Being that it was happy hour when we arrived, we grabbed a couple cold ones and a soccer ball and headed ashore to, what else? Play in the sand, of course. To get to the beach we walked through a beautiful, fully blooming forest and then played soccer next to the swift flowing Columbia.

Porter kicking his soccer ball through the plush forest on Sand Island
Porter kicking his soccer ball through the plush forest on Sand Island

The following day we moved over to the public dock in town and Jill took the boys to the playground, swimming pool and grocery store while I got some work done. From there we were off once again and instead of heading back into the Columbia, we chose to hang a right into Multnomah Channel, which would lead us to the Willamette River and eventually downtown Portland.

Multnomah Channel from St. Helens to the Willamette River and Portland
Multnomah Channel from St. Helens to the Willamette River and Portland

The Multnomah Channel is a narrow, winding passage that keeps mainland Oregon to the west and Sauvie Island to the east. Salmon fisherman were out in full force along its banks, but we wove our way through them and enjoyed the gorgeous scenery, osprey and unique floating home communities. There wasn’t a drop of wind to be had in the channel and the temperature soon climbed into the low 80s. It felt like summer.

Passing a community of floating homes with Mount St. Helens in the background
Passing a community of floating homes with Mount St. Helens in the background

Being that it was so warm, a stop to top up on ice, brewskis and ice cream bars was definitely in order, plus we needed fuel. The ladies working the dock were quite nice and offered up some cruising tips and gave us a helpful river guide that is out of print. Just a few miles past the fuel dock was our stop for the night at Hadley’s Landing public dock and park on Sauvie Island. We grilled out and ate dinner in the cockpit for the first time this year and it was glorious.

Porter and Magnus enjoying their rapidly melting ice cream bars
Porter and Magnus enjoying their rapidly melting ice cream bars

Jill and the boys hit the park’s hiking trails first thing the next morning before setting up a splashing station on the dock next to Yahtzee so the they could play and stay cool on another warm day. When we left the park at 1 p.m., I’d thought we’d be fine getting through all the bridges that criss-cross the Willamette River on the way into downtown Portland, but when I called the bridge tenders to let them know we were coming, the time crunch got real. The lifting bridges are closed to recreational boaters from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and we needed to have at least three of them lifted, the last being just before the public moorage at Riverplace in downtown.

Nearing the St. Johns Bridge, our first of six
Nearing the St. Johns Bridge, our first of six

With the genoa out and a nice following breeze scooting us along, we motor-sailed Yahtzee up the Willamette, under the St. Johns Bridge and into downtown. Like clockwork, the bridge tenders had us through and after one tense dispute between a bridge tender about a bridge and the height of our mast, we were tying up in Portland. (Yahtzee’s mast height is 58 feet and the river was up 8 feet, so we needed to make sure that all of our math was correct. It was. Here’s a helpful guide to all of those bridges and their procedures.)

The boys on the dock at Riverplace
The boys on the dock at Riverplace

Landing in downtown had some of the same feelings of getting into Astoria. While different, they were both milestones in the journey that we’ve now met and the jubilation of meeting those goals was very gratifying. After covering over 100 miles along the river between the two points, we feel as though we’ve gotten a real taste of what the Columbia is all about — and we’re liking it.

Our spot for a few nights in downtown Portland
Our spot for a few nights in downtown Portland

5 thoughts on “Voyage to the Columbia River: Batwater Station to downtown Portland

  1. Thanks for sharing your adventures up the Columbia. It is a lot of fun to get your perspective on the river communities and what they have to offer for a family on the water. Enjoy this astonishingly warm weather and welcome to Portland.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *