Monday’s Meander: Winter’s Rising River

Flooding from Oregon’s rivers is fairly common, especially during the rainy season from early November until about May. I live amid two major rivers and several smaller ones. A river patrol boat was scanning the water and shore of the Willamette River during my last river walk. Heavy rainfall has raised water levels off and on the past month. I keep an eye on it, too, as I walk alongside it. Official flood stage for the Willamette, a major tributary of the Columbia River, is 18 ft.

I was privy to a major flood in 1996, when I worried the river would roar up the 20 blocks from riverfront but, fortunately, we were spared. The level now isn’t so bad. However, another issue that I read about today is sewage spillage when we get a lot of rain. For 16 months the river was sewage free, longest time ever since a new overflow containment system was completed in 2011. Until yesterday. There finally was some spillage, due to heavy rainfalls’ impact. The river was closed for a few hours. Not so newsworthy an event, though, I guess: it used to spill over frequently during heavier rains before that billion dollar project. Still, it makes one think twice of dangling a hand in the river during these months.

Those dark clouds above are common and look scarier than they are. They’re typical of heavy rain clouds here. They began to disperse over the duration of the walk. One end of the river can look clear and bright; the other quite foreboding. We do get some doozy rainstorms with winds around 15-20 mph. ButI love that about the Pacific NW. One never knows what one will see and experience when out and about. Moody rivers, undulating valleys, towering mountains. But flooding is a concern, too–now and in the spring from snow melts.

This one is wonderful as it serves diverse purposes. It splits off the mighty Columbia (which acts as Oregon/Washington state line) and divides our city into east and west sides. It flows for about 187 miles; we live in an area southwest of city center. It tends to be quieter here, but not lately. It has been more turbulent and fast-moving, floating logs or detritus along the way. I kept my eye out for river otters and seals but saw no heads or sleek, long bodies poking above water this time.

These pictures were taken during a walk four days ago. Currently, the river’s water level is 7.8 feet, not as high as then since the rainfall diminished to almost nothing for three days. We even had sunshine and much less mud for once. Minor flooding is not much of an issue now in my area, affecting mostly low-lying banks and beaches. The water was calmer in the beachy area below the main entrance to George Rogers Park–a summer recreation spot.

Let me show you some of what I saw, starting with a trickling waterfall. The greenery still looks lovely in December. And there is much mushroom growth.

The clouds moved about and there were glimpses of what the following days would bring–more light and varied landscape color, far less of the deluges.

Very few people by the beach, excepting a few kids chasing ducks and geese and tossing stones into the river. It cheered me to see them having fun despite the cold (45 degrees Fahrenheit) and damp and sweeping bursts of wind closer to the river.

A lovely trellis and arbor configuration is at the entrance to part of the George Rogers Park before one gets to the river. I was quite taken by this view as landscape and sky were on the verge of a beautiful twilight.

Headed back home, a brief glimpse of a few of the mountains and foothills which circle our valley and Portland metro.

I have walked many parks this winter so far, and have more to share with you in coming weeks. Even deep blue skies that sparkle above the emerald greens of this good earth.

3 thoughts on “Monday’s Meander: Winter’s Rising River

  1. Beautiful thoughts and images here!

    And that flood of 1996—that was catastrophic on the Oregon coast. Entire dairy herds drowned in Tillamook County. My husband managed a farmers’ co-op and they had 42″ of water in the building. (the 100-year flood only sent in 6″.) The high school where I taught sent busses of students out to help with clean-up in the area.

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