Monday’s Meander: Wapato Greenway Hike

We continue where we left off last week, still exploring Sauvie Island but now on trails in the Wapato Greenway (named for an arrowhead shaped leaf of a common tuber). This is part of an Oregon State Park on the western side of the river island and about 170 acres. Dense with old white oaks, willow, tall cottonwoods, maple, ash, dogwood, Douglas and grand firs–it is another tree lovers haven. And the hike is an easy one as it moves past thickets of those trees, wetland and open meadow, and lovely riverside acreage. The Multnomah Channel, below, flows from the confluence of the Columbia River and Willamette River.

What makes this trail different than many I have hiked? It is similar with an ancient feel of all that lives here. But perhaps it also feels a bit haunted, though it may be my imagination… but it persisted the whole hike even as we enjoyed ourselves. The giant old white oaks, as elsewhere in this area, always stir me. They are of that group that seems wholly imperturbable to me.

However, these were once lowlands of Native peoples, as most of the Pacific Northwest, of course, was. There were villages of Upper Chinook peoples in the “Wappato Valley” within major settlements inhabiting Sauvie Island, per Lewis and Clark’s accounts in early nineteenth century. They reported they had no tribal designation separate from the Upper Chinook people. They were red cedar canoe users, primarily fished salmon, and sturgeon, gathered abundant berries and many other plants, hunted elk–and lived communally in plank houses. But by the 1830s, 90% had been wiped out by malaria. The land harbors mosquitos, being wetlands and by the river; it is hard to ascertain whether or not any other mosquitos may have been brought by explorers. They could not combat the dissease and often dunked sik people in the infested waters to cool the fevers.

Even with this sobering loss in mind, the landscape remains filled with nature’s bounties. Two hundred-fifty species of birds thrive here, many mammals and amphibians. I heard far more than saw them, as is usual on our hikes. It was a warm but distinctly autumn day, the air bright and plants crispy after the long drought, yet scented with falling leaves and hinting at changes to come. (I believe this hike is a bit over 2 miles, though our whole venture ended up being 3.5-4 miles of hiking around places.)

Marc making his way with his found walking stick.

Not many people were about–a family here and there, a lone hiker. Mostly it was still excepting our footfalls and creatures scampering and their “talking” with one another.

At the footbridge was a cottonwood wetland with slim evidence of moisture–though it had rained off and on a couple of days the week before. Then we wove in and out of more wetlands, meadows, woods.

Lots of “woolies”–had to skirt around the little fuzzy caterpillars.

Soon–happily, as we were sweaty and needing a snack– we came to river waters. We arrived at Hadley’s Landing, where fishing and boating are good. Please click below to view the scenes.

We had our protein bars and more water, then took the trail loop back to the start of it, stopping at a wildlife viewing platform. All was shimmery warm, and stillness dominated, perhaps dozing in the heat. Finally, we drove along more quiet island roads, a stop here and there, then crossed the bridge for home. Another edifying outing.

A place to sit, dream, gaze at Racoon Point.
We drove down to a dead end and came across several older Asian men fishing, talking and laughing in the shade of the trees. Houseboat community on the channel. And then to our bridge back to the city.