The Kink in the Columbia (A few walks)

This forum is used to share your experiences out on the trails.
Post Reply
User avatar
bobcat
Posts: 2017
Joined: August 1st, 2011, 7:51 am
Location: SW Portland

The Kink in the Columbia (A few walks)

Post by bobcat » November 19th, 2013, 5:20 pm

From Portland to Rainier, the Columbia River makes a 50-mile jink north before straightening out and heading toward the ocean. Geologists speculate that this rather sudden diversion is the result of a series of small faults and fractures, not a nice clean shear like the San Andreas, that has helped our coastal mountains slide northward over the eons. Other evidence promoted is the 50-mile separation between the Klamath Mountains and the Sierra Nevada in northern California and a massive twist in the contorted Olympic Peninsula where it crashes against Vancouver Island (If the kink were straightened, it would extend to about 50 miles).

The Columbia’s kink is not renowned hiker territory. There is very little public land here, either along the river itself or in the Willapa Hills which make up this part of the Coast Range. The old growth was gone by the 1950s and Messrs. Weyerhauser and Longview Fibre (more about Mr. Long later) hold reign in the hinterland. However, over the past few weeks, I have had occasion to make a couple of visits up here and make use of some of what’s out there.

1. Beaver Falls

The Beaver Falls Trail (0.7 miles in and out) has been recently worked on, with new signs and a good tread. Driving there, you can also visit Upper Beaver Falls, not spectacular, but a very pretty roadside attraction. The trail to the amphitheater of Beaver Falls presents a short but rewarding excursion, especially for families with young children.
Pool and Upper Beaver Creek Falls, Beaver Creek.jpg
Trailhead, Beaver Falls Trail.jpg
On the Beaver Falls Trail.jpg
Beaver Falls, Beaver Creek.jpg
2. Liahona Trail (Camp Wilkerson)

This former retreat is a Columbia County Park. The 3.6 mile Liahona Trail, named after a kind of ancient compass mentioned in the Book of Mormon, is a horse/hiker trail that circles the deeply forested property, crossing Oak Ranch Creek twice. Although this is secondary growth hemlock, Douglas-fir, and red-cedar, it has been maturing for more than half a century and represents a stark contrast to the clearcuts you will drive through to get here.
Old fire engine, Camp Wilkerson.jpg
Oak Ranch Creek, Camp Wilkerson.jpg
Moss Bridge on Oak Ranch Creek, Camp Wilkerson.jpg
Littlefoot Trail detour, Camp Wilkerson.jpg
3. Vernonia Lake

The railroad-grade trail around Vernonia Lake allows a glimpse into the operations of one of Oregon’s largest mills, that of the Oregon-American Lumber Company. The company owned thousands of acres of prime old growth timberland and the mill was set up in 1924 to cater specifically to production from old growth Douglas-fir. By 1957, the old growth stands had been logged and the mill closed down. You can walk here from the terminus of the Banks-Vernonia State Trail in Vernonia. After crossing Rock Creek, most of the land you walk on belonged to the lumber company. Look into the berry bushes and brush for the remains of old structures. The one remaining upright edifice is the former fuel bunker. Make sure you go inside: there are full-grown alders sprouting from the floor but also some splendid graffiti. The mill pond itself is now a destination for fishermen and birdwatchers and makes a good family outing almost any time of the year.
Beginning of the loop, Lake Vernonia Trail.jpg
Log slip, Lake Vernonia.jpg
In the Oregon-American fuel bunker, Lake Vernonia.jpg
Nasty cat, Oregon-American fuel bunker, Lake Vernonia.jpg
4. Trojan Park

The few remaining buildings testify to Oregon’s politically-charged flirtation with nuclear energy. The reactor dome and the landmark cooling tower are gone and the radioactive reactor vessel and spent fuel we deftly delivered for storage to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in our generous sister state up north. The park that PGE set up along Highway 30 remains however. The amenities are open during the summer months, but you can walk the paved trails around the lake and ponds at any time of year. Plantings of oaks add color in the fall and numerous waterfowl, including the resident Chinese geese (none of them glowing green), make this place a home or way station.
Chinese geese, Trojan Park.jpg
Geese on the water, Trojan Park.jpg
Canada geese, Trojan Park.jpg
Oak alley, Trojan Park.jpg
5. Lake Sacajawea

The City of Longview, Washington, was the brainchild of timber baron Robert A. Long of the Long-Bell Lumber Company and was conceived by him to accommodate and provide services to the large number of employees in his logging operations and mills. In fact, Longview, incorporated in 1921, was the U.S.’s only planned city of the 20th century, and the first planned city of its size in the world to be built entirely with private money. Central to the plan was the conversion of the Cowlitz Slough to a linear park bordered on each side by leafy boulevards named for George Kessler and Jesse Nichols, two of the project’s principal planners. The area was named Lake Sacajawea Park. In the 1950s, Frank Willis, the city’s Parks and Recreation director, began the process of adding trees to the verges of the lake and creating an arboretum. This is especially colorful to see in the fall as many of the plantings are deciduous trees from eastern North America and east Asia. A 3 ½ mile trail leads around the lake.
Weyerhauser Bridge to Japanese Island, Lake Sacajawea.jpg
North shore, Lake Sacajawea.jpg
Pacific madrone blossoms, Lake Sacajawea.jpg
Fall color shoreline, Lake Sacajawea.jpg
It should noted that Trailkeepers has been active recently in trail building exercises at both Beaver Falls and Camp Wilkerson.

User avatar
Splintercat
Posts: 8195
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: Portland
Contact:

Re: The Kink in the Columbia (A few walks)

Post by Splintercat » November 19th, 2013, 10:52 pm

Thanks, Bobcat - love that shot of the improved Beaver Falls trail. We can thank Curtis Smith and his TKO crew for that, as you pont out! I still need to get out there and hike it, myself - thanks for the inspiration!

Tom :)

User avatar
Guy
Posts: 3284
Joined: May 10th, 2009, 4:42 pm
Location: The Foothills of Mt Hood
Contact:

Re: The Kink in the Columbia (A few walks)

Post by Guy » November 20th, 2013, 7:10 am

Bobcat, your posts are always a wealth of both local & natural history knowledge.

Thanks..
hiking log & photos.
Ad monte summa aut mors

User avatar
Born2BBrad
Posts: 983
Joined: May 1st, 2011, 7:26 pm
Location: The Dalles

Re: The Kink in the Columbia (A few walks)

Post by Born2BBrad » November 20th, 2013, 7:23 am

Great recap of some little-known areas.

Love the nasty cat graffiti :lol:

Thanks for posting.

- Brad
Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.
- Jean Luc Picard

payslee

Re: The Kink in the Columbia (A few walks)

Post by payslee » November 20th, 2013, 1:15 pm

Thanks Bobcat! That corner of the river deserves more attention than it gets.

That area's been on my mind just recently... was taking a "scenic" route back from the coast a few weeks ago that turned a little more "where am I?" than I was expecting. I ended up heading over the Tualatin Mountains on Rocky Point Road near Scappoose. Stunning views down the Columbia from a perspective I'd never had before, and loads of turn-offs to gated roads that had cars parked at them.

Although it was hunting season the cars didn't look like hunting cars... I did a little digging when I finally found my way home and found out this area is really popular with the mountain bike community, and is apparently full of mountain bike trails. The land mostly all belongs to Longview Fibre but they have low-impact recreation-friendly (including hike-friendly) signs at all their gates. I've been thinking of exploring around up there but prefer not to venture into new places unless I have great route maps, which Longview apparently asks people not to publish.

So if anyone's explored up in that area and has recommendations, I'd be psyched if you shoot me a PM. Just looking on the aerials there a lots of creeks, plenty of logging roads, a couple of ponds, and of course big clearcuts here and there which provide really expansive views down to the Columbia.

Exploration is addictive...
-payslee

User avatar
bobcat
Posts: 2017
Joined: August 1st, 2011, 7:51 am
Location: SW Portland

Re: The Kink in the Columbia (A few walks)

Post by bobcat » November 20th, 2013, 6:40 pm

@payslee: James D. Thayer's Portland Forest Hikes covers a number of those gated logging roads between Forest Park and Scappoose. It's still available in bookstores and places like REI - or check it out of the library.

Thayer runs a magnificent hiking web site under the moniker Forest Hiker: all manner of obscure routes and little traveled back roads in the northern Coast Range, including the Willapa Hills.

User avatar
vibramhead
Posts: 810
Joined: November 15th, 2009, 10:52 am
Location: SW Portland

Re: The Kink in the Columbia (A few walks)

Post by vibramhead » November 20th, 2013, 9:13 pm

What a great report, Bobcat! It's never even occurred to me to check out Longview, but now you've inspired me to do so. I had no idea it was one of our first planned cities.
Time spent hiking will not be deducted from your life.

GPS tracks on Wikiloc.

User avatar
romann
Posts: 2383
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: Vancouver, WA

Re: The Kink in the Columbia (A few walks)

Post by romann » November 20th, 2013, 10:20 pm

Great report and local info. I put Longview's Sacajawea Lake park on my list for next October, to see the fall colors. This stretch of lower Columbia seems under-appreciated by hikers, maybe since there's so little public land.

BTW, just looked on topo map and there's "another" Cape Horn on N side of the river, with some cliffs just over the river and maybe (?) a little-known trail or two. Also, there's Russian Island near Astoria, is there any known story how it got its name?

payslee

Re: The Kink in the Columbia (A few walks)

Post by payslee » November 21st, 2013, 4:27 pm

bobcat wrote:@payslee: James D. Thayer's Portland Forest Hikes covers a number of those gated logging roads between Forest Park and Scappoose. It's still available in bookstores and places like REI - or check it out of the library.

Thayer runs a magnificent hiking web site under the moniker Forest Hiker: all manner of obscure routes and little traveled back roads in the northern Coast Range, including the Willapa Hills.
Thanks Bobcat!

I enjoy his website and check his blog posts every so often but until today I didn't own that book! Looking forward to putting it to good use.

-payslee

User avatar
Sean Thomas
Posts: 1645
Joined: February 25th, 2012, 11:33 pm

Re: The Kink in the Columbia (A few walks)

Post by Sean Thomas » November 21st, 2013, 4:41 pm

Thanks and echoing what Guy/others have already said, BC. Your tr's always offer some special insight and a wealth of knowledge that most(mainly me :D ) never knew about.

Post Reply