Sunday, August 3, 2014

McNary Dam


A good portion of my electricity come from here. It's only a few miles away from my house as the crow flies, and sometimes I forget what a massive, and relatively rare, structure it is. The Columbia is one of the largest rivers in the world, and there aren't many places where people get most of their electricity from water.

These pictures are from a visit in mid-May of this year, when the river was fuller than usual.

This pipe is (I think) the downstream end of the juvenile salmon bypass system. Basically a tube that (hopefully) carries all the baby salmon around the dam so they don't get chewed up by the turbines. In the spring, they turn on these high powered sprinklers around the mouth of the pipe to deter birds from the tasty, tasty endangered species that are flung out of the mouth of the pipe. I imagine it would be like McDonalds having a pipe that spat chicken nuggets out onto the sidewalk, but then posting a guard holding a fire hose to keep people from eating them. Must be very frustrating to the seagulls.



I watched this pelican fly upstream towards the spillway rapids, then ride the waves downstream, then repeat. She repeated this process three times in the time I was there watching. I don't know if she was surfing the waves for fun, or contemplating braving the fire hose to try to get at some salmon snacks.


There's an Army Corps of Engineers maintained park downstream of the dam called Spillway Park. It has a large area of man-made wetlands and a network of walking trails. It's pretty obvious that they're "fake" wetlands; nothing looks completely natural, but they tried hard to make it appealing to a variety of bird species and it pays off. There are a lot of happy birds in those ponds.



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