Underwater viewing out West

As I stood in the Bradford Island Visitors Center of the
Bonneville Lock and Dam in Oregon, I looked out through windows
portraying surging waters. I wondered if it was an aquarium. Almost
immediately, I saw a fish swim by. A steelhead! Within the next 60
seconds, I witnessed another dozen fish swimming by. There were
several windows on the wall, all showing off a section of the fish
ladder to allow passage into the upper reaches of Lake Bonneville.
Steelhead, Chinook salmon, shad and sockeye salmon were all
frequent viewing options. It was certainly a neat situation and I
was amazed.

Informational kiosks filled the room, giving visitors all the
information they needed to know about the fish and the fishery. On
the wall by the view windows, thumbnail sketches of each of the
fish you’d expect to see were written on the wall.

“Look at the picture of the lamprey eel,” said my wife, Sandy.
“I’d like to see what one of those looks like.” Almost on cue, a
lamprey swam in front of the viewing window and stuck its parasitic
mouth on the glass for all to see. Timing is everything.

At the other end of the wall sat a fish counter. In his own
little world, there sat a person whose job it was to count fish –
every fish swimming by. The counter sat before a computer and his
own viewing window, recording species, size and whether or not it
was fin clipped. You had to be quick but he did it so nonchalantly
he could carry on a conversation with people as he sat there – his
gaze locked on the window and the keys of the computer keyboard
clinking away.

If you ever have an opportunity to travel the Columbia River
Basin and stop at Bonneville Dam, do it. It’s a great educational
experience, a perfect example of Mother Nature and man working
together to protect and enhance the resource. It’s hard to believe
this fish-counting has been going on since 1938. And as long as
you’re there, check out the Bonneville Fish Hatchery, another great

The Bonneville Dam area of the Columbia River is also a hotbed
for sturgeon fishing. My father, Bill, Sr., experienced this
firsthand back in 1992, catching seven sturgeon in one morning with
local guide Stewart Monroe. His biggest was over eight feet long!
On my return trip to the Oregon area, this is number one on the
list. We sure live in a great country!

Categories: New York – Bill Hilts Jr

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