Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Columbia Gorge Field Trip

The U shaped Columbia River Gorge
The TAG program offered a fantastic field trip, with an Audobon Society instructor as a guide! I was thrilled to see all the things on the list - Vista House @ Crown Point, Rooster Rock State Park, Fish Hatchery, Bonneville Dam, Robins Island, Multnomah Falls, Horsetail Falls. Now, Jeff & I would probably tackle most of it with the kids in a day, but we're nutty that way (recall our Seattle marathon vacation, also known as Spring Broke). I couldn't see how we'd fit it all in, plus drive time.

The kids closing their eyes and pointing to Idaho

Well, that's because it was a list of possibilities, not the itenerary. Where they take the kids depends on weather (less hiking in the rain) and season (no point in viewing the fish ladder at the dam when there are no actual fish in it). Still, Jeff & I plan on trying to see how much of it we can do in a day some time this summer.

The first stop was Rooster Rock State Park, where the guide used the landscape to illustrate the history of how the gorge was formed. It cracked me up to hear the kids say they came on the field trip to skip class. They were given more information on science, geology, history, ecology, and biology than could have been packed into a monthh of lesson plans. They learned how Idaho built the gorge, the basalt building from lava flows and then era's later being carved down by the breaking of the ice dam on Lake Missoula, over and over again. Great, but a ground squirrel stole the show. What can you do? Kids love cute and furry.

@ Horsetail Falls

We hit the Old Columbia Gorge Highway and drove past Multnomah Falls, then to Horsetail Falls. The kids learned about the different kinds of basalt (which forms the sheer cliffs of the Columbia Gorge). Then we hiked up to Ponytail Falls. It was steep, but graded. Bayley is an avid hiker, and even he admitted his legs got sore towards the end of the uphill. But it was totally worth it...the trail went behind the waterfall! Amazing!!

I didn't hear a single complaint on the way back down. The kids all seemed to enjoy standing in the spray of the waterfall. Their sheer wonder reminded us how young they really are, no matter how mature they'd like us to think they are.

Bayley & Riley under the waterfall

Lunch was at Robins Island, a park on site at Bonneville Dam. After inhaling their food (hiking makes kids hungry!) they gathered around the guide who switched gears a bit and explained to them about dams and the effect on fish. Then it was all about salmon. Did you know your hand can help you remember the six kinds of salmon in the Pacific Northwest? 

Ponytail Falls basin, leading to Horsetail Falls below

Hold out your hand and look at your fingers. Touch your thumb...what rhymes with thumb? CHUM. Next take your pointer finger and poke yourself in the eye (just kidding), but the visual helps you remember SOCKEYE. Your middle finger is the longest, for KING or CHINOOK comes your ring finger for SILVER or COHO. Your pinky is PINK. Then make a fist and tap your noggin for STEELHEAD. Hey, I thought it was cool!

The guide explaining the holding ponds

At the Bonneville Fish Hatchery the kids watched a video about how the fish are harvested for spawning. It's graphic, but does explain a lot. They wandered though the outside ponds to see the fish at different sizes, and then took the obligatory peek at Herman the sturgeon. Then it was back on the bus so we could make it back before the end of school.

What an amazing opportunity for these kids. Bayley is still talking about it, and wants to take Jeff on the Ponytail Falls hike, though it's not Grace friendly. Maybe with the Cub Scouts...

1 comment:

Hyppster's Board said...

That looks like an awesome field trip!