Kate Ross from the Willamette Riverkeeper wrote to inform us of a navigational hazard at the railroad bridge near Harrisburg. Her message and photos follow.
We ran a trip on the upper Willamette last weekend and wanted to get the word out about a major hazard at the railroad bridge above Harrisburg. There is new rebar in the river that is obstructing the middle passage under the bridge. We have called the Marine Board about this, and apparently the bridge contractors placed rocks on top of the original bridge piling base so that boaters would be aware of the location of the old piling just under the surface. From a safety perspective, we think this has done more harm and good, and we’re actively advocating for the removal of the rebar as well as the full decommissioning of the old bridge piling base. The Marine Board also said that BNSF Railroad may be interested in removing the wood from their bridge, which would further improve safe passage here.
It’s really not clear just how sketchy this middle line through the bridge is until you have already committed to it. The new rebar directs strong current into two massive cottonwood tree trunks that stick out underneath the bridge. We found that the safest line through the bridge is to get to the far right side. Due to low water, it’s very difficult to paddle to get to the far right without getting dangerously close to another root wad/strainer hung up on the bridge base. We suggest scouting, and then portaging over the gravel bar to line up for the right side, or lining your boat around the gravel bar.
Attached are some images that may make this more clear. Please share this with the listserve. Given our lower river levels this season, it’s critical that we all avoid complacency while paddling our wonderful Willamette!