Vancouver Lake Bike Ride

I’m looking for some good swimming holes in the Portland Area. For when the hot weather comes. “You mean the one day of hot weather?” people comment when I say this. It’s been a very cold spring and last summer was more “Arctic” than “Summer,” as evidenced by the sad looks on the many urban tomato growers as we headed into September with nary a ripe tomato.

Portland does not seem to have an abundance of places to swim that are not rivers. I think this is because the mild summers don’t drive people to find or make bodies of water suitable for swimming. When 80 degrees is considered “hot,” sitting in front of a fan is enough to become “cool” again. Because I grew up in the hundred degree heat of Boise, Idaho summers, I am used to retreating to the water when temperatures shoot up.

I’ve already explored Blue Lake and found it lacking. There’s no actual swimming to be done there, just standing in waist deep water and chatting with your companions. So I headed out on the bike to Vancouver Lake to see if it might be a solution for a future hot day.

On the way, I stopped at the quiet Liberty Park for a bite of lunch.

It was quite a delicious lunch and I congratulated myself for creating it.

Heading out of Vancouver, I had to cross the Railroad tracks. This sign was funny because the way the tracks cross the intersection there is NO WAY you could turn right from this intersection when a train is present.

It’s not far to Vancouver Lake and these signs kept me appraised of just how close I was getting.

The Columbia River was flooding, spilling extra water into wetlands. The sky was blue, the wind was cold, it was a holiday weekend and no one was on the road with me. Not cars, not bikes. For a bit I wondered if the rapture had happened.

There were a few people at the crew club on the lake, but the park itself was also eerily deserted.

The lake too, showed signs of flooding. There were actually two people swimming in the lake, despite the cold. They were wearing wet suits. Verdict: It looks like a promising lake for a swim on a hot day.

One of the other reasons I wanted to visit the lake was because I am reading the Brothers K by David James Duncan. It’s set in Camas, Washington and Vancouver Lake is referenced. In the book, all the cows at the dairy near the lake die, and Alcoa is blamed for their deaths, due to the pollution in the water. Alcoa, however, buys a bunch of cows and sets them to grazing in the same spot to prove the water is fine. However, one of the characters has a classmate whose father is paid by Alcoa to drag away the dead cattle every day.

So I enjoyed this sign, the main gist of I will translate for you:
1887: Vancouver Lake was 20 ft. deep & full of fish
1976: Vancouver Lake was 3ft. deep & had no fish.

That sign was right next to this more official looking one.

Which here describes Alcoa’s donation of 112 acres. Later on in the sign it says, “Due to the generosity of…the Aluminum Company of America…Clark County was able to acquire and develop Vancouver Lake for your enjoyment.” This makes Alcoa seem quite generous. Except that the other sign references the 17 million dollars spent in 1983 to clean up the lake. So, essentially, Alcoa got to pollute for as long as they wanted, “donated” the land to the people and the people got to clean up after them. Good job Alcoa! So generous.

Heron. A sign along my way described the many heron nesting spots around the lake.

I rode on to Frenchman’s Bar. On the way, I stopped to read this sign, which pointed me to the view of the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers.

I then captured this view of said confluence. On the Oregon side of the river, you can see this at Kelly Point park.

I saw three cats on my journey. One was obviously feral, but I’m thinking this one and the other one–who did not pose for a picture–lived at the Frenchman’s Bar caretaker house nearby.

The mighty Columbia rolls on. You can see the flooding: the bushes are partially submerged.

More ship, more sky, more people over here at Frenchman’s Bar.

Apparently it was the place to go to fish, because that’s what all the people were doing.

Riding back, I can say I was within the limit.

When we hit that speed zone I was still okay.

2 thoughts on “Vancouver Lake Bike Ride”

  1. Looks like a great day out. Is the lake now safe to swim in and eat fish from? I know you said that people were doing both, but just cause people are doesn't mean that they should.

  2. You raise a good question. I assume that the lake is good for swimming, but don't know for sure. Something to research. I myself would probably not eat fish caught there, though I'm sure that there is someplace to check to see if it is safe to eat fish caught there.

    We have yet to have any days that drive to find swimming holes. Last year we at least had four days of 90-100 degree heat in early July. This year: still waiting

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