Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Columbia River Gorge

Our road trip from Portland to Spokane took us east through the gorge. The trip along the river quickly changes from lush green grasses and deciduous trees, to sagebrush and a vast open sky. What really captured my attention, and imagination, this trip was the quantity of wind turbines that have sprouted up. They are multiplying like weeds! I wanted to compare them to three-limb alien trees but my husband said that would be corny, lord knows I don’t want to be corny (?).
We made this same road trip last August; there was a fraction of the numbers we saw this time, rows on both sides of the river as far as the eye could see. For those of you not familiar with the area, on the north side of the river is Washington State and on the south is Oregon. Both states have clearly embraced wind power. While I find the turbines oddly beautiful and elegant I can’t help but wonder how the activists fighting to preserve the natural beauty of gorge feel about this invasion. There are more on the way too, we passed numerous blades on flatbed trucks; the pictures don’t communicate the size and graceful curves of the blade. They resemble a huge underwater creature. I apologize for the bug splatters on the windshield; it’s impossible to take good photos from your car! We have a traditional ending to our road trips through the gorge, stopping at Maryhill Winery for a glass of wine and the opportunity to set back and enjoy the beauty of the area while not moving by it at 70 (ish) mph. These photos were taken from their patio overlooking the vineyard and river. A beautiful ending to a fabulous long weekend.


  1. Along the east coast, the trend has been to put them out to see a bit. I know it has caused controversy in some places because of the effect turbines might have on migrating birds that might fly into their path. So far, we have none off our two islands here (Chincoteague and Assateague). I am not anti-turbine at all; I just think they need to be strategically placed to have the least effect on the environment!

  2. This landscape reminds me of parts of Northern California, which is also where I first saw wind turbines many years ago (late 80s/early 90s). I can see the need to place them where they will be most useful, but it does spoil the natural beauty of the landscape somewhat. Oh well, they have their own beauty as you say. Maybe they could paint them blue so they blend in with the sky? White is kind of sticky-outish.

  3. AnonymousJune 12, 2009

    No activist here but they sure do look like
    crap. The gorge used to be a favorite drive of


  4. I agree Island Gardener, I hate to think of birds flying into them...not a happy thought. I saw a show on our public broadcasting station the other night about the turbines at sea, interesting.

    Karen, sticky-outish?! I think you just coined a new phrase. I like it!

    Anonymous/Marci - thanks for commenting, I was hoping to hear from people who feel like you do. I knew there had to be those that didn't like them.

  5. I'm just now putting together an itinerary for Portland and Mr T and I are including Cracked Pots at McMenamins & the gorge. I've never been; he's not sure. Thanx for tip on the winery. I saw fields of wind turbines in Nevada last winter during m first trip to the desert. I'm still processing all the pros and cons about this source of energy. They're clearly fraught with problems: My problem is that I can often see both sides to a controversy. Putting a revealing, honest response in the mix.

  6. Thanks for the response Alice! The setting of McMenamins Edgefield is nice, I think you'll enjoy it. You remind me of something else I wanted to say about the turbines. I've read a lot about the possible health implications for the folks living near the turbines. They are definitely not without issue, and I didn't mean to imply otherwise. I was merely speaking on the visual and emotional impact of seeing them in the landscape.

  7. DG, I understand completely. That's my other side talking: where they appear as sculptural or otherwordly life forms. I've hoped that they would satisfy a need for power that would not be harmful. Perhaps if I were familiar with a landscape, and it was suddenly taken over by turbines, I'd be up in arms. Being from inner-city Chicago and a sculptor who has created with cast off objects or broken bits, my eyes can see beauty in industrial contraptions / abandoned cast-offs. Alice

  8. I somehow missed this yesterday, my schedule is all messed up these days, but I would have said welcome back, and that I don't mind the wind turbines but I thought birds would avoid them. They don't? Now I don't know what to think about them.

  9. Alice - agreed!

    Megan - I haven't actually heard of birds flying into them here, but I guess anything is possible. They seem to move around so slowly that I would think birds would have time to get away.


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