Saturday, September 13, 2014

A freebie at Charbonneau Park~~

What the website didn't say:

This link to Charbonneau Park said it was closed after Labor Day but, stubborn as we are, went anyway. We had been here before and found it to be one, if not THE most beautiful Army COE park we've ever visited...and that covers a whole bunch of years.  Hey, it's half price for those of us over a certain age.

We pulled up to the check-in kiosk and it was closed, then I noticed a camp host sign up ahead on the left. Howard pulled up and I jumped out to inquire just as the host came out to meet us. Do you have sites available?...this being the Tuesday after Labor Day we thought we'd be safe.  Yes, take your pick, she said. Do we pay you?  No, they are all free through the end of September!  

Seriously, that's how it unfolded!  I later went back to find out this was a trial, and next year, if this goes well, the other 2 Corps parks associated with this district, Lake Sacajawea and Fishhook, will stay open as well. Now bear in mind, no one said anything about next September also being free.  This is a trial run and we were here at the right time.

What good timing!

Our site is large, open for great solar with shade trees nearby, and fronts on the marina. The lake and lower Snake River lie off to our right/rear.  The lock and dam are west/ are the sunsets.

Gigantic container-loaded barges pushed by powerful tugs pass by:

And for this beauty and entertainment, we are paying nothing!

I was so fascinated by the ship traffic that I Googled Tidewater, a major commodities mover, and found out that there are 465 miles of navigable waters on the Columbia and Snake Rivers, starting at the Pacific port at Astoria, OR all the way to the inland port at Lewiston, ID!  Amazing amounts of goods travel these waterways...  

There is also an impressive marina here with house-boats for rent (hmmm, we haven't rented a house-boat since a July weekend at Flaming Gorge), private sail (0hhhh, we need to go sailing again!) and power boats docked and moored, weekend fishing, jet skis, board paddling, and swimming. Though we were pretty much alone during our 5 days, the weekend picked up...a little.  But still, 5 nights of free camping @ $25 per night and that's a bit modest = a fair amount of groceries or fuel, and in such a beautiful environment to boot.

During the magic hours before sunset the clouds light up and the shadows intensify. We are flying high on our good luck and timing.  The weather ranges from mid 70s to 80s and air quality was mostly good, what with all the fires nearby.  It's hard to tear ourselves away from the views alone, but we have things to do.  

The dam:

Ice Harbor Lock and Dam has a very impressive visitor's center, but you'll have to take my word for it and check the website since no cameras are allowed.  Ditto the fish ladders where salmon swam before our eyes.  Security is very strict with identification needed to pass the guard before entering the facilities.  The road across the dam to the north side of the river is closed to the public, thus viewing ships entering and exiting the lock is from a distance. The lock is a single lift measuring 86' wide x 675 long, with a l00' vertical lift! This is a greater vertical lift than any of the 3 locks on the Panama Canal!  

Even with all this visual distraction we managed to polish the MH after many miles and a thick coating of road grime and bugs.  Since we never know if or when we'll have water and most campgrounds restrict washing anyway, we've used Dri Wash 'n Guard for years.  It's a one step process and in a couple of days we look like new.  I do the bottom half and Howard the top.  It also works great on our reflective glass windows; not so much the windshield.

We picked up a mail shipment at the UPS store in Kennewick about 18 miles away, and did the dreaded laundry at one of the best laundromats ever in Pasco where there is also a Safeway and major shopping. As you might gather, the park is located a ways out of town in the Tri-Cities area,  in a large, verdant agricultural area where water is plentiful.

The days flew by and it was time to head south as we have a schedule!  On to Eastern Oregon....But first, one last sunset:

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