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Reach of Tide, Ring of History

A Columbia River Voyage

Sam McKinney

With a new introduction by Robin Cody.

Northwest Reprints

6 × 9 inches. 128 pages.

2000. ISBN 978-0-87071-484-9. Paperback, $14.95.

Aboard a small handmade boat, Sam McKinney set out to rediscover the Columbia River of his youth. The story of his voyage offers an intimate history of the great river and of the people who have lived and worked along its shores.

McKinney, a seasoned explorer, historian, and riverman, begins his voyage on the sea. Following the path of Robert Gray's ship Columbia Rediviva across the treacherous Columbia River bar, he embarks on an upriver journey that leads beyond urban Portland to the barrier of Bonneville Dam. Along the way, he visits the sites of old Indian villages, the camps of the Lewis and Clark expedition, the rotting piers of early river communities, and the islands of the lower river.

Walking out along the jetty at the mouth of the Columbia, McKinney recounts how this infamous bar was formed, and how it was tamed by turn-of-the-century marine engineering. He sloshes through Astoria's rainy streets, recalling its origins as the first American outpost on the Pacific Slope and its lusty past as a working waterfront. His voyage takes him to ghost towns and abandoned villages — Chinookville, Frankfort, Knappton. He describes the development of the river's fishing industry and the harsh conditions faced by fishers during the industry's peak years. He remembers his own boyhood, working on the river as a gillnet fisherman and as a deckhand aboard one of the last sternwheelers.

Combining the river's storied history, rich personal memories, and observations gleaned from the deck of the 16-foot Gander, McKinney gives us a sensitive portrait of the Columbia river, a book that reflects the rhythms of tides that the author knows so well. "Two weeks on the river and I was only fifty miles upstream," writes McKinney, grounded on a hidden sandbar. "My wake, had it been recorded, would have revealed a slow, wandering track of curiosity — islands explored, old townsites discoverd, and unnamed channels followed."

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