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Pacific Northwest Trip: The Dammed Columbia with Brodie Cass Talbott

*This is a self-catered trip. Lodging, transportation and meals are your responsibility.

Few public projects have transformed our landscape as much as the massive dams that mark the Columbia River, which have drastically changed the hydrology of the largest river in the region; profoundly reduced access to historical and treaty-guaranteed Native fishing sites; impacted fish and the many wildlife species that depend on them; and provided our largest source of renewable energy. On this three-day, self-catered trip, we’ll explore the legacy and impacts of the dams, and the incredible engineering of the structures themselves, while enjoying the waterfowl and other wildlife that inhabit these areas. 

We’ll meet at Two Rivers Park in Kennewick Park, overlooking the confluence of the two largest rivers in the Pacific Northwest. From there, we’ll visit Priest Rapids Dam and Ice Harbor Dam, scanning the river for returning waterfowl like Redhead and Canvasback. This stretch of river can also be a good place to see birds we usually associate with the ocean, like Greater Scaup and Surf Scoter. We’ll overnight in the Tri-cities area. 

On the second day, we’ll move downriver to McNary National Wildlife Refuge, as well as the dam that spawned the creation of the refuge – many of the refuges in the area were created to mitigate the impact the dams had on wildlife. These are great places to see Black-crowned Night-Heron, as well as raptors like Sharp-shinned Hawk, and more water birds like Common Loon and Snow Goose. From here, we’ll overnight in the Umatilla area to prepare ourselves for the last day. 

On our final day, we’ll visit all three downstream dams, visiting the John Day Dam and checking for Bonaparte’s Gull, and, if we’re lucky, we may spot unusual but regular waterfowl like Red-breasted Merganser and Long-tailed Duck. Continuing downstream, we’ll visit The Dalles Dam, where we might find falcons, and will definitely find a large number of gulls to help us work on gull ID and search for rarities like the Lesser Black-backed Gull that has been seen at this spot for the last three winters. 

Our final stop will be the Bonneville Dam, the most downstream Columbia River Dam, nestled into the Douglas Firs of the Gorge. American Dippers should be easy to find on the tributaries in the area. 

Amenities: Efforts will be made to provide formal bathroom stops every two hours.
Rest Stops: We should have many short stops between locations.
Exposure: Mostly full sun exposure, but at this time of year, sun will be low angle and low intensity.



Distance: The trip will feature many short walks, most of less than one mile, with a few of up to 2 miles.
Elevation Changes: Mostly flat
Trail Tread and Width: Largely paved trails, but also some gravel footpaths.
Public transit: none

Explore the legacy and impacts of dams in the Pacific Northwest!

Join Brodie Cass Talbott to explore the landscapes, history, and environmental impacts of the dams that define the Pacific Northwest, as well as the rich mosaic of National Wildlife Refuges that were established to mitigate those impacts.


Trip Details

  • Trip Leader: Brodie Cass Talbott
  • Fee: $375 members / $500 non-members
  • When: November 11-13, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • Group size: Limited to 12 participants
  • What is included: The services of your experienced Portland Audubon leader.
  • Not included: Transportation, meals and lodging
  • Participants will drive themselves and be responsible for their own accommodations and food. The trip leader will provide more details closer to the trip, including suggested hotels. 


November 11
November 13
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Tara Lemezis