There is an ancient critter living in Oregon that is pretty well known in some circles.
Care to guess what species it might be?
Let me offer you some hints:
This species lives in rivers but it also migrates to the ocean. It doesn’t have scales, but it does have fins. It can grow to a gigantic size… up to 18-feet long.
It’s also a dinosaur of a species with fins whose history reaches back nearly 200 million years!
In fact, you can see them alive and well on a “Grant’s Getaway” at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Bonneville Fish Hatchery in the Columbia River Gorge.
It’s an Oregon fish hatchery with a front row seat into pre-history.
In fact, history so close it seems you could reach out and touch the fish.
It is also the sort of place you could linger for hours.
Greg Davis, ODFW’s Bonneville Hatchery Manager, told me, “You are literally face to face with really big sturgeon; as close as six inches away, separated only by a thick piece of glass. We consider it our little aquarium.”
At the Bonneville Fish Hatchery’s Sturgeon Exhibit, you will slow down to enjoy the show. A show of fish that is!
Davis noted, “There isn’t another opportunity that I know of in Oregon where you can view a sturgeon quite like this - underwater – it’s a unique opportunity to see a large 10 or 12-foot long sturgeon up close and personal.”
But then Bonneville Hatchery has long been a ‘unique’ destination for good reason.
You see, as far back as a century ago the state run facility raised thousands of baby fish for release.
A time long before roads, so the railroad was the only way to transport baby fish so to reach horse and pack trains that would trek into distant Oregon lakes and streams.
These days, Bonneville Hatchery raises 11 million salmon, steelhead and trout across a facility that’s a most amazing park-like setting.
“It’s a great tribute to our ground staff,” said Davis. “The grounds are beautiful – flowers and gorgeous plants throughout and it’s a fine place to spend a Saturday afternoon and it’s close to Portland.”
Best of all, it is also free!
Since 1998, the Sturgeon Exhibit has given up to half a million visitors a year the chance to see a species seldom seen so close.
“We hear oooh’s and ahhh’s all of the time from the visitors,” added Davis.“Folks are so impressed to walk up and see something that huge that is slowly swimming past them – almost seeming to eye the visitors as they pass by.”
But let Bonneville Fish Hatchery be just the start of your journey to other gigantic discoveries in the Colombia River Gorge.
As you travel east on the interstate highway, make time to stop, learn and experience rich lessons in natural history at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Wasco County Museum in The Dalles.
Since 1997, the Discovery Center has been the showcase setting and interpretive site for the National Scenic Area in the Columbia River Gorge.
The Discovery Center’s awesome entrance will captivate and leave you spellbound.
Spokesperson Roxie Pennington said, “We’re perched on one of the most phenomenally beautiful scenic outlooks in the gorge. As you walk inside our entrance and gaze up and through the pillars, you are drawn out of the glass wall to see the distant Klickatat Hills and even more sky than most people see everyday.”
Spokesperson John Connolly added, “The Discovery Center is far more than dramatic scenery – the center links people to Oregon’s rich cultural histories too – framed by the immensity of the landscape."
"It’s a beautiful area to come celebrate and it’s right out our backdoor.”