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All articles © Heather Larson / WriteMix.net. Duplication and redistribution strictly prohibited.

 

Travel Articles
Jetboating Under Portland’s Bridges
(Northwest Travel Magazine)
By Heather Larson

 

Don’t spend too much time styling your hair before boarding a jetboat for one of Portland’s bridge tours. You’ll get wet and end up with wind-tangled hair. I went on an 89° day with a group of third graders on a field trip. We experienced a 360° spin followed by an abrupt stop at full speed with the bow diving into the water. We got soaked and loved every minute.

Fourteen bridges span the Willamette River from the waterway’s mouth south to Willamette Falls. This waterfall is the largest by volume in the Northwest, dropping 42 feet with a crest length of about 1,700 feet. Portland’s fifteenth bridge, currently under construction near OMSI, will carry transit, bicyclists and pedestrians, but no private vehicles. Scheduled to open in the fall of 2015, Portlanders have named it Tilikum Crossing, which means “Bridge of the People.”

There’s nothing quite like viewing Portland’s diverse collection of bridges from below, where the complexities of engineering are more visible and structural styles span eras and aesthetic trends. It’s no wonder it’s often referred to as the “City of Bridges.”

Willamette Jetboat Excursion’s 2 Hour Scenic Tour takes you underneath 12 of Portland’s 14 bridges all the way to the falls. They also offer a shorter, 1-hour Downtown Bridge & Harbor Tour that does not go to the falls.

Another carrier, Portland Spirit Cruises, takes passengers on a narrated, 1.25-hour Portland Bridges Tour that takes in 10 of the city’s bridges from St. John’s to Sellwood on the jetboat Explorer.

On both cruise company’s tours, you’ll pass under the Sellwood Bridge. A new bridge is being built here to replace the 88-year-old structure that might not tolerate a major earthquake. During the process, the contractor slid the main span north to set up a detour bridge, a complicated and expensive engineering feat. This new bridge will open in the fall of 2015.

Besides daredevil jetboat maneuvers and alternative views of the bridges, the tour boats do slow down to give passengers plenty of opportunities for wildlife spotting. Sightings often include a variety of waterfowl, ospreys and bald eagles; sea lions travel all the way from the Pacific Ocean to feast on the river’s abundant Chinook salmon.

For a cruise on Willamette Jetboat Excursions, visit willamettejet.com. For a cruise on Portland Spirit Cruises, go to portlandspirit.com. For planning travel to Portland, visit travelportland.com.

 

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