Author Scott Sadil arrived Sunday, July 28, at Hell’s Gate State Park, five miles upstream from Lewiston, Idaho, completing a 471-mile voyage up the Columbia and Snake rivers in Tia, his home-built Northeaster Dory.
Scott sailed and rowed against the current of the Northwest’s two most important salmon and steelhead rivers in an attempt to raise awareness of their dwindling stocks of anadromous fish, finishing the journey in just 28 days. “I was surprised to get there so quickly,” said Scott. “After a week of rowing and slow sailing in 100-degree heat in eastern Oregon, the west wind finally started blowing through the Wallula Gap and didn’t stop until I reached Idaho.”
“I built Tia last year and for the first time in my life fell in love with boats and all they offer in terms of exploring new water,” Scott says. “I didn't know how to sail. I didn't know how to row. All I knew was that a wooden boat was a beautiful thing, a delight to build and have has a companion on the water.”
Last August, he made an experimental trip from Astoria to Prescott Beach, between Ranier and St. Helens. (The story of this maiden voyage will appear in two parts in the Small Craft Advisor, a magazine for small boat adventurers.) The possibilities of this sort of river travel inspired him, and he decided to experience the river all the way to Lewiston, following it upstream like the adult anadromous salmonids.
“I had no idea if it was really possible,” Scott said. “Robin Cody, whose book Voyage of a Summer Sun, chronicles his 82-day journey down the length of the Columbia in a canoe, passed through Hood River this spring and told me I was nuts.”
By the time he reached Hood River, a little more fit, a little more confident in Tia and his sailing and boat handling skills, Scott was determined to go the rest of the way.
"On the Snake I think I'll be able to go through the locks," he wrote on the Oregon Steelhead blog along the way. "I wonder if it's that easy for the fish. Anyway, besides the sort adventure that people approaching the seventh decade of their lives really should embrace while they can, I hope this trip is also a little something to give back to the rivers and fish that have enriched so much of my life."
Scott travelled 146 miles from the mouth of the Snake River near Pasco, Washington, to Lewiston in just four days, passing through the locks at Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose, and Lower Granite dams.
“The dams remained the most significant challenge along the way,” he said. “The lockmaster at each one wanted to turn me away because Tia doesn’t have a motor. While trying to hold steady in wind and shifting currents, I negotiated calls to senior personnel to get an okay to lock through.”
At Little Goose Dam, Scott was told to return the next morning to lock through with an assist vessel. With no choice but to cross the river to the nearest camping area, Scott rowed in 20-mph crosswinds through roiling currents and three-foot waves directly below the dam’s open spillways.
“All of this because policy states it isn’t safe for me to lock through without a motor,” he said. “Ironically, the assist vessel I tied up to in the morning was the tugboat and barge used to transport juvenile salmonids downstream past all the dams to the tidewater below Bonneville.”
Author of four books and countless stories, essays, and feature articles in which the sport of fly fishing often plays a significant role, Scott intends to write about questions regarding the health of the lower Columbia and Snake rivers, along with their diminished salmonid runs, on his return home to Hood River, Oregon.