The Columbia River Jetties Battling the Columbia River for Over 125 years
Keep Calm and Carry On: MITS Goes Virtual During the Pandemic Created in 1997, Museum in the Schools remains the fundamental component of the Columbia River Maritime Museum’s educational outreach programming. MITS was created to make museum education more accessible to individual classrooms without the cost of travel or curriculum interruption for on-site programming at the museum. All programs support Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards and are FREE to elementary schools across Oregon and Washington. Since its founding, MITS has presented engaging programming to more than 150,000 students. Our Field Educator, Kelly McKenzie, traditionally travels to schools across nine counties in Oregon and Washington to provide students with engaging, maritime-themed STEAM learning opportunities. With the onset of COVID-19 in the Spring of 2020, the Education Department transformed Museum in the Schools into a virtual
format. We now offer MITS presentations via Zoom and Google Meet to elementary schools across Oregon and Washington. In order to keep students engaged, the education department began constructing education kits for participating MITS students. Each participating student receives an education kit with materials for a hands-on STEAM activity. Activities range from building functioning model wind turbines, weaving baskets, building model boats, and dissecting faux Albatross boluses. As of this publication, the Education Department has created and delivered 3,250 education kits to students all over the Pacific Northwest. “I cannot thank you enough for all the hard work you do for our kiddos...especially now. They always get so excited when they know you are coming to our class” -2nd Grade Teacher, Astor Elementary School
Above photos (Clockwise from left): Field Educator Kelly McKenzie teaches a remote class. Students display their basketmaking progress. Kelly Thank You! On the cover: Excavator operator Joe Wilson braves the elements to place boulders on the North Jetty. Photo: Aaron Anderson, J. E. McAmis Marine Construction
From the Wheelhouse Unpredictability and Charting a New Course One word that might characterize the past 12 months well is “unpredictable.” It was the unpredictability of the Columbia River entrance which earned it its reputation as the Graveyard of the Pacific. Constantly shifting sandbars, channels, and depths made it impossible for even experienced pilots to consistently, accurately predict the best course to steer, making every arrival and departure a high-risk endeavor. The monumental project to reduce the bar’s unpredictability is one of those stories that is so rich, it deserves an entire issue of our magazine, and it gets one in our feature story from former Trustee Gary Kobes. Using both historic images and photographs by Michael Mathers, Kobes documents the effort required to modulate the river’s mouth enough that its risks can be predicted, and avoided by the prudent mariner. Unpredictability can confound a museum, as well as a mariner. Unexpected crises test our ability to flex and adapt, and to focus on our core mission and Unpredictability can confound goals. The Museum’s 20192020 strategic planning effort, a museum, as well as a mariner. however, positioned us well Unexpected crises test our ability to be able to respond to the pandemic with well thought to flex and adapt, and to focus out course changes, enlisting on our core mission and goals. the entire crew to steer the ship as a team toward our well-defined destination. With the Board’s guidance, the Museum reevaluated expenses, programs and plans to ensure continued forward progress where possible, while delaying or adjusting some strategies and tactics as necessary. We keep our eyes on a post-pandemic future with a “normal” economy and community life, and the Museum’s offerings in as great a demand as ever. In contrast to the last decade’s focus on individual capital projects, for the next five years we will focus on new major exhibits and programs and achieving the financial sustainability to realize our vision of being a worldclass museum. We approach our 60th anniversary in 2022 in a very strong position, thanks to having maintained prudent cash reserves and cultivated generous and loyal donors and members. We have every reason to believe that despite the challenges of the current global crisis, and the possibility of others, we will achieve the ambitious goals we have set for the next five years. We invite you to read the Strategic Plan, and welcome you to join us on our continuing journey.
Bruce Jones, Deputy Director
We aspire to be a world class maritime museum, telling powerful stories that inspire people with enthusiasm, curiosity and appreciation for our maritime heritage, through excellence in collections, exhibits and programming.
Our Strategic Goals: Financial Sustainability
We will strengthen the Museum’s financial health by growing the Museum’s endowments, as well as contributed and earned revenue streams.
Collections and Exhibits
We will create compelling new major exhibits, and enhance current exhibits.
We will reach more people both in and out of the Museum by increasing visitation, expanding educational programs and community engagement, and making collections more accessible.
Campus and Facilities:
We will optimize existing space usage, explore opportunities for meeting future display, storage and parking needs, and create a cohesive, welcoming campus.
Valuing our Team
We will sustain the Employees, Trustees and Volunteers who comprise our team by remaining an employer of choice, exercising sound governance and valuing our volunteers.
2020-2025 Strategic Plan:
https://issuu.com/eomediacc/docs/crmm_ strategic_plan_2021-25?fr=sNGY4YzEwMTgzMzE 3
The Columbia River Jetties
Battling the Columbia River for Over 125 years Story by Gary Kobes
Coal smoke blotting out the sky, rail cars carry boulders on the trestle over the Pacific Ocean. In the distance, a pile driver extends the trestle further to sea. CRMM 72185
Today we see the jetties that form the mouth of the Columbia River and tend to take them for granted. The amount of thought, physical effort, and expense that went into their construction evades our comprehension—the sinking of an estimated 50,000 wooden piles; fabricating and placing 140,000 fascines; erecting structures with 20,000,000 board feet of lumber; quarrying, ferrying, staging and placing 12,360,000 tons of stone; all over a fifty-four-year period. Similarly, the magnitude of the ongoing jetty maintenance projects escape us, as the construction process is unseen by most as we go about our daily lives. The story begins in the early 1880s - fifteen years after the Civil War, eleven years after the completion of the transcontinental railroad, nine years before Washington Territory became a State. The 1880 population of the State of Oregon was 175,000 and Washington Territory was 75,000. Although 100 river miles inland and not an easy passage, Portland was the dominant commercial center of the Pacific Northwest. Significant tonnage of grain, lumber and other regionally produced goods were already being shipped out of the Columbia River to California, Europe and Asia.
Before the jetty system was constructed, the mouth of the Columbia had always taken a terrible toll on shipping. Vessels were frequently lost attempting passage of the constantly shifting bar.
“The expensive Civil War had left the federal government feeling poor and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wasn’t sure how to approach such a costly and complex project as controlling the River’s mouth. They took their time. Political pressure from Oregon’s business and congressional communities — two national railroads (Northern Pacific and Union Pacific) were building out this way from the Midwest — plus the fact that the Columbia River was busy undermining Fort Stevens on Point Adams, overcame the inertia… At the time of its completion, the South Jetty was the longest jetty in the world.” Nancy Lloyd, This Nest of Dangers; Chinook Observer, June 19, 2018. 4
Before the jetty system was constructed, the mouth of the river had always taken a terrible toll on shipping. Vessels were frequently lost attempting passage of the six-mile-wide, constantly shifting bar. Ships sometimes had to wait up to a month for conditions to improve to allow safe passage. This was intolerable to the flourishing Portland business community, which began lobbying the Corps of Engineers to do something to stabilize the Columbia River Bar. Pressure to act was building in other ways. Railroads were in their ascendancy. Oregon Railway & Navigation Company completed the first route through the Columbia River Gorge in 1884. Later that year it completed a line to Baker City, Oregon where it connected with the Oregon Short Line Railroad, which in turn connected to the Union Pacific in Utah, and on to Omaha and from there connecting to Chicago and points east. In the same year, the Northern Pacific Railroad introduced rail ferry service between Kalama, Washington Territory and Goble, Oregon on opposite banks of the Columbia River. Now Northern Pacific trains could run from Seattle, via Portland, through the Columbia River Gorge to Wallula, Washington Territory, and rejoin the Northern Pacific, and on to Minneapolis. Four years later in 1888 the NP completed its route across the Cascades, connecting Minneapolis to its terminus in Tacoma, and Puget Sound. Between 1880 and 1890 Oregon’s population grew 82% to 318,000. By 1889, Washington Territory had become a State and had grown 475% to 357,000. There was enormous pressure building on many fronts to support maritime shipping needs on the Columbia River. If the U.S. Engineers (now the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers USACE) were to solve the problems, they would have to narrow the six-mile-wide mouth of the river. The decision on how to do so evolved over a period of several years. The first proposed solution was an 8-pile-wide pile dike, on the south side of the Columbia River extending oceanward 8,000 feet. A pile dike is a structure that consists of two or more rows of piles driven into the earth in a staggered or offset manner, with enough room for a large timber to be inserted between each row. The piles and the joining timbers are then bolted together into a single unit. This proposal was discarded in favor of a “rubble-mound training jetty”, essentially a long pile of rocks to resist the river’s current and “train” it to flow through a narrower channel. Like holding one’s finger on the end of a hose, this causes the current to accelerate. This accelerated flow helps flush out the channel on which shipping depended.
The mouth of the Columbia River in 1885 (top) and 1940 (bottom) after completion of the jetty system. Note the major accretion of beach land north of the North Jetty, and on either side of the first half of the South Jetty. Gary Kobes
The federal Rivers and Harbors Act of 1884 approved the first funding, and construction was begun in 1885. The first phase of the project lasted for ten years and was completed in 1895. 5
This model built for the 1893 Columbian World’s Exposition in Chicago embodies the entire process for building a jetty once the construction materials and equipment are delivered to the staging site: 1. Pile driving and bent building; 2. Fascine placement; 3. Rock placement. In concept, the construction process was as simple as 1-2-3; reality was a bit different. Photo courtesy Clatsop County Historical Society (CCHS)
The federal Rivers and Harbors Act of 1884 approved the first funding, and construction was begun in 1885. The first phase of the project lasted for ten years and was completed in 1895. The initial construction of the entire jetty system, South Jetty, North Jetty, Pile Dikes, and Jetty A took fifty-four years and was completed in 1939. Marshalling Area: Marshalling is the gathering together and staging of all of the construction materials required for jetty construction. Though critical to the success of the entire venture, it often takes a back seat to the actual construction effort which takes place in a difficult, challenging environment and which remains when the project is complete. Here, all of the diverse components of workers, machinery, and diverse materials are gathered together, organized, and sent to the ever-advancing construction site.
Rock was delivered by barge and removed by derricks. CRMM 196.3777 6
Engineer’s Dock near Fort Stevens. Courtesy CCHS
Today all that remains of these once busy marshalling areas are a few pilings in the river. CRMM 72185
A raft of 125 foot long pilings arrives at the wharf for loading onto a train. CRMM 72185
Pilings being lifted from the water onto a train enroute to the pile driver. CRMM 72185
The steam-powered pile driver sits ready to drive another 125 foot length piling into the seafloor.
Pile Driver: The trestle was the elevated platform that kept men and equipment working safely and productively out of the tidal environment. With its associated railway equipment, it was called a tramway. It was constructed using a massive, steampowered pile driver from a series of “bents” or frames consisting of 4 piles, a pile cap and cross bracing. The bents, about 20 feet wide at the top, were 20-30 feet above the ocean floor, spaced 16 feet apart and connected with its adjacent bents by four large timbers. On top of these timbers were placed two, 3’-0” narrow gauge rail lines (Standard gauge railroad track spacing is 4’-8 ½’) spaced 13’ center to center. This pair of rail lines was the connection between the logistical receiving docks at Fort Stevens and the place of construction. On this pair of rail lines rode the pile driver. It was built on a base of four flatcars that rode, two each, on the parallel tracks. Approximately 60 feet tall, it could reach about 20 feet beyond the end of the trestle to construct the next bent, and the entire platform could rotate 360 degrees. 7
Fascines, as depicted in the model displayed at the 1893 Columbia Exposition in Chicago. At right, boulders are being dropped onto the fascines. There are references in reports to the Secretary of War that troops at Fort Stevens fabricated some of the fascines. But given that an estimated 140,000 fascines were required, it is likely that some of the fascine fabrication was contracted out. Courtesy CCHS
Workers guiding boulders onto a railroad flatcar. CRMM 72185
Accidents happened. CRMM 72185
Fascines: Branches bound with wire into linear bundles, fascines are a very old and versatile tool of the military engineer, dating back to Roman times. Once the trestle was advanced for a reasonable distance, the next step was to lower and place a mattress of fascines. Those used in jetty construction appear to have been about one foot in diameter and eighteen feet long. The fascines were fabricated, brought to the site on tram cars, and lowered into place on the ocean floor, which was mostly exposed at low tide. They provided stability and resistance to washout of the base of the rock mound.
Most of the stone came from the Fisher Quarry near Vancouver, WA and was barged down river to the marshalling docks at Fort Stevens and Fort Canby. Quantities used by phase:
Enrockment: The placement of rock was the final step in the construction process. Smaller rock was placed on the fascine matt and, when the structure was near its final height, was capped with larger rock to resist wear caused by waves and current. 8
1885-1895 1903-1913 1914-1917 1933-1936 1938-1939
South Jetty phase 1 South Jetty phase 2 North Jetty Sand Island Pile Dikes Jetty A
946,000 tons 4,837,000 tons 2,946,000 tons 50,000 tons 250,000 tons
The largest stones placed during the period 1885-1939 were about 7 tons (14,000 lbs.), Today, owing to more capable equipment, stones of up to 35 tons (70,000 lbs.) are being placed. The stones come from as near as Big River Construction’s Drake Quarry in Astoria, and as far as Madras, Bandon, and northern Puget Sound.
The U.S. Engineer’s drawing above from the CRMM archives shows a cross-section of the jetty and tramway (left) and a side view (right). It also shows the mid-tide configuration, covered at high tide and exposed at low tide. This was the configuration of the Jetty from 1885 until 1903. Observations of the impact of the jetty resulted in a decision to begin a second phase of construction, enlarging the South Jetty to its present height and width and extending it an additional 1.6 miles into the ocean, its approximate present-day configuration. This project phase lasted from 1903 until 1913. CRMM
As it was conceived and built, the first phase (1885-1895) of Sand Island. The pile dikes were constructed perpendicular of the rubble-mound training jetty was a mid-tide jetty. At to the shoreline and extended two thousand feet or more low tide it would be exposed and at mid-tide through high into the river to direct the current away from the base of the tide it would be submerged. It extended from Fort Stevens North Jetty. This was readily determined to be beneficial, but to a point about four miles out inadequate by itself. in the tidal flats opposite Cape This prompted the 1938-39 Disappointment. construction of the A Jetty from Upon the completion of the Upon the completion of the the base of Cape Disappointment North Jetty in 1917, the North Jetty and southward approximately one North Jetty in 1917, the North Jetty and South Jetty combined mile into the river. It worked as South Jetty combined contained over contained over 8,000,000 tons planned, protecting the base of 8,000,000 tons of stone and comprised of stone and comprised the the North Jetty and scouring some the world’s largest jetty system. world’s largest jetty system. By of the sediment accumulating 1939 after the completion of the in the channel on the south side pile dikes, Jetty A, and several of the entrance. On the eve of major maintenance projects, the total tonnage had grown to WWII, after 54 years of learn-from-experience-construction, 12,000,000. the development of the Columbia River Jetty System was In the early 1930s at the height of the Great Depression, completed, and the problems of long-term maintenance the base of the North Jetty was being eroded by the current emerged. The age of steam power was rapidly being displaced and faced failure. The engineering solution to protect the jetty by gasoline and diesel power internal combustion engines. base was constructing four pile dikes, one near the north bank WWII hastened the development of heavy construction of the river by Chinook, Washington, and three off the face equipment that could be used on the jetties. 9
In 1913 as the South Jetty was completed, work began on the construction of the North Jetty. 1.8-miles in length, it was completed in 1917.
There was a brief period in the middle to late 1930s when the U.S Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) adopted standard-gauge steam locomotives and steam-powered equipment to do jetty repair work. This was the result of the presence of standard gauge rail service extending from Portland to Fort Stevens. Also, the rail ferry Mastodon had been acquired for transport of stone quarried near Olympia, Washington and brought by rail to Kalama, Washington where the loaded cars were transferred to the Mastodon and delivered to the marshalling area at Fort Canby. The completion of Jetty A in 1939 marked the end of the use of railroad equipment for construction. By that time, the tram railroads on the jetty projects had operated more than 150,000 times pulling loads of stone, piles, timber and hardware. Thereafter jetty maintenance activity would be performed by gas or diesel-powered, self-propelled equipment. In the case of both the north and south jetties, the stone laden flatcars went out to the elevated trestles. When the loaded flatcars arrived, a steam shovel loaded on a flatcar was connected to the string of flatcars. When in position along the jetty, the steam-shovel would crawl down the line of cars picking up the jetty stones and dropping them one by one onto the jetty structure below.
The completion of Jetty A in 1939 marked the end of the use of railroad equipment for construction. By that time, the tram railroads on the jetty projects had operated more than 150,000 times pulling loads of stone, piles, timber and hardware.
“The Columbia Snake River System is the nation’s largest wheat export gateway and second for soy. When combined with corn, pulses and other grains, it is the third largest grain export gateway in the world. It is number one on the west coast for forest products, mineral bulk exports, and auto exports. In 2016, over 50 million tons of cargo moved through the deep draft Lower Columbia River, valued at roughly $21 billion. Over 40,000 local jobs are dependent on this trade. The jetties are a vital part of ensuring our system is able to handle current volumes and continue to grow.” Pacific Northwest Waterways Association, Jetties At The Mouth of The Columbia River 10
The Jetties Today
Color photos by Michael Mathers
The relentless ocean currents and waves take their toll on the jetties, displacing, dislodging and breaking the jetty stones. Major maintenance projects have occured most recently in 2007 (South Jetty), 2017 (Jetty A), 2018-2020 (North Jetty), and presently another five-year repair of the South Jetty is underway. The project contractor, J. E. McAmis, has given permission to photographer and longtime CRMM friend Michael Mathers to document this work, and Michael has shared his photos with us. Very little of the stone is of local origin. It comes from quarries in the North Cascades of Washington; Madras, Oregon and Bandon, Oregon. This is not unlike the original construction where most of the stone came from the Fisher Quarry in Vancouver, Washington. After being quarried it was barged downriver to the receiving docks at Fort Stevens and Fort Canby. The stone used today must meet density and hardness criteria to be eligible for use. The only local stone that is suitable comes from the Big River Construction, Drake Quarry at Youngs River Falls. As in the past, marshalling the material at the site for placement is a critical function in the process. For the South Jetty repair project, a temporary wharf has been constructed on “Social Security Beach” on the river side of Clatsop Spit opposite the root of the jetty.
The relentless ocean currents and waves take their toll on the jetties, displacing, dislodging and breaking the jetty stones.
Making jetty boulders: drilling the rock face in the quarry and setting explosive charges.
After the dust settles, rocks are identified, sorted, marked, weighed and prepared for transport.
Bergerson Construction barges on the way to the site of the temporary wharf.
Massive steel pilings are fabricated, transported by barge and then assembled into mooring dolphins onsite. 11
The rock barge ties up to the wharf barge and the rocks are unloaded, one by one, and trucked about a mile to the staging area. The crane mounted on the rock barge picks each rock from the barge and sets them on a pad of heavy timbers on the wharf barge.
Both trucks and barges deliver rock to the project site. Here a barge load of jetty stone approaches the temporary wharf for transport to the staging area at the root of the jetty. 12
Articulating front loaders then pick up the stone and transfer it to a truck that moves it to the staging area.
Truck transportation is the other means of delivery of stone to the jetty. Here a Big River Construction truck carries two stones from its Youngs River Quarry to the jetty staging area. Stones from Madras and Bandon are also trucked in; rock from the north Cascades is barged to the site.
Unloading a boulder transport truck at the South Jetty staging area.
At the staging area, stones are selected for size, weight, and shape for placement on the jetty.
An excavator unloads smaller rock to be used for infill. The infill will be covered with larger stones to protect it from the waves and current.
During initial jetty construction, the elevated tramway advanced the jetty into the ocean. Today, the tramway is replaced by a road constructed on top of the jetty. Crushed stone provides a level, stable surface over which to move equipment and stones. Winter storms frequently wash away this smaller, lighter stone, necessitating repetitive repair. One important improvement in modern jetty construction is the precise placement of stone. During original construction, the stone was brought to its placement site on dump cars and later, flatcars. When the dump cars were tilted, or when a steam shovel picked a large stone from the flat car, the released stones fell 20 to 30 feet and, with luck, ended up generally in the right location. Frequently this fall resulted in the fracturing or imprecise placement of the stones. Today, the placement of stones is a precise and thoughtful process, not just dumping any rock into a void. Using the existing jetty as a roadway, the self-propelled, hydraulicly-augmented boom crane and excavator use their articulating boom or arm to accurately lift and place the jetty stones in the desired position and orientation. 14
One important improvement in modern jetty construction is the precise placement of stone. During original construction the released stones fell 20 to 30 feet from dump cars and, with luck, ended up generally in the right location. Frequently this fall resulted in the fracturing or imprecise placement of the stones.
The environment is frequently turbulent and potentially dangerous.
It is not always an easy task to think clearly when you are about to be washed off your perch by a wave, even if you are wearing a life jacket.
J. E. McAmis workers practice a man overboard drill with the Warrenton Fire Department and Seaside Fire and Rescue teams.
It takes some experience to effectively place the material. It is not always an easy task to think clearly when you are about to be washed off your perch by a wave, even if you are wearing a life jacket. As the photos in this story illustrate, the environment is frequently turbulent and potentially dangerous. While the process is repetetive, it is anything but boring. The Columbia River Jetty System continues to serve 1,500 ocean-going ships and thousands of towboats, barges, fishing and other vessels annually, facilitating the commerce of the region and supporting a rich fishery, and maritime traditions, as it has for the past 125 years. — Author Gary Kobes served as a CRMM Trustee from 2014-2020. 15
In the quiet of an early evening, the men and women, material, and equipment prevail and overcome boulder by boulder. 16
Columbia River Maritime Museum 2021 Board of Trustees Executive Committee Michael Haglund, Chair Don Vollum, Vice Chair Nick Johnson, Secretary John McGowan, Treasurer Helena Lankton, Immediate Past Chair Ward V. Cook, Advisor Steve Fick, Advisor H. Roger Qualman, Advisor Kurt Redd, Advisor Dr. Samuel E. Johnson, Executive Director
Board of Trustees Stephen M. Andersen George F. Beall Patrick Clark John D. Dulcich Dale Farr Terry Graff Jerry F. Gustafson Ted H. Halton, Jr. Donald M. Haskell Carol Ihlenburg Senator Betsy Johnson Captain Dan Jordan Kenneth Kirn Irene E. Martin David M. Myers David Nygaard William T.C. Stevens Shawn M. Teevin John Tennant Sarah Tennant Dr. Gerald Warnock
Trustee Emeritus Peter J. Brix Alan C. Goudy Donald W. Magnusen
Advisory Trustees Guy C. Stephenson Ambassador Charles J. Swindells Willis Van Dusen Bill W. Wyatt
In Memory Dr. James H. Gilbaugh Jr.
The Quarterdeck Spring 2021 The Quarterdeck is published by the Columbia River Maritime Museum 1792 Marine Drive Astoria, Oregon 97103 503-325-2323
The Museum thanks Michael Mathers for the use of his photos. Many more can be found on his Instagram site: rebuildingthesouthjetty
Editor: Bruce Jones Printed by: Lithtex in Hillsboro, Oregon Layout/Design: John D. Bruijn, The Astorian
Columbia River Maritime Museum Executive Leadership Sam Johnson Executive Director Bruce Jones Deputy Director
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On the back cover: Riding on two parallel, narrow gauge tracks, the steam driven pile driver extended the jetty further seaward one 16 foot bent at a time. CRMM 72185
CRMM: New Members Ensign
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Business Membership Clatsop Association of Realtors
The Fort Stevens State Park Jetty Observation Deck provides a viewpoint for the South Jetty repair work. Very large excavators transport and place the rock on the jetty. The largest stones weigh up to 70,000 lbs.
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