by: Rita A. Leonard Park visitors and their dogs enjoyed the springtime high water at Sellwood Riverfront Park.

High water along the Columbia River that backed up into the Willamette, combined with Cascade snowmelt runoff via Willamette tributaries, led to prolonged minor flooding along the Eastbank Esplanade and elsewhere in late May and much of June.

High water at Sellwood Riverfront Park, on the Willamette River between the Sellwood Bridge and Oaks Park, attracted visitors with dogs, kayaks, and other watercraft, who enjoyed the unusual recreational options it afforded.

Although the riverfront area was inundated up to the tops of the picnic tables, dogs and visitors used these 'stationary rafts' as perches and resting spots. Meanwhile, recreational kayakers, wave-boarders, and canoers used the erstwhile picnic area as a modified slalom route to the river, occasionally bobbing over inland waves from passing motorized watercraft.

Dog-owners, and especially those with retrievers, particularly enjoyed the unusual watery wonderland at Sellwood Riverfront Park, chasing balls and sticks into the shallows. As the Willamette gradually drew back within its banks, grassy park areas have been churned to a muddy expanse.

However, the park continues to offer many fascinating vistas, creative boating adventures, and other visitor options, and will be the site as usual of the July Monday 'Riverfront Concerts' starting on July 11.

But, as the high water declines, there's something new for recreational boaters to be aware of. According to an update from the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Bridge Project, there is now a 'Slow/No Wake Zone' and also 'Exclusion Zones' in the Willamette near the area destined for construction of the new Light Rail Bridge (see online:

From June 15, 2011 through December 2012, a slow/no wake zone will be in effect to ensure the safety of Willamette River users and construction workers; and effective July 1st, an exclusion area around the in-water bridge construction site will also go into effect.

In-water construction will include installation of two cofferdams around the sites where the bridge towers will be built. Care will be taken to minimize environmental disturbance to the river and to local wildlife. The new bridge is unique in that it will serve public transit - both light rail and buses - cyclists, and pedestrian traffic, but not private vehicles.

The bridge will be constructed close to OMSI, between the Ross Island and Hawthorne Bridges.

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