One of Ruth’s favorite stories involves taking a 4 year old to Sauvie Island. As we were leaving it, we saw a farmer on a tractor. He was going slowly on the road ahead of us, and the 4 year old said to Ruth, “Look there’s Old MacDonald!” Sauvie is unique. It’s a 12,000 acre island shaped like a whale that’s 15 miles long, 4 miles wide, and devoted to farming and nature but close enough to the city of Portland, Oregon, to be considered an attraction.
About the size of Manhattan, the western half of Sauvie Island is administered by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The eastern half is rural farmland with many popular U-pick berry patches. Sauvie attracts about 800,000 visitors each year, and not all of them are there to observe the folks on clothing-optional Collins Beach. The other 3 beaches on Sauvie’s north shore, which is on the Columbia River, are clothed. In total they amount to 7 miles of beaches, all on the non-farmed part of the island, which contains lots of lakes, ponds. and water holes. They attract 250 bird species, 57 mammal species, 28 types of fish, and 23 amphibians and reptiles. Seasonally, the bird species include many migratory ones on their way to Central America and other destinations. On a clear day, visitors can see Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood, and distant Mount Adams from Sauvie Island.
Sauvie’s first residents were Native Americans belonging to the Multnomah tribe of the Chinook Nation. They had 15 village on Sauvie and lived in cedar log houses. George Vancouver was one of the first explorers to reach Sauvie. Lewis and Clark visited it and called it Wappatoe Island in their journals. Meriwether Lewis called it “high and extremely fertile”. Today’s explorers are MacDonald types.
A new bridge opened in 2008 to take residents and visitors across the Multnomah Channel to the island. The old bridge could handle only smaller and lighter cars and trucks. This new bridge is the only one. Sauvie is for farmers, but a lot of the visitors include bikers, joggers and boaters. There is no gas station on Sauvie Island, but there is a city bus that will take you to Portland.