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Work Camping at Bonneville Hatchery in Cascade Locks, Oregon

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

Recently, a friend asked me to blog about my experience while work camping at Bonneville Hatchery in Cascade Locks, Oregon. While there is no way to describe everything, I’ll write about a few highlights during my experience as a camp host at the hatchery. 

In order to volunteer at the hatchery, one must make application to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Volunteer page . You’ll go through an interview and then hopefully, be accepted as a camp host. Applicants must have their own camper or motor home. Second, you must realize this is a volunteer position, so you are working to gain experiences, but not a pay check. 

At Bonneville, you’ll have an opportunity to learn about sturgeon, salmon eggs, gardening, Bonneville lock and dam and much more. Typically you work about 4 hours per day in various positions around the hatchery. You don’t necessarily need  experience. The supervisors will train you once you arrive.  I cleaned out the rainbow trout ponds daily, performed housekeeping duties at the visitors center, researched and wrote an article about the hatchery’s most famous fish, Herman the Sturgeon, worked in the greenhouse and helped keep geese off the lawns.  Fun, huh!

One interesting task I performed while volunteering was to research and write an article about Herman the Sturgeon.  My supervisor went back through handwritten journals and we recaptured all the references to Herman for approximately fifty years.  I went into newspaper archives and dug up stories about the Oregon State Fair where Herman was the “mascot.”  Many, many years ago, Herman was transported the the fair each year wrapped in wet towels in a wagon. Very interesting story.  Herman doesn’t look very large in the photo below, but believe me, he is huge. His approximate length is 11 and a half feet and an estimated thousand pounds in weight!

I volunteered from January to April.  This particular year there was more snow than rain. The snow was gorgeous and provided some awesome pics of Wahclella Falls. Right out my back door were some wonderful hiking trails, a portion of which was on the Pacific Crest Trail. Too cool! Several days a week, I would take my dogs over for a short hike to see the falls. 

Here is view of the snow on my motor home and truck! I realized that the snow storm was coming, so I quickly unhooked the motor home and drove into Troutdale, Oregon to fill up with propane. Even though the host spot has full hook ups, I simply did not want to run out of propane for my heat.  Boy, I am so glad I did. We had lots of snow!

There are many sightseeing opportunities in this area of Oregon.  If you visit, please make your way up to Hood River area to see the kiteboarding in the spring/early summer. Also, visit Portland and the nearby iconic Multnomah Falls.

Mt. Hood is the highest point in Oregon and is an easy drive from the hatchery.  I spent several days driving around the area simply looking at the ski areas and, in the spring, looking at the orchards. 

I loved living on the Columbia River.  I didn’t realize there was such a problem with sea lions swimming up the river from the ocean to eat the salmon.  Each afternoon I would go over and watch the sea lions snag fish off a fisherman’s hook. Entertaining for me, irritating to the fisherman.

I truly enjoyed volunteering at the hatchery. I learned a lot and I’ll definitely go back to the area and visit in the future!

I currently own a travel agency and help others travel the world to make their own memories of a lifetime. Do you need help planning an experience? Do you long to see what the world has to offer through experiential travel and volunteerism? I can help. Visit my website and contact me now!


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