Seeing Hanford from the river is unforgettable. The Hanford Reach of the Columbia flows past 50 miles of Hanford shoreline. You see the hulks of cocooned reactors silent and grey, bulldozers moving waste away from the river, buildings being demolished, pelicans flying over the water, hundreds of cliff swallows dipping and diving around the White Bluffs, the skeleton of the abandoned old Hanford schoolhouse, and if it’s that time of year salmon leaping out of the water as they head up river to spawn. Sometimes you can see herds of elk and mule deer on the shore, and of course plenty of signs warning “CAUTION: RADIOACTIVE AREA.”
We took a summer trip with a fun crew of young folks and heard stories from Tom about the time scientist Norm Buske collected mulberries from branches hanging over the river and made radioactive mulberry jam which was sent to Governor of Washington and the Secretary of Energy as a wake-up call to get on top of Hanford’s contamination. He told us about the other time when Norm went sampling up the river and was arrested and charged with criminal trespass – only to have the site drop all charges against him and negotiate an access agreement with the Government Accountability Project to allow future sampling.
If you are interested in seeing Hanford from the river, Columbia Riverkeeper organizes paddle trips in the summer. Columbia Kayak Adventures out of Richland also offers tours. For the less fit among us, a jet boat ride with Columbia River Journeys is also an option.
By: Liz Mattson