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Bonneville Dam
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Bonneville DamWhat’s to Love:  Free admission!  And, your kids will freak out when they see a 6-foot White Sturgeon at the fish hatchery.  I wouldn’t rate this high as a family destination on its own, but it’s in the perfect location for a side trip while out and about in the Gorge.  Definitely a good bet when mixed with “Wahclella Falls.

Bonneville DamPutting the politics of dams aside, Bonneville is an imposing structure with quite a few kid-friendly exhibits that mainly center around observation and guessing games.

While in the first floor observation area, my 2-year old liked pointing at the fish.  My 7-year old liked jumping from one bench to the next trying not to touch the floor.  Pretty soon, my 2-year old was just running around trying to tag my 7-year old. Then, I knew it was time to head outside!  Ahh…fish ladders will certainly spark their interest.  Well, February isn’t exactly prime season for fish ladder viewing.

Bonneville DamThe Fish Hatchery proved to be a nice side trip.  You’ll want to head right over to the viewing area for the White Sturgeon.  Wow!  If they did charge admission, it might be worth it just to view these prehistoric-looking fish.  This got both of our kids talking and asking lots of questions.  Make sure you head down into the lower level of the viewing house.  You’ll know what I mean when you get there.

Bonneville DamCaveats:  Not a great destination when the fish aren’t running the ladders, especially with kids.  Check the “Fish Cam” before heading out!

There is just something about the furnishings and the films that make this place seem like an episode of “Lost.”  The snack area is just a couple vending machines and tables.

Website:  Army Corps of Engineers – Bonneville Dam

Distance from Portland:  Around 40 miles from Portland.  Here is a Google Map.

Recommended Ages:  Toddlers will probably get the most out of the Fish Hatchery.  Older kids will probably be interested more in the dam and how it generates electricity, etc.

Parental Stress Factor:  Very low stress, especially when the fish aren’t running.  We’ve been twice and it’s been very laid back and relaxing.

Physical Difficulty:  The facility is handicap accessible with an elevator and ramps.  Walking around the grounds is easy.

Family Fun Factor:  Again, I wouldn’t rate this very high, but it’s definitely worth a stop if you’re in the area anyway.  There are definitely some cool things and watching the fish in the ladders and the viewing area is fun for kids.

Weather Considerations:  Definitely better to go when the fish are active in the ladders.  This is fun for kids to watch.

Bonneville DamInsider Info:  Website has a “virtual tour” so you can get a better idea of what it’s like at Bonneville.

There is also a list of activities in and around the area on their website.

Bonneville DamFamily Tips:  Definitely want to bring a bunch of snacks and/or lunch with you on this trip including drinks.  There isn’t much in the area and if you combine this trip with a nearby hike, your kids will probably be starving by the time you’re done.

Technorati Tags: Bonneville, Dam, fish, ladder, hatchery, free, admission, kids, friendly, Columbia, river, Gorge

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