Anyone who rides near the Willamette or Columbia rivers should keep an eye on the forecast.
On Saturday afternoon the City of Portland Parks & Recreation bureau announced a partial temporary closure of the Eastbank Esplanade path between the Steel and Morrison Bridges due to high water levels. Multnomah County says the same issue will also lead to more frequent bridge lifts on the Willamette River bridges they operate (Broadway, Burnside, Hawthorne, Morrison). And the Oregon Department of Transportation says the Interstate Bridge over the Columbia River is also going to be lifted more often due to rising waters.
It’s all because of a combination of snowmelt and record rainfall. And not just your average record. According to The Oregonian, Portland has had its wettest April, May and June in at least 81 years.
The last major high water event on the Willamette I recall was in 2011 when the river came just a few feet from the Steel Bridge bike path.
Portland Parks says the current Esplanade closure only applies to the floating ramps portion of the path. Since the ramps move up and down with river level, when they reach a certain height they are above the adjacent sidewalk and the bump created is considered too dangerous for the public to use. Water is expected to recede by Wednesday but Parks hasn’t set a timetable for re-opening.
If you’re riding between Portland and Vancouver, ODOT says Interstate Bridge lifts can last up to 20 minutes.