Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea Hood River bridge to the east, a man walks the thin strand of beach at the northern reach of the Sandbar, on a recent sunny September day, while waters eddy among small, shifting, islands.
Few stretches of landscape feel so solid and so transitory at the same time.
Welcome to The Sandbar, late September, where winds continue to entertain and shape the terrain.
SANDBAR TIPS FOR GOING
Access is via The Event Site; remember that paid parking is required adjacent to Event Site.
Wear sunscreen, carry water, and plan for gusty winds.
If you go on foot, you will need to wade, waist deep or more, to get from Event Site beach to the base of the Sandbar.
Wear durable shoes.
Unless you are prepared to swim, stay on the sand — the water drops off sharply, with northerly increase.
Give kiters and their lines wide berth; SKSK types love the beach, too, as do fishers of sturgeon and other fish.
What was unmentioned in the above comments on beachcombing and the “flotsam” — is the unfortunate prevalence of Jetsam, as in the leavings of someone’s four-legged friend Jet.
Humans, watch your step, and those with dogs, remember the plastic bag pick-up rule extends to The Sandbar.
Created by storm in November 2006 and so-named in November 2011 by a community vote sponsored by Hood River News, the crescent of sand and debris is the bracket-shaped strand that forms the northern boundary of the city of Hood River. (Spit Beach, Dog River Beach, and Hood River Delta were among the other top choices.)
The Sandbar varies from year to year, and sometimes within a season, but in its dozen years of life it has claimed a core crescent shape extending north and east from The Event Site. The sands do shift somewhat, but the bar has evolved as a familiar lido, arcing gradually into the Columbia, an indispensable launch zone for kiters, and popular stretch for walkers, including those with dogs.
Then-Mayor Arthur Babitz signed a proclamation officially naming the section of new river-crafted ground, encouraging “all residents and visitors to enjoy sports and leisure activities on The Sandbar for as long as it shall grace our waterfront.”
So enjoy. Pursuers of SKSK — Surf, Kite, Stand Up, Kayak — already known its charms. If you haven’t tried it, hike out to the end — it takes about 20 minutes on a mildly-windy day — and find yourself halfway to Washington state.
Caution: The tip of the Sandbar is solid footing, but where the waves lap, it drops off sharply.
The rewards are views of Hood River, the Hood River Bridge, Mount Defiance, and the cliffs of Washington, and, on closer inspection, the flotsam pushed or corralled by the waves and eddies and the wind-sculpted drifts of sand.
Then there is the sand itself: Not all granules are the same, as you easily see on The Sandbar. The granite pebbles and flakes that washed off the mountainside in 2016 have in 12 years ground down to sizes ranging from odd-shaped pebbles to fine sand.
Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
Dappled water mimics the shape of a shall nestled in sand.
Where the surf strokes it, the earthen stuff glistens in late-afternoon light and grows dark, almost black, as the waves inundate the soft strand and upon retreat leave it instantly a light gray. The marine scree has personality.
Yet this is not classic beachcombing territory; a few large logs find their way onto land, and the odd crab shell and portable wood chunk, but some Sandbar still lifes (see Tips for Going) are worth pausing to inspect:
Darkened fir bark floating in shallow foam, looking like a harmonica dropped atop a latte;
A feather clinging by a barb to patch of twigs, sure to blow away as soon as the sand dries;
A mulch of dark brown oak leaves, finger-sized sticks, and pale green sea grass;
A golden alder leaf nestling into a quiet bed of sand under a sun-warmed pool;
Maple twigs stuck upright in the sand, as if someone planted them.
You don’t take these things home, you photograph or memorize them, knowing that tomorrow they will be gone, or moved a few feet and turned into some other tableau.
A word on walking upon the sand: Much of it is like Grape Nuts on steroids — abrasive on the feet and intrusive of shoes. In places, the most solid footing, somewhat paradoxically, is at the waterline, but this is complicated by the force of the surf when buffeted by winds. Generally, you find yourself picking a path that varies from firm to sinking soft; be prepared for mildly arduous going.
One last note: The Sandbar can be loud. Traversing it when the winds blow is walking in a gotta-shout-over-it natural din.
— Kirby Neumann-Rea
Walker finds solitude on the Sandbar, along the main channel, Washington shore behind him.