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Contact us about Bonneville Lock & Dam:

Visitor Center and tours: 541-374-8820

Fish counts: 541-374-4011
*Counts are update daily by 9 a.m., April - October.

Email us about the Bonneville Project

Bonneville Lock & Dam

Bonneville Lock and Dam

Bonneville Lock & Dam, built and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was the first federal lock and dam on the Columbia and Snake rivers. The project’s first powerhouse, spillway and original navigation lock were completed in 1938 to improve navigation on Columbia River and provide hydropower to the Pacific Northwest. A second powerhouse was completed in 1981, and a larger navigation lock in 1993. 

Today, the project is a critical part of the water resource management system that provides flood risk management, power generation, water quality improvement, irrigation, fish and wildlife habitat and recreation along the Columbia River.

A Public Works Administration project of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, portions of Bonneville Lock and Dam Project were declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

Link to larger version of map

link to District map showing Bonneville's relative location

National Historic Landmark

Bonneville’s significance is based on the Colonial-Revival style architecture of the administration building and auditorium, the unique engineering design, the contribution to the region’s industrial development, the lock’s role in transportation, the entrance landscaping, and the role of Bonneville as a major government undertaking in the 1930s to provide jobs during the Great Depression.

Bonneville Lock and Dam is named for Army Captain Benjamin Bonneville, an early day visionary who led an exploration to the Oregon Country and charted extensive sections of what became the Oregon Trail.

Hydropower

Bonneville Lock & Dam is one of three hydroelectric power plants operated by the Portland District along the Columbia River. The dam generates enough electricity to power approximately 900,000 homes, or a city the size of Portland, Ore.


1st powerhouse length 1027 ft 313 m
Generators/total output ten 660 mw
2nd powerhouse length 986 ft 300.5 m
Generators/total output eight 558 mw

Navigation

Our first mission, eliminating impediments to navigation on the Pacific Northwest's rivers, dates back to 1871.

A navigation lock was built during the original construction of Bonneville Dam. A larger lock was constructed in 1993, in a comparable size to the seven other locks on the 465 mile Columbia-Snake River Inland Waterway.


Spillway length 1,450 ft 442 m
  -gates 18
  -reservoir above downstream side 60 ft 18.3 m
Navigation lock length 676 ft 206 m
 -width 85 ft 25.9 m
Max. lift 90 ft 27.4 m
Avg. transit time 30 min.

*National Geodetic Vertical Datum 
(Mean Sea Level)

Getting around

Map of Bonneville Lock & Dam

Visitor centers at Bonneville Lock & Dam

Two visitor centers, one on Bradford Island in Oregon and one on the Washington shore, are open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Visitors centers are closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.) A third visitor center is open seasonally for limited hours at the navigation lock. Located just 40 miles from downtown Portland in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge, Bonneville Lock & Dam provides fun, educational opportunities for all visitors.

A team of rangers and volunteers staff are available to answer questions and share information about the significance of this icon of the Pacific Northwest. Powerhouse tours may be offered daily at 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., subject to staff availability. Groups will be limited to 25 visitors per tour. Participants will be required to sign up at the front desk of the Visitor Orientation Building prior to the beginning of the tours. Please call 541-374-8820 to check tour availability on the day of your visit. Tours are provided on a first-come, first-serve basis and times may be subject to change. 

A word of caution: Bonneville Dam is an active hydro-electric power plant. There may be times when portions of the visitor areas will be inaccessible by the public. These closures may come with little or no warning. We appreciate your patience during these temporary closures and will provide advance warning as early as possible.

 

Bradford Island Visitor Center

Image of the entrance of the Bradford Island Visitors Center.At the Bradford Island Visitor Center, visitors can seehow nature, technology, and humans intersect. Visitors learn about the cultural history of the region, dam construction, the development of navigation along the Columbia River, and the life-cycles of salmon and Pacific lamprey. 

Come enjoy seasonal views of migrating fish through underwater windows that allow you to peer into the the fish ladder. A rooftop observation deck provides a panoramic view of the Columbia River Gorge. 

Directions: The Bradford Island Visitor Center is located at exit 40, I-84, four miles west of Cascade Locks, Oregon. At the flag pole intersection, bear right. After stopping at the guard station, cross the navigation lock and the Powerhouse One. Follow the signs for about one mile to the visitor center. The large parking lot accommodates buses and recreational vehicles.


Washington Shore Visitor Complex

night view of the Washington Shore Visitor Center at Bonneville Lock and DamInside the Visitor Orientation Building and the adjacent Fish Viewing Building are exhibits that focus on the fundamentals of electricity and the importance of hydroelectric dams to the region. Visitors can also learn about the natural and cultural history of the surrounding areas and the importance of salmon. This visitor complex offers an easily accessible view of the powerhouse. Generators can be viewed from an area 85 feet above the powerhouse floor.

Directions: Take Washington State Highway 14 to milepost 38.5. Turn south (toward the river) onto the Dam Access Road, about a half mile east of the town of North Bonneville. Turn left at the first stop sign, following the signs to the visitor complex.


Navigation Lock

The visitor center at the Navigation Lock is open seasonally, from the Friday of Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.  This visitor center offers exhibits and videos demonstrating the value of river commerce to the economy of Oregon and Washington.  Visitors can see the navigation lock in operation when commercial or recreational boats are using the lock. There is no set schedule of when boats pass through the lock.

Directions: Take I-84 to exit 40, approximately four miles west of Cascade Locks, Oregon. At the flag pole intersection, bear right.  Enter the Navigation Lock Visitor Area parking lot just past the guard station as the road veers to the left.  

 

Outdoor recreation around Bonneville Lock & Dam

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the largest provider of water-based outdoor recreation in the nation. Around Bonneville Lock & Dam and along the shores of the Columbia River, Portland District's recreation sites allow visitors of all ages to enjoy picnicking, site seeing, wildlife viewing, fishing, windsurfing and more. 

Located just 40 miles from downtown Portland, Bonneville Lock & Dam provides opportunities to connect with nature and create unforgettable memories.

small image of the picnic shelter on Robins Island

Robins Island Recreation Area (Ore.): Open daily 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., this area's large picnic shelter accommodates up to 100 people, and has horseshoe pits, a playground and open grassy areas for outdoor recreation such as ball and disc games. Visitors also enjoy this area's bird-watching and scenic views of the Columbia Gorge. Directions: Once on the Oregon side of the Bonneville property, travel to the flag pole intersection and bear right. Cross the navigation lock and then turn left at the sign for Robins Island.

Bradford Island Recreation Area (Ore.): Open daily 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Located just below the fish ladders, this site affords spectacular spillway views of the surrounding Columbia River Gorge. Wildlife viewing includes views of osprey in the summer and bald eagles in the winter. Fishing for sturgeon, salmon, steelhead and shad are popular activities on the shoreline of this island recreation area however it should be noted that much of the bank is steep. Directions: Once on Bonneville property, go to the flag pole intersection and bear right.  After stopping at the guard station, cross the navigation lock and the first powerhouse, then turn left at the sign for Bradford Island Recreation Area.

Hamilton Island (Wash.): Hamilton Island offers boat ramp water access, more than a mile of shoreline for fishing, and five miles of trail that offer scenic views of the gorge and wildlife viewing opportunities. The access road ends at a gravel parking lot with vault restrooms and the trailhead for the Hamilton Island trail. Hours are seasonal: March - October, 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. / November - February, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Fort Cascades trail pavilion

Fort Cascades National Historic Site (Wash.): Fort Cascades, built in 1855, is one of several forts built to protect the portage around the Cascade Rapids. The site has a 1.5 mile interpretive trail where visitors may learn about the history of the site which was used by Native American Tribes, the Army in the 1850s, travelers on the Oregon Trail and the early fishing industry. Visitors also enjoy the trail for exercise, wildlife watching, and scenic views. There is little elevation change and most of the trail is shady, lush and green. Help preserve this unique area and also protect yourself, children, and pets from poison oak by staying on the established trail and keeping your pet on a leash. Spectacular views of the Columbia River and Bonneville Dam can be seen from here. Directions: Once on Bonneville property, turn right at the first stop sign, then an immediate left into the Fort Cascades Historical Site parking lot. Hours are seasonal: March - October, 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. / November - February, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Image of a couple trying their luck fishing at the North Shore Recreation Area.

North Shore Recreation Area (Wash.): This site provides spectacular views of the river, surrounding gorge and wildlife viewing. The open shoreline between the Fort Cascades Historic Site and the Washington Shore Visitor Complex is available for fishing with access to vault restrooms. Intermittent sections of gravel trail stretch along the shoreline for approximately one mile. Hours are seasonal: March - October, 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. / November - February, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Tanner Creek Fishing Area (Ore.): In addition to fishing, this site provides great wildlife viewing of salmon spawning in the fall and several species of birds throughout the year. Two trails lead down from the parking lot for access to the fishing area. There are flush toilets available near the parking area. Hours are seasonal: March-September, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. / October, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. / November-February, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 

GEOCACHES AT BONNEVILLE LOCK & DAM

Park rangers at Bonneville Lock and Dam maintain eight geocaches. Beginner and advanced geocachers will enjoy the hunt with five traditional caches and three multi-caches.

Five caches are on the Oregon side and three are on the Washington side, and each one helps geocachers learn about Bonneville.

A man bends over to discover his geocache find
  • "Green Power" is about hydropower,
  • "More Power to You" is about the Northwestern hydropower system,
  • "Take Me to Lunch" is about sea lions,
  • "Go with the Flow" is about the Juvenile Fish Bypass System, and
  • "Ducks Float" is about water safety.

The last three are about history

  • "BIH" is about Bradford Island history
  • "Bonneville Landmark Cache" is about the history of Bonneville Dam, and
  • "Hamilton or Strawberry Island?" is about Lewis and Clark's travels here.

Rangers and volunteers are available to help!

There are also several privately-owned caches at or near Bonneville Dam. While Bonneville Dam doesn't require permits for caches, other Portland District project locations might. In all cases, it's recommended you contact the project or public lands manager before placing any caches. Caches hidden in sensitive areas or pose a security/safety risk will be removed. For more information about hiding or finding geocaches, you can visit www.geocaching.com or www.opencaching.com.

 

PARTNER-OPERATED, CO-LOCATED SITES

Bonneville Fish Hatchery (Ore.): This chinook and coho salmon hatchery is operated by Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife. Display ponds also offer a relaxing place to feed large rainbow trout and view adult white sturgeon measuring more than six feet long. A gift shop is open during summer months. Interpretive displays are inside buildings and outdoors, including a viewing area to watch fall spawning activities. Hours are seasonal: March-October, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. / October, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. / November-February, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Directions: At the flag pole intersection on Bonneville Dam property, bear left. Follow the road around to the large parking lot on the left.  RV parking is available here. 

Columbia River Gorge Historic Highway (Ore.): Operated jointly by the U.S. Forest Service and the State of Oregon, the nation’s first scenic highway was constructed between 1913 and 1922. This trail has reserved areas for pedestrian and bicycle use only, such as the section between Tanner Creek, Eagle Creek and Cascade Locks.  Please note that if you are biking the trial, there is no bike/pedestrian access to the Bradford Island Visitor Center at Bonneville Dam (on the Oregon side of the river) due to restrictions across the powerhouse.