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Free annual event focuses on beauty, fragility of Columbia Slough ecosystem

If you go

What: Aquifer Adventure festival, featuring water- and land-oriented activities

When: Noon to 4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 14

Where: Portland Water Bureau Groundwater Pump Station and Columbia Slough boat launch, Northeast 166th Avenue and Airport Way.

Admission: Free.

Info: columbiaslough.org.

COURTESY PHOTO: COLUMBIA SLOUGH WATERSHED COUNCIL - Families come out in droves to enjoy the seemingly hidden beauty of the Columbia Slough Watershed during the annual Aquifer Adventure event. Especially in an area as fertile as the Pacific Northwest, access to safe, quality water is easy to take for granted.

An upcoming annual event sponsored by the Portland Water Bureau and the Columbia Slough Watershed Council is meant to remind area residents — in a fun and informative way — of the importance of this resource.

The "buried treasure" that is the area's underground drinking water resource is celebrated each year at the family-friendly Aquifer Adventure festival, held noon to 4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 14, at the Portland Water Bureau canoe launch on the Columbia Slough, Northeast 166th Avenue and Airport Way.

The free event will feature hands-on activities for all ages including a treasure hunt, face painting and the chance to build "aquifers" out of ice cream and cookies. Participants can also enjoy the wooded trail along the Columbia Slough before joining a canoeing tour of the waterway.

"It's a great event for all ages to come to," said Susanne Raymond, the watershed council's outreach and events director. "It's super easy to engage with boats at the festival."

Children's T-shirts will be available, and pirate-themed dress, lingo and swagger are highly encouraged.

This event focuses on the importance of groundwater protection and water conservation, including tips and tools for use at home.

Groundwater from the Columbia South Shore Well Field serves as a secondary drinking water supply for the Gresham and other parts of East Multnomah County, that is served primarily by the Bull Run reservoir in Clackamas County. The well field makes the water system resilient in the face of drought and climate uncertainty, helping to keep gardens growing and businesses bustling through long, dry summer seasons, the bureau noted.

"Our mission is to protect and enhance the Columbia Slough and its watershed through community engagement, education and restoration," Raymond said. "This event resonates with that mission. We feel strongly that getting folks out to experience nature in their backyard is the first step in getting people to care about it and steward it."

COURTESY PHOTO: COLUMBIA SLOUGH WATERSHED COUNCIL - Despite its industrial surroundings, the Columbia Slough contains a wide range of wildlife and biodiversity, best viewed via canoe, which is one of the options available during the Aquifer Adventure on Saturday, Sept. 14. Despite the Columbia Slough's location in a highly industrialized area, the beauty and biodiversity of the waterway makes it a unique and fragile resource, she said.

"We love to get people out into the water so they get to see their city or watershed through a different lens," she said. "It's really surprising to people that right behind these industrial zones is a great level of biodiversity in the slough waterways: herons, eagles, native turtles, mussels, coyotes, beavers. It's really fun to take people out and show what is really in their backyard."


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