Canoe! Canoe! It’s your chance to paddle out from Wheeler Marina on Nehalem Bay in a 24-foot handmade dugout canoe made from 170-year-old Red Cedar.
The canoe has a rich history in America, a tool of adventure and exploration as well as recreation. You don’t need to be Lewis and Clark to get out on the water and enjoy a little paddling, but you could pretend to be them if you pick the right trip. Paddling a canoe takes a little elbow grease, but the work is rewarded with the freshest air and stunning views as well as a rare connection with nature.
The Flying Eagle and members of its crew, known as the First Squad, will be at Wheeler Marina on Sept. 22-23 to offer free canoe trips for the adventurer in all of us. Arrival will be preceded by a “bridge to bridge” tour from the St. Johns Bridge to the Astoria-Megler Bridge Sept. 14-21. The trips will be guided by Willow Bill Goulardt, an artist and historian who has brought this unique opportunity to countless communities during the past 14 years.
The Flying Eagle was carved by the hands of hundreds of school children and adult volunteers in St. Helens, Oregon more than a decade ago. Its design is a nod to a Native American story about how the earth was formed by a tortoise, beaver and eagle. It’s been on many educational, history-focused voyages and Lewis and Clark trip recreations since, carrying thousands of passengers for pleasure cruises.
“Not every tree wants to be a canoe,” Goulardt said. “You have to take it down the river, see if it wants to be one. The Flying Eagle wanted to be a canoe.”
The Flying Eagle’s future is uncertain at this time. The City of St. Helens has owned it since 2006. At a recent work session, city councilors discussed general upkeep, reimbursement for maintenance, scheduling of events and the possibility of using the canoe as a better tourist draw. Councilors spoke positively about Goulardt and his work. Goulardt believes the canoe should be showcased when it’s not in use.
Goulardt’s dedication to the annual canoe adventures hasn’t been slowed despite a grueling, ongoing battle with stage four colon cancer. He is feeling much better after months of treatment, but still has a long road to go. A Go Fund Me campaign was created on his behalf if you would like to support his efforts.
For more information or to arrange a canoe ride contact Willow Bill at 775-842-3594.