Bonneville Lock and Dam on the Columbia River in Oregon was our first assignment. We found the opportunity on Volunteer Clearinghouse . We filled out an online application in August 2016 and we were contacted in December by the volunteer coordinator for the Army Corp of Engineers and set up a time to complete a phone interview.

The position was located at the  Visitor Center at Bonneville Lock and Dam, 40 miles east of Portland on the Columbia River. We would provided coverage at the Information Desk and Book Store and our other duties could include Roving and Interpretive Tours of the grounds and Power Houses.

As newbie’s to the volunteering for a FHU (full hook up) we weren’t exactly sure what to expect. The interview went well and after we passed the background check we were offered the position and committed to March 15, 2017 through May 15, 2017.

Overlooking the Bonnieville Lock and Dam

My husband and I worked the same rotating shift, 3 days on and 3 days off. The typical day was anywhere from 7 to 9 hours, but of those hours, 1.5 were devoted to lunch or break and an additional hour was devoted to roving. The remainder of the day was spent with one of us covering the Information Desk while the other worked in the book store.

I preferred the bookstore (it’s like playing store all day long) while my husband choose to greet the visitors and answer questions. We mainly worked at the Bradford Island Visitor Center, but some of the other volunteers worked at the Washington Shore Visitor Complex and later in the season were going to work at the Navigation Lock.

With working only 3 days we had plenty of time to explore the Columbia River Gorge and to hike.

The accommodations were beautiful, for 2 months we lived on Robins Island and took lots of dam pictures. The USACE provided sewer, water, electric, WiFi and laundry facilities.  An added bonus was our T-mobile phones were able to receive a signal.

The dam is a secured area and when exiting or entering the property you either had to show your badge and or lock/unlock gates.  The distance to the visitor center on Bradford Island would have been walkable for us, but because of safety they didn’t allow any pedestrian traffic in front of the dam, so we had to drive our truck on the days we worked.

There were public bathroom, grills, picnic area and playground equipment located on the Robins Island along with laundry facilities for volunteers only.  Showers were available, but you had to go past the main gate and use the facilities in the Auditorium where security and the exercise/gym were located.