I’m taking a break from working on my Oregon Trail story. I’ve left my hero and heroine on the banks of the Columbia River, which happens to be the last leg of the arduous two-thousand mile journey. They will have to travel down the river. They will confront rapids and other treacherous conditions.
Better, still, than the alternative. The Columbia River is hemmed in by steep slopes and cliffs of hard rock on either side. The soggy bottomlands are often flooded in October, the month the wagon train would have arrived, leaving the west end of the gorge unsuitable for foot traffic. The bulk of the wagon trains had little choice but to travel down the river on rafts or bateaus. If conditions held, they could make it to Oregon City in less than a week.
I bet you’re wondering where these rafts came from. The emigrants had to make them. That means I need to know how to build a raft. In my research, I found out how and thought I would share the seemingly easiest, most effective technique with you.
Step 1: Cut down trees from a nearby forest, create 12-16 equal size logs and bring them to the river. Line logs up partially in the water since the finished raft will be too large to transport.
Step 2: Cut two, smaller, thinner logs to be used as connectors.
Step 3: Position the first larger, longer log in one direction and then set the connector log on top at a perpendicular angle. Cut a dovetail notch in the longer log on both ends. After choosing one or the other end of your long, fit a connector log in the groove. Tie rope around the two logs for support, pulling the rope as tightly as possible and making sure to wrap underneath the two logs at least twice.
Step 4: Tie an additional overhand knot on top of the connector log. Pull tight.
Step 5: Repeat steps 3 and 4 on the other end of the longer log with another connector log.
Step 6: Push the next log in position beside the first (after cutting a dovetail tail notch on both ends).
Step 7: Again, secure with rope.
Step 8: Repeat Steps 3 and 4 on the other end.
Step 9: Continue adding logs, tying them securely, until the raft is complete.
Step 10: Test in the water. Climb on and enjoy the ride.
PHEW! I don’t know about you, but I bet this is much harder than it sounds.