Wenatchee Row and Paddle Club was founded in 1989 when three Wenatchee Valley residents - Larry Tobiska, Elliot Scull and Bob Derry - began discussing the need for a place to store their rowing sculls along the Columbia River.
At the same time, the Chelan County PUD was considering tearing down the old Lindston barn near the foot of Ninth Street while the PUD built new waterfront parks. The three men asked the PUD to preserve the barn as a place to store boats and as a spot to launch boats. The PUD agreed and the club was born.
Originally called the Wenatchee Rowing Club, the organization soon evolved to serve as an umbrella for the sport of paddling as well.According to an 1989 story in The Wenatchee World, the club's original goals were to encourage rowing in the area and to hold competitions. The first officers were Scull, president; Tobiska, vice president; and Steve Crossland, secretary-treasurer.
The World reported the club's initial 12 members had plans to remodel the old barn into a facility that could accommodate "19 to 24 racks for rental use by club members. ... This will make the Columbia more readily available by eliminating the need for rowers repeatedly having to transport their vessels from home on top of cars."
Club members also spoke of adding a small dock just offshore from the old barn. "This would avoid difficulties at the foot of Orondo Street, where organizers say motorboats take off and create waves big enough to tip over the narrow 19- to 25-foot-long rowing vessels," The World reported.
That dock was put together with hammer and nail at Len Pugsley's waterfront home in East Wenatchee and then motored across the Columbia River to the Wenatchee side and the Ninth Street spot.
"More than two decades later what originally began as a rowing club is now the Wenatchee Row and Paddle Club with two storage buildings accommodating some 106 boats, both club and private," says Kim George, 2012 club vice president. "What was merely a vision shared by a trio of rowers is now a growing, dynamic organization dedicated to the promotion and enjoyment of rowing and paddling."
We have two boathouses along the Columbia River at the foot of Ninth Street in Wenatchee. The first one we put to use was originally built as a log barn in the 1930s. The second is a metal storage shed constructed by the Chelan County PUD.
Sometimes just referred to as "The Barn", the picturesque log structure has long been a favorite of the entire community. Park visitors often take photos of the structure or have others pose in front of it. Artists draw and paint it into their landscapes.
The barn was constructed by John Edward "Ed" Lindston near his family's home. Lindston, who came to the United States from Sweden with his parents in 1892, worked as an orchardist, gold miner, builder and mechanic. The family settled in the Wenatchee Valley in 1907.
"He mined in the Lyman Glacier. He went to Moses Coulee and rounded up wild horses. He built houses in Wenatchee and Seattle. He had an interest in everything, but he never got rich," said his grandson Cal Blackburn in 2006. "Most people never do chasing gold."
In a 1989 article in The Wenatchee World, Lindston's daughter, Ovidia Blackburn of Cashmere, said her father constructed the barn in the 1930s using lumber from an Omak mill. Blackburn said the barn's basement served as the home for Jersey cows; the middle floor was her father's shop, where he built, among other things, boats; and the top floor was set aside for storage.
Blackburn also said a nearby creek
"was known as a healing spring in the old days."
The barn was later sold to John Jacobson and Rich Congdon, before being acquired by the Chelan County PUD as part of today's expansive Walla Walla Point Park.
In 2009, the Chelan County PUD leased to the Row and Paddle Club the metal building near Ninth Street and Walla Walla Avenue. The building was converted into a second boathouse to alleviate overcrowding at the original boathouse.
Not more than 100 feet from our boathouse, the Columbia River flows by on its journey to the Pacific Ocean. They call it "the mighty Columbia" for good reason. It is 1,243 miles long and its drainage basin extends into seven U.S. states and British Columbia. It carries the largest volume of water of any river draining into the Pacific.
In the Wenatchee area, the river is home to anadromous fish and it supports numerous wildlife, including eagles, osprey, ducks, geese, muskrats, beaver, otter, deer, foxes and coyotes.
Building a boat in Wenatchee in early 1900s
The Columbia has been central to the region's economy for decades. At one time, steamboats transported goods and people on its waters in Central Washington. Hydroelectric dams dot the upper Columbia. Two dams, Rocky Reach and Rock Island, are located just upriver and downriver, respectively, from our facility.
Old steamboat on Columbia near Wenatchee
The river also has long had a role in the culture of Native Americans. Indigenous peoples have inhabited the Columbia's watershed for more than 15,000 years. The confluence of the Columbia and its 10th largest tributory, the Wenatchee River, is located just over a mile and a quarter to the north of our boathouses.