FISHERMAN’S SLOUGH AT CATERPILLAR ISLAND — From their floating home’s great room, Lloyd and Bev Kadow watch a blue heron dip its beak into the water near Caterpillar Island. Their front-row seat to wildlife viewing affords frequent views of bald eagles, ospreys, raccoons, beavers, otters, deer and coyotes. When the heron flies away, Bev gathers water bottles before the couple steps outside to cruise on their pontoon boat.
A sign above their door reads: “Paradise found.”
Indeed, the Kadows have found their paradise as owners of Kadow’s Marina, which floats on a bucolic stretch of Fisherman’s Slough a mile north of Frenchman’s Bar Regional Park. It’s tucked between farmers’ fields and Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, whose southern boundary is about two miles north of the marina.
Lloyd says they bought the marina because of their love for the river. “We camp, waterski, fish, boat,” he said. They thought life on the river would be good. “And it has been.”
Growing up on water
Lloyd Kadow grew up on the Columbia River. His parents, Beulah “Boots” Kadow and Roy Kadow, a longshoreman, owned Vancouver Boat Harbor on the Columbia River just east of the Interstate 5 Bridge beginning in 1949.
The growing family lived in an upstairs apartment in a boathouse (a building that houses boats).
When Lloyd was in second grade, his parents opened Kadow’s Kove in the Steamboat Landing area across the river from Portland International Airport. There, the family of eight — Lloyd has five siblings — lived in a floating home.
Lloyd grew up helping his dad rebuild docks and maneuvering Tuffy, a 1963 tugboat with a 1948 engine, to move logs and other river debris away from the docks and homes.
Lloyd and Bev were sweethearts at Evergreen High School. They married at 19. He attended Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., to study teaching while she worked as a secretary. During college, he came home weekends and every summer to work at his parents’ marina.
For 30 years, Lloyd was a teacher and coach at McLoughlin Middle School. He and Bev raised their three children in their home in the Burton neighborhood. But during weekends and summers, Lloyd still helped out at his parents’ marina.
In 1987, Lloyd’s parents lost their lease at Kadow’s Kove and needed a marina to moor their community’s floating homes.
Lloyd and Bev bought a derelict marina in Fisherman’s Slough across from Caterpillar Island. The Kadows used Tuffy the tugboat to move all of the floating homes to the neglected marina.
The docks had gaping holes. The marina lacked basics including a sewer system and garbage service. Roy, Lloyd, Bev and other family members rebuilt docks and upgraded water and sewer systems.
They used Tuffy’s winch to remove submerged refuse: hundreds of rusted metal barrels, sunken boats and a toilet.
Although they had marina responsibilities, Lloyd was still teaching and coaching, so they continued living in their Burton neighborhood home.
When Lloyd retired from teaching in 2005, he and Bev had a conversation that changed their life.
“He said, ‘I think we should sell our house and move down there,’ ” Bev said. “I never pictured myself living in a floating home, but I really love it. Life is wonderful living here on the river. I’m grateful.”
Lloyd and Bev built a two-story floating home at the marina and moved in 2006.
At first glance, Lloyd and Bev’s home resembles custom homes found in many Clark County neighborhoods, except built atop logs and floats. The contemporary, open-concept design with 2,900 square feet has three bedrooms, four bathrooms, a spacious kitchen, wood-burning fireplace and soaring ceilings.
Lloyd did most of the work himself. He added nautical and whimsical touches throughout. He salvaged portholes from sunken boats and installed them as artwork in the vaulted great room. Round portholes serve as windows. He even built an indoor fishing hole “so I can sit and watch football and watch my grandkids fish without them falling in,” Lloyd says.
Bev is an accomplished painter who works in a floating art studio. Their home’s nautical theme is carried out with Bev’s paintings of waterfowl, boats and scenes depicting a serene life on the river.
Kadow’s Marina is home to 18 floating homes. It rents about 100 slips for motor boats. Now 68, Lloyd is still repairing docks and maneuvering Tuffy the tugboat to make the marina ship-shape. Kadow’s Marina is home to several family members, including Lloyd’s sister, Gail Loron, who runs the marina office, and his sister, Karen Kadow Beitey, who lives in their parents’ old floating home — Lloyd’s childhood home — which is moored not far from Lloyd and Bev’s home.
Now married 49 years, Lloyd and Bev host family gatherings for their three adult children, six grandchildren, extended family and friends. There’s plenty of space to spread out on the party deck, grill fresh-caught fish or belly up to the butcher block bar Lloyd salvaged from their old house.
To accommodate family and friends who want to experience life on the river, the couple converted an 800-square-foot floating home into a guest house that sleeps 10.
Stashed behind Lloyd and Bev’s laundry room door are 10 life jackets waiting for the next river adventure, whether it be cruising in the pontoon boat, waterskiing, kayaking, riding a jet ski or fishing for lunch.
Lloyd says, “One of my favorite times is during the winter when rain is pounding on the covered moorage. Not another sound. Just the rain. It doesn’t really matter what time of year. I just enjoy the life. I enjoy the river.”