If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you will have heard the dire predictions of what will happen to the highways, interstates and bridges in Western Oregon and Washington after a major Cascadia subduction zone quake. Basically, the transportation infrastructure will have collapsed, making access to food, water and medical attention virtually impossible.
I was thinking about this last night when a light bulb went on.
Wait? How did people travel before there were roads and such?
The local answer is flowing past my Salem home less than a half-mile away.
The Willamette River. D'oh!
There will be obstacles, of course, mostly in the form of collapsed bridges at Boone's Ferry, Salem, Independence, Albany, Corvallis and Eugene. Clearing paths through the debris will be a big help, but at this point they represent six portage points between Oregon City and Springfield. Not a huge problem. Similar challenges will exist on the many rivers that drain Washington west of the Cascades.
Helicopters will be working hard to supply food, water and medical teams/transport but the need will far outstrip what military helicopters can provide.
The rivers, however, will be a much lower tech highways for the people. Recreational fishing boats will be the first "river cars" but it will take almost no time to design and build a new/old class of shallow-draft barges and tugs that can handle more efficient loads.
Boatbuilders and designers, are you listening?
Just thought I would share this meditation ...