The Columbia River Gorge spans for some 80 miles where the Columbia River cuts through the Cascade Mountains divided between the states of Oregon and Washington. The Historic River Highway Scenic Byway was the first scenic highway in the US. It starts just outside of Portland and includes some five miles of waterfalls, a fish hatchery, a dam, locks and views of Mt. Hood - on a clear day, of course. We started our drive at Maryhill, Washington and drove west to Portland for one of the most scenic drives in the country.
Maryhill Winery sits on the Washington side of the Gorge and has some of the most stunning views from a winery that you will ever see. You can take a tour or do a tasting of their wines or enjoy a meal on the outdoor patio enjoying views of Mt. Hood. Along with the winery, you can attend one of many scheduled concerts at their outdoor amphitheatre right on the river. Combining the accoustics of the Gorge, some delicious wine and all-star acts, Maryhill is considered a world- class concert venue. The line-up is announced in April and tickets go on sale in May - get your tickets early as most concerts sell out. If I'm in the Gorge again, I'm definitely trying to get to a concert there!
A replica of Stonehenge in England, the Stonehenge Memorial was erected as the nation's first WWI Memorial in 1918. Reinforced concrete was used for the Memorial after local stone was proved unsatisfactory and there are 14 names of local servicemen carved in memorium. Admission is free and you can also visit the Klickitat Veterans Memorial located nearby. Also a place for fantastic views on the Washington side of the Gorge.
Hood River, Oregon
Hood River is the "Windsurfing Capital of the World". It's a very pleasant - and a tad hilly - city located on the Columbia River. We watched the windsurfers from Waterfront Park and then walked across the street to pFriem Family Brewers - an artisanal brewery and tasting room. We had a bit of lunch and a beer - it was recommended to us by someone we had struck up a conversation with in Bend - and it wasn't my favorite brewery on the trip but it was in a good location and my belly was full. Then we walked the town of Hood River and a did a little shopping. A very pleasant visit and I highly recommend spending some time here.
Drive the Gorge
We drove along the gorge and took in some magnificent views. It isn't called one of the most scenic drives in the US for nothing! We took in the views from both states - alternating between sides. And they were both fantastic.
Bonneville Dam and the Fish Hatchery
The Bonneville Dam is located 40 miles east of Portland. Operated by the US Army Corp of Engineers, it's a National Historic Landmark and you can start by viewing the water spilling over the dam. There is a Visitor's Center that features a movie about construction of the dam, exhibits on hydropower, fish and wildlife protection and navigation. And you can watch salmon climb fish ladders. We spent about an hour here doing all of the above. (Please be aware that you will need to show ID and pass through security to visit the dam)
|Salmon and eels|
Around the corner you can visit the fish hatchery and view one of the most famous fish in the Pacific NW - Herman the Sturgeon. He's 11 feet long and weighs almost 500 pounds and many consider him Oregon's unofficial state fish. He's in a viewing tank with 8 other sturgeon - and he's fed a diet of fresh salmon. At the ripe old age of 77, his keepers think he still has a few good years left in him. (Also, you can learn about raising fish at the hatchery and view the salmon rearing ponds)
|One of Herman the Sturgeon's tank mates|
The fourth largest waterfall in the US, Multonomah Falls is 610 feet tall and is almost always flowing - even in summer - as it's fed by rainwater, an underground spring and snow melt. You can view the falls from the bottom, or walk several hundred feet up the paved trail to view it from a bridge for a different vantage point. This is an extremely popular spot to visit - I believe it's ranked the number one thing to visit in Oregon - and it can get super crowded. There is a parking lot across the street but the day we were there, it was totally full with a mile back up just to turn in. There is also an overflow lot but we decided to have the driver stay with the vehicle - he couldn't go anywhere else - and just run up and see the falls. It ended up being quite an ordeal as the traffic was unreal, so we were able to get ice cream at the Multonomah Falls Lodge, located in front of the falls. I would suggest visiting here on an off-season weekday if possible. It's pretty all year long so why not make it easy on yourself.
Horsetail Falls is located in the "waterfall corridor" of the Gorge and is easily accessible. A few miles down the road from Multonomah, it was quite the different experience. We found parking easily and it was just a short walk to view the falls. In fact, we decided we preferred this falls as it's just as pretty - maybe not as majestic - but still pretty. We visited the lower falls but you can also take a short, but steep, walk to the upper falls. There is a Horsetail Falls Loop trail that takes you by 3 falls and takes a bit more time, also. (Please check on any hiking you would like to do as most trails on the Oregon side are closed until Summer 2018 due to the fire)
Vista House is one of the most beautiful scenic points on the Columbia River Highway. Built in 1917 as a travelers rest stop, it now houses a gift shop which sells local artwork and items and an espresso bar which are manned by volunteers with funds going back to the preservation of Vista House. You may take in the views from the lower level and climb the stairs to see the views from the balcony. And you certainly can't beat those views!
These certainly aren't the only stops you can make - you can spend a good amount of time here hiking, eating, drinking or taking in the views. But you can also drive the Gorge in a day. Your choice. Just make sure you get there once in your lifetime. You'll be so glad you did.
How about you? Have you driven the Gorge? What was your favorite part?
I'd love for you to follow me on:
Linking up with: WATW at Communal Global , The Weekend Wanderlust Weekend Travel Blog Party, Travel Photo Thursday at The Budget Travelers Sandbox and The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond!