Thursday, June 21, 2018

Driving the Columbia River Gorge through Oregon and Washington

In September 2017 nearly 50,000 acres of the Washington and Oregon sides of the Columbia River Gorge were burned in the Eagle Creek Fire. The fire was started by a 15 year old boy  igniting fireworks during a burn ban. (The teen was sentenced to 1,920 hours of community service with the US Forest Service and 5 years of probation along with the possibility of having to pay $37 million in restitution) And though the fire was devastating, there is signs of regrowth some 9 months later though most hiking trails in the burn are still closed.

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
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!







Stonehenge Memorial
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


Multonomah Falls
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
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
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?


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Linking up with: WATW at Communal Global , The Weekend Wanderlust Weekend Travel Blog PartyTravel Photo Thursday at The Budget Travelers Sandbox and The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond!











20 comments:

  1. One of my favorite drives in the US! We've done it often, and I agree with you, it's one of those scenic drives you have to do at least once. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard

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  2. I like it that you always take time on your trips to explore the sites and you don't rush. Road trips are the best way to see a lot and pace your trip as you like. We took a road trip across the USA some 25 years ago and passed through Oregon. We didn't have time to stop at all these sites, but I'd love to go back and maybe drive up to Washington state, like you did. Beautiful pictures! #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    1. Thanks, Anda - and I wish we could take more travel time and hope to do that when we retire. Hope you make it back to the Gorge someday!

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  3. I drove from Seattle down the coast to California recently and only touched on a bit of this drive. Multnomah Falls was amazing. I wish I had ventured to see the fish ladder at Bonneville Dam.

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    1. My son just did the drive from Seattle to California recently and thought it was amazing. I'm sure you saw some wonderful scenery on your trip. Thanks for visiting, Rhonda!

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  4. No, I've not driven the Columbia Gorge, yet, but I hope to one day. I would love to see Multonomah Falls and windsurfers on the river.

    #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    1. Thanks for visiting The Unpaved Road, Ericka!

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  5. It’s been awhile since we visited the Columbia Gorge area. It was an early Spring visit and even then it was very scenic and beautiful. We didn’t get to visit as many atteactions as you did but Multnomah Falls was so impressive.

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    1. Thanks for visiting The Unpaved Road, Mary!

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  6. Wow! Amazing pictures. I've never heard of that concert venue before, but I'm always on the lookout for beautiful and unique places to see concerts. I'm going to have to look it up. I've always wanted to see the the waterfalls in Columbia Gorge, especially Multnomah Falls and it doesn't hurt that the area has great wine.

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    1. Thank you! And thanks for visiting The Unpaved Road!

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  7. That waterfall looks amazing. I'd love to see that. Great trip.

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    1. It was! Thanks for visiting The Unpaved Road!

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  8. Wow! This reminds me of driving along the Ohio River in West Virginia, and the New River Gorge. Absolutely stunning scenery, there and around the Columbia River. We'd love to see it in person someday. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard!

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    1. The New River Gorge is beautiful - I've always wanted to go for Bridge Jump day. Thanks for visiting The Unpaved Road!

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  9. There is no doubt that this is a great area of the Pacific Northwest. I have always wanted to visit Portland but I think my desire of seeing the natural side of Oregon is greater than seeing the city. #TPThursday

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    1. Portland is so close to the Gorge that you could do both in one trip - hope you make it there someday! Thanks for visiting, Ruth!

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  10. I would especially like to visit Multnomah Falls -- I've seen photos of it for years. I didn't realize it never dries up. The blue sky and clouds in several of your photos are stunning. What a great adventure!

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    1. Thanks, Sharon - and thanks for visiting!

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