Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Columbia River Gorge

Our odyssey down the Columbia River Gorge began from Hood River. During our first night in this small tourist town we “sampled” a couple of the award-winning beers at the Full Sail Brewery, so I was feeling my absolute best as we ventured onto the Fruit Loop the next day. Fittingly, there was a bit of fog and rain in the area as we started out that morning.

The Fruit Loop is a 35-mile scenic drive through the orchards and farmlands of the Hood River valley. Many of the farms sell their own produce, or products made from their own produce. We purchased a few of the items that were in season at that time, including some apples, peaches and pears.

Many of the farms also offer free tastings of their jams, jellies, salsas, and other locally made products. We tried some very interesting and tasty flavors along the way. Rasmussen Farms had an especially good peach and mango salsa that we took home with us. At the Apple Valley Country Store and Bakery the four of us got huckleberry shakes, and shared a scrumptious blueberry pie for brunch.

With our bellies full, we drove the 24 miles down I-84 to visit the historic Bonneville Lock and Dam. At the gate we were greeted by an armed guard who asked if we had any guns or weapons, and then proceeded to check our trunk for bombs or any other contraband before allowing us onto the Federal property.

The first powerhouse, spillway and lock at Bonneville were completed in 1938 in order to improve navigation on the Columbia River, and to provide hydropower to the Pacific Northwest. At that time, Bonneville’s first lock was the largest single-lift lock in the world. In 1986 the entire lock and dam district was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. My brother-in-law, an engineer for a power company in Ohio, was in heaven as we toured the power room.

I thought the fish ladders, and actually getting to see Steelhead and Chinook Salmon swim upstream, to be extremely cool. The fish ladders extend from the river downstream of the dam to Lake Bonneville upstream, and allow passageway for adult fish to migrate upstream.

Windows set-up next to the ladders in the visitor center allow for people to view the fish during this process.

Our next destination along the Columbia River took us to a series of waterfalls just west of Troutdale. Here we visited Horsetail Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Latourell Falls, and of course, the world famous Multnomah Falls. In all, there are 53 waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge: 40 on the Oregon side, and 13 on the Washington side.

Horsetail Falls plunges 176 feet into a pool next to the Historic Columbia River Highway:

Latourell Falls, a 249-foot waterfall, sits a little further back off the road:

Multnomah Falls plummets more than 600 feet in two major tiers, making it the tallest waterfall in Oregon. We also hiked to the top of falls.

The Columbia River Gorge is roughly 85 miles long. To help protect this national treasure, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area was established in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan. Within this 292,500-acre area are 13 state parks and 218 miles of trails, including two national trails, the Pacific Crest Trail National Scenic Trail, and the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

There are also more than 1000 historic buildings and archaeological sites within the CRGNSA, including the Vista House at Crown Point, our next stop.

The Vista House was built in 1916 to provide a lookout point and rest stop for motorists. It was also built as a memorial to Oregon pioneers. The octagonal stone structure towers 733 feet above the Columbia River, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Crown Point, a National Natural Landmark, also offers sweeping views of the Columbia River Gorge.

Moon Spotlight Columbia River Gorge is a compact 60-page guide covering the best of this spectacular geological wonder. Award-winning travel writer Ericka Chickowski offers firsthand advice on must-see attractions. This lightweight guide is packed with recommendations on entertainment, shopping, recreation, accommodations, food, and transportation, making navigating this region of incredible wilderness and artistic attractions uncomplicated and enjoyable.

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