Columbia River Gorge
I was excited to drive out to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, where the mighty Columbia River cuts through the Cascade Mountain Range, while also dividing Washington and Oregon States in the USA. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest knowing and loving the powerful Columbia, the fourth largest river in the US by water volume.
Leaving in darkness from the Portland, Oregon, area I was eager to see the river at dawn. Highway 84 ushered me out of the city. When driving in this area during daylight hours I love getting off the big highway and taking Historic Columbia Highway Scenic Byway – Route 30. Take time to enjoy the slower, mossy, ferny, forested, beautiful road, waterfall after waterfall, ending at Multnomah Falls. (Troutdale exit 17 will get you started on this fabulous section.)
I continued east and didn’t begin following scenic Highway 30 until after Multnomah Falls because my goal was to see the Columbia River at dawn. Plus, unfortunately, the very recent devastating Eagle Creek fire in this area is still under management and the road past all the many waterfalls remains closed.
Look again for signs to leave Highway 84 for Scenic Highway 30 near the Bridge of the Gods at Cascade Locks. Following this beautiful road built between 1913 and 1922, I find myself up on a plateau, above the fast multi-lane highway below. The morning light, changing fall colors, and clouds are outstanding! I’m delighted for the sunshine after days of typical Northwest stormy weather.
Rowena Crest Lookout provides breathtaking views. The stepped shelves seen on the opposite shore reveal massive ice-age flooding which carved this gorge.
This National Scenic Highway Route 30 (in the very near foreground of this photo, rock wall in the bottom left) was designed with views, not costs or building challenges, in mind. What a lasting treasure!
“Grades, curvatures, distances and even expense were sacrificed to reach some scenic vista or to develop a particularly interesting spot…… Although the highway would have commercial value in connecting the coast with the eastern areas, no consideration was given the commercial over the scenic requirements. The one prevailing idea in the location and construction was to make this Highway a great scenic boulevard surpassing all other highways in the world.” John A. Elliott, Engineer, 1929
Memaloose Island in this photo, like other islands of the dead in the Columbia River, is where Native American Indians placed their dead wrapped in robes or tule mats. (Most of the other islands of the dead are underwater now as a result of an extensive network of dams on the Columbia River.)
This section of Historic Highway 30 ends at The Dalles, a perfect place for a coffee stop. (Visit this website that has further detailed information about Scenic Highway 30.) While the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area ends just a little farther east of The Dalles, the river vistas beyond this point continue to be beautiful. I continue following the Columbia River into Washington State by turning north on highway 82 to Umatilla, then east again on highway 730 and 12.
Beautiful country! The open vastness is a reminder of the God-everywhere principle…..center everything, circumference nowhere.
I met up with my aunt from Eastern Washington at Sand Station Recreational Area on Highway 730 just east of Umatilla. We camped there for the night, enjoying a black sand beach and colorful sunset. God of Beauty reigning!
I drove back to the Portland area the following day, this time driving on the Washington side of the Columbia River, driving Highway 14. By Google maps it’s a 20-minute sacrifice, but for me this scenic road is the recipe for more inspiring, fantastic views. Highway 14 often stays higher on the plateau than Highway 84 on the Oregon side of the river, giving broad sweeping views, mile after mile. Traffic is also far less now than the multi-lane Highway 84; passing is easy if needed. So amble your way along and enjoy!
I found myself pulling off often to marvel at the captivating spell of the river. Returning eastbound on this north side of the river (see header photo) gives another lovely surprise on a sunny day: snowy Mount Hood (as seen in the top photo of this post).
Hang gliders near the John Day Damn are a driver distraction! Also found at milepost 84 is an important and delightful petroglyph called “She Who Watches.” One needs an advance reservation to visit this petroglyph; one possible way to reserve is here.
The constant gawking at the stunning beauty on both sides of the Columbia River is a great reason to take a break and experience the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Driving east on the Oregon side and west on the Washington side will, in my opinion, provide you the best views each direction. Don’t miss it!
I walked the Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage in Spain from 30 August, to 10 October, 2017. If you’d like to read my Camino stories that begin at Saint Jean Pied de Port, begin here.
I walked the Camino as a fundraiser to build a new Ananda Temple of Light. Completing over 500 miles (800km) and 1,250,000 steps in 42 days, I gratefully welcome your thoughtful gift to help with the Temple construction. We anticipate opening the doors for the new Temple in July 2019, on Ananda’s 50th birthday. All donations are tax-deductible, no amount is too small. Like my walk of the Camino one step and one day at a time, each gift to the Temple represents additional blessings and energy added to the whole. Many blessings to you! May we all be One in that Light.
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