Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Columbia River Gorge

Without floating the river, perhaps the best way to see the Columbia River Gorge is to drive the Historic Columbia River Highway.  Samuel Lancaster’s engineering prowess designed the road that was Sam Hill’s dream.  Of course, the road has been upgraded and resurfaced a time or two since 1915, but the stone walls and historic bridges (now covered with moss) are still here for us to enjoy.  I’m sure Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery would have given much for a road in 1805 when they passed this way.

Although the skies were very overcast this morning, the rain from yesterday had moved on and we decided to go ahead with our plan to drive along the Historic highway.  We saw no evidence of sun until mid afternoon, not the best day for dynamic photographs.  Since we are only planning to be in the area this week, we don’t have the luxury of waiting for perfect weather.

We drove eastward on the Oregon side of the river for about 50 miles, crossed the river and came back to our campground along the Washington side.
Beautiful stonework along the highway

A key feature of this scenic byway are the numerous water falls cascading and free falling over the rim into picturesque pools and then on out to the Columbia River.  We stopped at three falls, the last of which was the granddaddy of them all--Multnomah Falls--the 4th tallest waterfall in the nation at 620 feet.
Multnomah Falls
A portion of the old road has been replaced by the interstate.  Even though it follows right next to the river, I-84 is just not the same as the old road.
Bridal Falls
After crossing into Washington the return trip took us closer to the river than when on the Historic Highway.  The Gorge is notoriously windy.  We didn’t notice any wind as we drove along the highway, but there were white caps on the river.  These windy conditions create a perfect place for wind sailing.  Even on this cool, cloudy day, there were several enthusiastic sailors on the water.

The Historic Highway is also a popular place for a long distance bicycle rides.  There were several bikers out today and one bicycle adventure touring group complete with the sag wagon.

We had planned to go farther up the Gorge, but many stops at overlooks and waterfalls (which usually required a bit of a hike to get to a view point) took longer than we expected.  If we find an opportunity later in the week, we may do another section.

We are not sure what is on the agenda next.  We want to go back downtown and Mt. Hood awaits.  Odds are, we’ll go back downtown tomorrow.

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