Chasing Waterfalls: Highlights of the Columbia River Gorge

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I like to think the above photo says it all about our second day in Portland. We ventured outside of the city to what is indisputably the region’s crown jewel: the Columbia River Gorge.

Insert joke here about how “gorge”-eous it is.

The area is a water gap created by floods as recently as the Ice Age. The Columbia River creates the border between Oregon and Washington state, with tall basaltic walls and mountains rising up on each side. From the deep blues of the river, to the light blues of the sky, to the bright green plant life, to the rushing waters of the dozens of waterfalls, this is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

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Our first stop on the Columbia River Scenic Highway was Vista House, at Crown Point. The 1917 building was constructed for visitors and is a lovely place to get the first real extensive view of the area, in both directions. The house itself is gorgeous, with a dome shape and tall stained glass windows.

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Inside Vista House.

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The view of Beacon Rock from Vista House. We hiked this later in the day.

Next we headed to our first waterfall, Latourell Falls. Visible from the road from a historic bridge, they lie within Guy W. Talbot State Park. Latourell falls 224-feet straight down from a basalt column that is notable for the bright yellow lichen.

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We walked uphill first to see the falls from a more level perspective, before heading down under the falls.

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Beyond the waterfalls, this area was gorgeous. The giant spruces were magnificent!

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Next, we headed to probably the most famous falls of them all in the Gorge — Multnomah Falls. The two-tiered waterfall is an impressive 620-feet, distinguishing it as Oregon’s largest waterfall and supposedly the second-largest year-round waterfall in all of the United States.

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We walked up to Benson Footbridge, which stretches across the space between the two spans.

IMG_4244Looking down at the lower tier.

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Joel and the upper tier.

We stopped briefly at the very busy Multnomah Lodge to grab a quick hotdog before heading on to our most challenging excursion of the day — Oneonta Gorge (read more about that here).

After we dried off a bit in the sun, we headed towards our next adventure: Beacon Rock. But before we crossed over into Washington State to hike up the trails built on the side of this monolith, we took a small detour to Marine Park and Thunder Island in Cascade Locks, OR. It offered a nice view of the Bridge of the Gods, although the wind between the island and mainland was incredible —  I thought it was going to blow us away, it was so strong!

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We then headed to Washington. This is just after we passed over the Bridge of Gods.

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We headed to Beacon Rock, a towering monolith of nearly 850 feet located in the aptly named Beacon River State Park. It was purchased by Henry Biddle for $1 in 1915. A path of switchbacks and precarious rails was constructed to reach the top over the next few years. Once the core of a volcano, it’s now a pleasant state park with a mile-path to the top.

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The views from atop the rock were lovely — you could see up and down the Columbia River. It wasn’t too bad a hike up and the hike down was even easier.

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From there, we headed to Everybody’s Brewing in White Salmon, WA for some food and drink. We sat on the patio, which had the most beautiful view of Mt. Hood.

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This mountain had me enthralled from the moment I saw it on the plane!

We headed back into Portland as the sun began to set, painting a lovely view for us on the ride home.

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Coming up soon: Pittock Mansion, the International Test Rose Garden and the Oregon Coast!

 

 

 

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