During my very quick three-day visit home to Oregon, my sister, my father, and I spent one day driving the scenic Columbia River Gorge loop. We started in Portland, crossed the Columbia River via the I-5 bridge at Jantzen Beach and entered Washington State. We headed east along the river on the Washington side via Highway 14.
Highway 14 runs along the river and is quite scenic in spots. The entire drive, with stops in Stevenson for lunch, Cascade Locks for sightseeing, Bonneville Fish Hatchery to view the sturgeon, the Bonneville Dam to see the dam up close and the fish ladder, and finally at Multnomah Falls, took us approximately five hours.
The current “Bridge of the Gods” is nothing fantastic to see, but its history is interesting and it is officially part of the Pacific Crest Trail.
Here is an excerpt from the website:
Scientists believe that about 1,000 years ago, a giant landslide from the north shore of the Columbia River blocked the Gorge and stopped the river’s flow. This natural dam created an inland sea in eastern Oregon, Washington, and into Idaho. Over time, water eroded the dam and created an awesome natural stone bridge. Eventually, this bridge fell, creating the Cascade rapids.
Native American legend also speaks of the creation and destruction of this natural bridge. The People of the Columbia River had great difficulty crossing the Columbia River. Manito, the Great Spirit, was sympathetic and build a stone bridge for them. This stone bridge, called the great crossover, was so important that Manito placed Loo-Wit, an old and wise woman, as its guardian.
Over time, the People began to fear that the bridge would wash away, and they appealed to the Great Spirit. Manito agreed to protect the bridge, and the grateful People gave it a new name, the Bridge of the Gods.
After crossing the bridge, we were back on the Oregon side of the Columbia at Cascade Locks. In Cascade Locks you can board a sternwheeler and cruise the Columbia River.
Cascade Locks was on the route of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1804 – 1806. Here in Cascade Locks is a statue of Sacagawea (Cagáàgawia in Hidatsa, meaning Bird Woman), the Shoshone woman who accompanied Meriwether Lewis and William Clark as an interpreter and guide. She was about 15 years old at the time, and pregnant with her first child when Lewis and Clark appeared on the scene and spent the winter of 1804 near the Hidatsa village. She accompanied them on their “arduous” journey carrying her baby on her back. Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, Sacagawea’s son, had lifelong celebrity status as the baby who went with the explorers to the Pacific Ocean.
Cascade Locks was also one of the stops on the Oregon Trail which followed the Columbia from The Dalles westward into Portland between 1830s to about 1869.
From Cascade Locks we headed westward along the river stopping at the Bonneville Dam and the Bonneville Fish Hatchery. The hatchery opened in 1909. In 1978 it was enlarged to compensate for the loss of Chinook spawning grounds when the John Day Dam was built.
We stopped at the Bonneville Dam to see the fish ladder, which allows the fish to bypass the dam. I had seen one once before in Seattle and was interested in a comparison with what Bonneville had set up. They have a very nice viewing center with many windows into the ladder.
The last stop on our loop was Multnomah Falls. The 620 foot drop is the second highest year round waterfall in the US and part of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area which runs from Troutdale to The Dalles.
The Gorge loop is a nice way to see some points of interest in both Washington and Oregon and a great way to spend a few hours on a sunny summer day. It was fun being a tourist in my own home town.