Monday, November 11, 2013

Oregon Vacation Day 6 - Columbia River Gorge

On Wednesday it was raining yet again. We decided to take the Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Drive anyway. This turned out to be my absolute favorite day of our vacation.

We picked up the historic highway 30 at Gresham and traveled east which was uphill to Crown Point. Construction on this highway started in 1913 and finished around 1922. When you think about that and look at how the highway is engineered to create as little disruption of the landscape as possible, it was an amazing feat of engineering.

The drive up to Crown Point takes you past orchards and vegetable farms. I haven't mentioned it before, but I was very surprised by how much farming takes place in Oregon. I knew that grapes, apples and evergreen trees grew here, but I had no idea how many vegetables are grown here, especially this late in the season. We also learned that Oregon is the grass seed capital of the world. I had no idea it was so verdant and green this late in the year. I guess all that rain is good for something. It was interesting to see farms with rows of vegetables interspersed with rows of Christmas trees or willow trees.

The last part of the trip to Crown Point is again very steep with a sharp drop off on one side of the highway. Once we could stop, I took over the driving for the day. This time I did not let Grandad drive again that until we were safely out of the mountains. Vista House sits atop Crown Point and boasts a breathtaking view of the Columbia River Gorge. It was built in 1916, at the same time as the highway to provide a rest stop for travelers. I thought it was interesting that the architect was Edgar Lazarus, brother of Emma Lazarus, who wrote the poem on the Statue of Liberty.

Vista House was not open while we were there so we didn't get to go inside, and, as you can see, the views in every direction were limited by clouds and rain. There was, however, a very nice park ranger there who gave us lots of helpful advice and directions. I did not get a good photo of Vista House from the bottom of the gorge, but it's really striking to see how high this point is. There is an excellent photo that will give you a great perspective of where the Vista House sits. I highly recommend that you click here and go see it.

Next, we continued down the highway which took us down the mountain, still on the Historic Columbia River Highway. The highway winds down the side of the mountain into a fifteen mile long area that contains some of the most spectacular waterfalls that you will see anywhere. The entire gorge contains some 77 waterfalls. Many of them are visible from the highway.

Our first stop was Latourell Falls which plunges 249 feet down the cliff-side. It is accessible by car, and you can hike to the top. We hiked about halfway up to the first overlook. It wasn't a hard climb at all. We imposed on a stranger who was hiking down the trail and he took a really nice photo of the two of us.My husband thought the cliff had been defaced with paint, but a little research explains that the large patch of yellow is actually lichen. I also learned that that patch of lichen makes this one of the most popular waterfalls for professional photographers.

Next down the highway is Bridal Veil Falls. It's a 2/3 mile round trip down a mostly paved trail down to the falls. Because of his arthritic knees and his fear of heights, Grandad elected not to make the climb down to see these falls. I went by myself. Part of the trail is paved and part of it has steps, so it's a fairly easy hike, although in places the incline is steep. I did question the wisdom of making this hike alone, but there was a young couple near me on the trail. I was pretty sure they would have helped if I'd needed it. It's definitely worth the hike. Bridal Veil Falls is a two-tiered fall with a total height of 112 feet. The tallest drop is 78 feet. You can hear this waterfall for a long time before you can see it.

The next falls were Wahkeena Falls. These falls are especially beautiful because they have both falls and cascades that fall in tiers down the side of the mountain. It's easily accessible from the highway and there is also a scenic overlook where you can see the gorge below.

Last stop for us on the Columbia River Gorge Historic Highway was Multnomah Falls. This is the most impressive of all the falls we saw. It's total drop is 611 feet. The top falls drop 542 feet and the bottom falls is 69 feet. At the base of the first falls is the Benson Bridge. You can walk up an inclined path and cross the bridge. More adventurous hikers can go beyond the bridge up a very steep path to the top of the falls. Grandad climbed the stairs to the viewing area at the base of the falls. I made the hike up to the bridge. It's not a hard hike, but it is fairly open on the side. If you have a fear of heights, this climb is probably not for you.

And this stop is the site of my absolute favorite photo from our trip.

That's me standing on Benson Bridge looking down. This photo was taken with Grandad's Samsung Galaxy S-3 telephone. I love the depth of this picture. I think it's beautiful.

By the time I finished the short hike up and back down, it was time for lunch so we stopped at the nearby Multnomah Falls Lodge for lunch. It's a beautiful old lodge built right at the base of the falls. There's a beautiful view of the falls from the cozy dining room. For some reason, I did not take a photo of the lodge. I did, however take some food photos. I had the roasted turkey sandwich with Washington grown cranberry sauce, cream cheese and arugula. It was very good. Grandad had the meatloaf sandwich on a cheddar brioche roll with onion catsup. I tasted both of them. Mine was good, but that meatloaf sandwich was awesome. I also loved the beautiful china it was served on. I was disappointed that they didn't have split pea soup the day we were there. I've been told it's the best split pea soup anywhere.

By the time we finished our late lunch, the light rain had turned to downpour. Our next stop would have been the Bonneville Lock and Dam, but it was still raining when we got there. We were wet, cold, and tired so we headed back to the condo.


  1. You certainly have had a wonderful - if wet - vacation! Thank you for sharing all the beautiful pictures of the falls! Love the picture of you on the bridge!

  2. Your blog is a pleasant discovery for me. Thank you for interesting stories and great photos. You are opened a new side of America to me. Thank you!

  3. Your blog is a pleasant discovery for me. Thank you for interesting stories and great photos. You are opened a new side of America to me.
    With gratitude from Russia.