Travel Destinations

Monday, October 6, 2014

Driving Oregon’s Historic Columbia River Highway

Columbia River Gorge Oregon
View of the Columbia River Gorge from the Portland Women's Forum State Scenic Viewpoint.
One of the most beautiful days you can spend in Oregon is driving through the Columbia River Gorge.  The Columbia Gorge, just a few miles east of Portland, is a long canyon cut through by the Columbia River.  The Columbia Gorge has historical significance.  Lewis and Clark paddled down the Columbia River.  The Columbia River Highway, one of America's great scenic drives, was built in the early 1900s and was one of the first paved roads in the Pacific Northwest.  Today there is also a major highway that travels through the Columbia River Gorge, but sightseers will want to avoid the interstate and instead follow the slower Historic Columbia River Highway, making stops along the way to enjoy the views, waterfalls, and trails. 

Multnomah Falls Columbia River Gorge Oregon
Multnomah Falls.
If starting a tour of the Columbia River Gorge from Portland, the first views of the Columbia Gorge will be seen from the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint.  There is also a view of the Vista House, which can be visited farther down the road and displays a collection of historical photos.

The Columbia River Gorge has a high concentration of waterfalls, so you’ll need to pick and choose which ones you visit.  Some are right on the side of the road while others require a short hike.  Some of the waterfalls to visit are Latourell Falls, Shepherd’s Dell Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Wahkeena Falls, and many more.  

The most popular waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge is Multnomah Falls, and for good reason.  Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in Oregon, and fourth tallest in the United States.  Multnomah Falls is very picturesque, dropping from the top of the canyon, hitting a pool of water, and dropping off another ledge.  A trail leads up to the arched bridge spanning the upper pool.  If you climb up to the bridge, expect to get wet.

There are some non-nature attractions along the Historic Columbia River Highway as well.  The Bonneville Fish Hatchery is where different species of fish are raised before being released into the river.  The fish can be seen in different holding pools as well as ponds, and very large sturgeon can be seen through viewing windows within the ponds.  

Just across the way are the Bonneville Lock and Dam with a museum about the history of the dam.  Our last stop along the Columbia River Gorge was the Bridge of the Gods, which connects Oregon and Washington.  According to Native American legend there used to be a natural bridge at this spot.

Bridge of the Gods Columbia River Gorge Oregon
Bridge of the Gods.
It’s easy to lose track of time with so many stops along the Historic Columbia River Highway, so try to set aside an entire day for the trip.  

Travel the World: One of the most beautiful days you can spend in Oregon is driving through the Columbia River Gorge.

Katherine Belarmino and Romeo Belarmino are the authors of Travel the World, a travel blog for the everyday working stiff. They work full-time in non-travel related jobs, but take every opportunity they can to travel the world during their limited vacation time.