In terms of scenery, it’s hard not to be enchanted by the Columbia River Gorge, aka The Gorge. Whether you go in for forested mountains, seemingly boundless tawny bluffs, wind-riffed river or waterfalls there’s occasion to keep a camera handy. However, besides enjoying the natural assets of this river gorge, there are a number of other area must-sees to make this trip worth your while, provided you can make it past the numerous tasting rooms that stand temptingly in your path.
A great place to start is the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in The Dalles, Oregon. Not only is the architecture cool, but the exhibits inside offer a fascinating introduction to the region’s history and geology. While in The Dalles, also take a wander around to catch some of the big Lewis and Clark-related murals gracing buildings around town.
About 20 miles east, the Sam Hill Memorial Bridge crosses the Columbia River providing access to the Maryhill Museum of Art on the Washington side of the river. In addition to a number of works by Auguste Rodin and other artists, the museum boasts (housed in a beaux-arts style mansion and open seasonally) 26 acres of carefully cultivated gardens to explore, with don’t-miss views of the gorge from spots like the Lewis & Clark overlook. Another (unexpected) local attraction is the World War I memorial to fallen soldiers from Klickitat County: it’s not the memorial that’s unexpected so much as the fact that it’s designed to be a fairly accurate replica of Stonehenge, in the United Kingdom.
Another intriguing stop on the Columbia River Gorge? The Bonneville Lock & Dam. You can spot chinook and coho salmon at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery, watch migrating fish underwater through viewing windows at the Bradford Island Visitors Center and see how the navigation lock works all on the Oregon side of the river. Cross over to the Washington Shore Visitors Complex for a tour of the powerhouse and everything you wanted to know about hydropower plants.
Thus educated in geology, history, art, horticulture, ichthyology and the ways of the river, do leave a few hours free to visit some of those fine tasting rooms. You’ve earned it.