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Historic Columbia River Highway

Basics
Location:
Along the Columbia River in northwestern Oregon
Surface:
Paved
Length:
70 miles (112 km)
Time:
Two hours to drive or three to five days to enjoy this Byway.
Season:
Drivable year round

Description

The Historic Columbia River Highway is considered one of the greatest engineering feats of the modern age. It was also the first highway deemed a National Historic Landmark. This world of natural beauty is peppered with hundred foot waterfalls overlooking the river valley below, and is home to many plants that are only found in this area.

The drive starts in Troutdale 16 miles east from Portland. Travel south along the Columbia River on I-84 until it reaches Dalles and the end of the byway.

Experience the rich diversity of life in the river valley by taking a windsurfing lesson at Hood River which his one of the world's windsurfing capitols. Whitewater rafting, hiking, hang-gliding, and cultural sites are all within the day's drive. Be sure to stop and see some highlights of the trip like Bridal Veil and Multnomah Falls or any of the 125 historic sites along the Historic Oregon Trail.

Points of Interest

Points of Interest Along The Way

Ainsworth State Park (OR)

Nestled in the awe-inspiring Columbia River Gorge, Ainsworth is equal parts waterfall wonderland, hiker's playground and camper's delight.

Benson State Recreation Area (OR)

Simon Benson was a lumber magnate, philanthropist, and one of the principal promoters of the Historic Columbia River Gorge Highway. Located one mile west of Multnomah, this park draws picnickers and has a disc golf course and a reservable shelter.

Directions

From Troutdale, follow I-84 east to milepost 30.

Bonneville Lock and Dam (OR)

Bonneville Lock and Dam connects Washington and Oregon and is a National Historic Landmark.

There are two visitors centers. The one accessed from exit 40 on Interstate 84 highlights history of the dam and the fish ladder. The one accessed from Washington State Route 14 concentrates on electricity generation, with a trip down into a giant turbine. The Oregon side also includes a fish hatchery with views of salmon and sturgeon.

It takes more than 100 people to operate and maintain Bonneville Lock and Dam each year. The work force includes engineers, powerhouse and lock operators, office administrators, skilled laborers, warehouse workers, biologists and park rangers.

Directions

Interstate 84 from Portland to exit 40, or Washington State highway 14 from Vancouver to milepost 40.

Bridal Veil Falls (OR)

These falls are worth the short, verdant walk from the car. The trail to the falls will also take you, shortly, to an overlook of the river.

Directions

A few miles east of Crown Point and Vista House.

Bridge of the Gods (OR)

The Bridge of the Gods as it exists today was created in a much less glamorous fashion than the original, natural one. It was built by man, by hand, and with difficulty.

Constructed in 1926, the Bridge of the Gods is the third oldest bridge on the Columbia River. It plays a major role in the Pacific Crest Trail by linking Oregon and Washington states.

Revenues from the bridge pay for maintenance, painting and inspections along with repayment of the bonds that built the bridge. While the cost to build the bridge was $602,077.58, it could cost around $13 million to replace the bridge as it stands today.

The original, natural bridge was constructed in a much grander way. Indian legend says the Great Spirit built a bridge of stone that was a gift of great magnitude. Scientists say that about 1,000 years ago the mountain on the Washington side of the Columbia river (near what is now the town of Cascade Locks,) caved off, blocking the river.

The natural dam was high enough to cause a great inland sea covering the inland prairies as far away as Idaho. For many years, natural erosion slowly weakened the dam and finally washed it out.

The waters of the inland sea rushed out, tearing away more of the earth and rock until a great tunnel was formed under the mountain range, leaving a natural bridge over the water. The bridge was called "The Great Cross Over" and is now named "The Bridge of the Gods."

Directions

On the border of Oregon (Cascade Locks) and Washington.

Cascade Locks (OR)

This town is named for the series of locks built near it in 1896. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail passes through here (via the famous Bridge of the Gods). Cascade Locks is a friendly community and has everything you'll need. It also has great camping and windsurfing.

Directions

I-84 exit 45

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (OR)

The National Scenic Area, part of the dramatic Columbia River Gorge, offers thrilling views and includes many campgrounds.

Directions

Most of the Historic Columbia River Highway is within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The Scenic Area includes both Oregon and Washington for a stretch of about 80 miles along the Columbia River.

Eagle Creek (OR)

Eagle Creek was the first recreational site designated in a National Forest (1915). A trail was constructed up Eagle Creek, which continues to be a popular day hike or backpacking trip today. The recreational area was expanded during the construction of Bonneville Dam to include an Overlook, with many picnic tables, stoves and a shelter, where people could watch the construction of the Dam. The area includes many stone walls and three major wooden structures (the Overlook Shelter, a Community Kitchen and Big John, thought to be the first flush toilet in a Forest Service facility).

The original camping area is now a picnic site, with the camping moved to the top of the hill, just to the east. The Historic Columbia River Highway brings visitors by way of the Eagle Creek Bridge, the only stone-masonry faced concrete bridge on the Highway. The bridge has a pedestrian observatory constructed into the northwest corner, where you can watch salmon swim in the Creek.

Two interpretive signs describe early camping at Eagle Creek and the construction work of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Directions

Interstate 84 exit 41

Fruit Loop (OR)

One of the most prolific fruit producing valleys in the world, Hood River Valley's soil is said to be prime for fruit growing because of the volcanic soil produced by centuries of eruptions by Mt. Hood.

This valley is one of the nation's largest Anjou pear growing districts, as it produces over 30 percent of the nation's winter pears.

This part of the route, "the loop," hosts many local fruit-celebrating events throughout the year.

Directions

Hood Valley - Oregon state routes 282, 281 and 35 travel through famous apple, pear and cherry groves, with views of Mt. Hood.

Gorge Discovery Center and Wasco County Museum (OR)

The Discovery Center and Museum are located in the eastern end of the Columbia River Gorge. Plan to spend a whole day with the family, on your own, as a tour group, or with your students! Visitors can explore two museums, located in separate wings, talk with pioneers in the summer living history encampment, view films in the theater, stroll along the interpretive trail near the thriving pond, watch art demonstrations, and attend daily talks. Visitors can also break up the day by shopping in the museum store and eating lunch in the Basalt Rock Cafe.

The Discovery Center is the official interpretive center for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Exhibits in the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center bring the tremendous volcanic upheavals and raging floods that created the Gorge to life, describe the mighty river which sculpted patterns for the region's unique and spectatular diversity of vegetation, wildlife, and ancient ways of life, and follow the currents that shape the region's collective future.

Wasco County Historical Museum preserves and shares the interesting and colorful history of a county that was once the largest in the nation. More than 10,000 years of continuous occupation have yielded a vibrant cultural tapestry woven from the overlapping experiences of Native Americans, explorers, traders, missionaries, military, emigrants and settlers. The museum's collections house thousands of objects of historic interest.

In a stunning setting high on a bluff overlooking the Columbia River, a network of footpaths winds through the Oregon Trail Living History Park. Here visitors can step back in time to experience the excitment and hazards typical of emigration on the Oregon Trail, a Lewis and Clark expedition campsite or the joy and hardship of early settlers. Living History performances are every Saturday and Sunday, beginning Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.

Directions

The Gorge Discovery Center is located at Crate`s Point, just west of The Dalles on the Historic Columbia River Highway. When traveling eastbound, it can be reached by exiting to the Historic Columbia River Highway from I-84 at Rowena.

Details

Location:
Along the Columbia River in northwestern Oregon
Surface:
Paved
Length:
70 miles (112 km)
Time:
Two hours to drive or three to five days to enjoy this Byway.
Main Roads:
I-84 E
Season:
Drivable year round

Map + Directions

Customizable Directions


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