Gorgeous Gorge – Columbia River Gorge part 2

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Traveling through and around the Gorge is easy, and to really experience the Gorge is to drive  from east to west or vice versa depending on where you originate from.  It should also be driven following State Route 14 on the Washington side and the busier highway 84 on the Oregon side, or much will be missed.  The breathtaking beauty of the Gorge and surrounding areas are full of remarkable views depending on your direction, time of day and weather.  State Route 14 (a.k.a Lewis and Clark highway ) and I-84 are both scenic highways, and driving them completes the Gorge Loop and one must stop along the way to take in the various sights and towns.

We arrived at the Gorge from the east, Washington side on State Route 14, and what we saw from there were sweeping views of the Gorge, gigantic rock formations, quaint towns, vineyards and Mt Hood.

Rock Formation, Columbia Gorge

Rock formations and vineyard

Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge

The Dalles Bridge

The Dalles Bridge connects Murdock, WA to The Dalles OR on the eastern side of the Gorge

The Historical Columbia River Highway (Oregon) is another option to travel back in time circa 1913,  a winding road amidst lush green trees and stonework construction.  On the east end we took the 9 mile scenic route paralleling I-84, climbing to the Rowena Plateau and stopping at the Rowena Crest Overlook which is the eastern companion to the Crown Point Overlook on the west.  The dramatic views of the Rowena Loops and the dry eastern landscape are not to be missed.

Columbia River Gorge

Rowena Crest Overlook

View from the Rowena Crest Overlook

Historic Columbia River Highway

The Historic Columbia River Highway towards the Rowena Crest

Rowena Loops, Columbia River Gorge

Rowena Loops

On the west end of the Historical Columbia River Highway, our drive took us to the many beautiful cascading waterfalls and lush greenery that we described in part 1 of this post.  We began the drive  at Chanticleer Point which has astounding views of the river and the Gorge that can be seen from the tops of cliffs.

Highway Columbia River Highway

Lushier Highway Columbia River Highway on the westside

Chanticleer Point, Columbia River Gorge

View from Chanticleer Point with Vista House on the foreground

Continuing down the Byway, we arrived at the Vista House at Crown Point, one of the most photographed sites along the Historic Columbia River Highway.  In 1913 Samuel Lancaster, the highway’s chief engineer, believed that this outcropping of land located atop a 733-foot sheer cliff overlooking the Columbia River was one of the most spectacular vistas in the world.  We agreed.  It was a view to behold.

Columbia River Gorge

The Gorge looking east

Columbia River Gorge

The Gorge looking west

Vista House, Crown Point

Vista House, Crown Point

Tunnel on Highway 14, Columbia River Gorge

One of the many tunnels on State Route 14, the lowest height was 12’9″

On another day we drove the Mt Hood Scenic Byway (approx. 145 miles) and the entire trip is picturesque with Mt Hood as the focal point.  At 11,245 feet, Mt. Hood is the highest point in Oregon, the fourth highest peak in the Cascade Range and one of the state’s most recognizable landmarks.  Starting from the west we came into  the timberline and this byway lead us through classic Oregon scenery.  At the end of this drive we made several stops in the Hood River Fruit Loop, a scenic driving route that takes you around to several local farms where you can pay a small amount for U-pick fruits and other goodies.

Bridge of the Gods,Cascade Locks

Bridge of the Gods, connects OR and WA at the west end of Cascade Locks

Mt Hood, OR

Background of the fruit loop

Lavender Farm, Columbia River Gorge

Lavender Farm

Hood River Bridge,White Salmon, WA to Hood River, OR

Hood River Bridge, connecting White Salmon, WA to Hood River, OR

We took a quick detour from SR 14 (WA) and drove up Old Highway 8 where we enjoyed more outstanding views of the Gorge and some good wines at the local wineries.  Oh yeah, we bought a few bottles too!

SR 14, Columbia River Gorge

Looking down at SR 14

Garnier Vineyards, Columbia River Gorge

Garnier Vineyards in the morning haze

We were advised that this area is beset by mountain fires this time of the year.

fires at the Columbia River Gorge

This fire covered the gorge with smoke for several days.

So have we covered and seen everything?  Despite a week stay here, there are still nooks and crannies in the gorgeous Gorge to be explored.

Waterfalls Heaven – Columbia River Gorge Part 1

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Steve is smiling for he can now check one off from his bucket list, the Columbia River Gorge.  The Columbia River Gorge is an impressive river canyon carved by the Columbia river as it flows into the Pacific Ocean. It stretches over 80 miles and is shared by the states of Washington and Oregon.  Mt Adams to the north and Mt Hood to the south flank the gorge and the mighty Columbia River runs through its middle.  The bridges that connects the states are:  The Dalles to the east, the Hood River in the middle and the Bridge of the Gods to the west.  The Gorge is recognized as a destination for exploring the natural beauty and cultural richness of the Pacific Northwest.  Geologists must love this place with all its cliffs, rock formations and rugged terrain.

Columbia Gorge

The only wildlife seen on the highway on our way to the Gorge.

We spent a whole week exploring and enjoying the gorgeousness while staying at White Salmon on the WA side as our base camp.  During our stay, we weaved in and out of Washington and Oregon through their $1.00 toll bridges and drove from east to west by taking highway 14 on the Washington shore and 84 on the Oregon side.  We had an action-packed week and we loved it despite some hazy and smoky days.

What did we learn and enjoy? Plenty ! and so we will have more than one post  to talk about the gorgeous gorge.

Lets start with the waterfalls.  Oregon has 77 waterfalls and the Gorge contains the greatest concentration of waterfalls in North America.  These spectacular waterfalls are all within approximately a 15-mile stretch!  Traveling along the Historic Columbia River Highway 30 on the Oregon side of the Gorge, we were able to view five different waterfalls cascading over the walls of the Gorge.

Our trek began at the Latourell Falls which is usually the first waterfall seen along the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway if coming from the west.  The falls plunge 224 feet over a massive wall of columnar basalt – some of the best formations in the Pacific Northwest – before cascading hastily towards the Columbia River.

Latourell Falls

Latourell Falls

What was distinctive to this fall is the large patch of bright yellow lichen adorning the cliff face to the right of the falls, and maybe because of this we saw several photographers in the area.

Close up of yellow lichen , Latourell Falls

Close up of yellow lichen

Close up of Columnar Basalt,Latourell Falls

Close up of Columnar Basalt

Next stop was the Shepperds’ Dell Falls.  Though looking straight down from the bridge will allow one to see the two final drops, only the 45 foot tier and a pair of the small cascades above it are clearly visible.

 Sheppards Dell Falls

Sheppards Dell Falls

3.5 miles later we park our car and hiked for about 2.2 miles roundtrip to get to the base of the Bridal Veil falls, considered as the most pristine among the waterfalls in the area. This two tiered falls are the only in the area which occurs below the historic Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway – the base of the falls standing probably no more than 20 vertical feet above the Columbia River.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Continuing on the drive the next stop was Wahkeena falls.  At 242 feet, it can be seen from the Wahkeena picnic area across the Historic Highway and is the most scenic waterfall along the historic Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway.  It is unique among the major waterfalls in this section of the Gorge in that it possesses a significant alluvial fan in both size and elevation.

Wahkeena Falls

Wahkeena Falls

Then about half a mile later  is where  the most visited natural attraction in Oregon is located, the Multnomah Falls.  It is the highest waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge with a total drop of 620 feet.  We did a 2.5 mile hike up to the top of the falls with 11 switchbacks and a 650 foot elevation gain.  Although the top was not as spectacular as we expected, the hike was a good workout.

Multnomah Waterfalls

Multnomah Waterfalls

Multnomah Falls

Top of Multnomah Falls, spot the tourists looking up, can you see them?

Our final viewing of waterfalls along the historic highway was the Horsetail Falls.  This one is considered  pretty much the epitome of the Horsetail form with views from 180 degrees around the falls.

HorseTail Falls

HorseTail Falls

The above beauties were all accessible from the highway, two other waterfalls that we located and viewed required quite a hike.  Both Metlako Falls and Punchbowl are located along the Eagle Creek trail in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic area.  Metlako Falls drop out of a narrow, calm pool, and thunder into an impressive gorge.

Metlako Falls

Metlako Falls

The Punch Bowl falls occur where Eagle Creek cuts through a narrow channel flanked by cliffs, and shoots powerfully into a large bowl.  The falls’ name is a very descriptive one, as it’s easy to see it’s resemblance to an actual bowl you’d pour punch into.

Punchbowl Falls

Punchbowl Falls

And we viewed what we can in one long day, but did we see them all ? Nope, we missed two along the historic highway Oneonta and Elowah Falls (not sure why we overlooked them). Are they not all beautiful?