Rolling on the river: Scenic Columbia tour offers history, hikes and waterfalls

Eren Göknar/Special to the Town Crier
The Columbia River’s Bonneville Lock and Dam, built circa 1933, attracts engineering enthusiasts.

The spectacular view from the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area will stay with you long after you’ve returned home.

If you’re anywhere near Portland, Ore., make time to travel along the grand waterway to see the amazing waterfalls from Troutdale to Dodson. Guided outfitters shepherd hikers through, or you can drive the historic Columbia River Highway, stopping at each of the parking areas to hike the trails up. Cute bed and breakfasts pop up along the route, and there’s plenty of antiquing as well.

Stop first at Crown Point’s Vista House, an art-deco building built circa 1917 as a “haven for travelers,” according to a plaque on the wall. The house also serves as a memorial to the Oregon pioneers who first saw the Cascade Range and majestic Mount Hood in the distance.

The Vista House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is designated a National Natural Landmark. The structure’s floors are made of Alaskan marble. Friends of Vista House, a nonprofit organization, runs a gift shop that sells history books and souvenirs as well as an espresso bar for the caffeine-deprived.

Once you leave Crown Point, follow the greenery for the next five miles or so to several beautiful falls – Latourell, Shepperd’s Dell, Bridal Veil and Wahkeena.

Several picnic tables and state parks along the way invite visitors to take in the views and perhaps stop for a bite to eat.

Before long, you’ll reach the awe-inspiring, 620-foot Multnomah Falls. Trails lead from the Multnomah Falls Lodge to the lower falls, and from there to the summit. A 1914 footbridge spans both sides of the mountain. The signature waterfall attracts hordes of visitors in the summer, so be prepared to wait for parking.

Back on Highway 84, you’ll pass Horsetail Falls, which is so close to the highway that it might shower your car.

Engineering enthusiasts and children might appreciate a stop at Bonneville Lock and Dam, built in 1933 and run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. A project of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, portions of the project were declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

Approximately 40 miles east of Portland, the area boasts a gift shop and an educational center. A fish-ladder viewing window enables visitors to watch the salmon, steelhead sturgeon and other species. The ladder allows adult fish to return to spawning grounds beyond the dam.

For more information, visit the Columbia River Gorge Visitors Association at

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