Pleasures of the Columbia River Gorge – Part I


Ah … summer in the Pacific Northwest! It just doesn’t get any better than this—or so it seems. The traditional “June gloom” on the West coast is nowhere to be seen this week. I’m no fool, and so I took off for a mini vacation to the Columbia River Gorge, one of my very favorite spots to hang out. The area is a mecca for traveling tourists or for just anyone seeking adventure. Take your choice of traveling along the gorge via highways in either Washington or Oregon; there are plenty of bridges to cross over to either side. Also, choose between the lush, green side of the west end or the drier, desert side of the gorge on the east end … or enjoy both! Each has its own fascinating and beautiful, scenic topography. I chose to enjoy both.

My first stop along the way was the Columbia Sternwheeler at Cascade Locks, Oregon. I wanted to take a sightseer cruise, but I found out that the boat was sold out. So much for planning. It’s best to make reservations for this excursion. So I continued on into the eastern end of the gorge. My next plan was to visit the The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center – Wasco County Historical Museum, located in The Dalles. I had never visited it before, even though I had passed by it many times. If you are not in a hurry, I strongly suggest you travel on the the Columbia River Gorge Historical Highway, on the east end of the gorge. Exit Interstate 84 at Mosier and follow the road up to the top of the gorge to get a breathtaking view at Rowena Crest. Along the way, pass by rural, fruit orchards and vineyards. There’s very little traffic here, although it’s popular with bicyclists.

036Columbia River Gorge as seen from Rowena Crest, OR

As I was photographing, all of a sudden, a boat comes around a corner of the gorge bluffs. I had to take a double look. Lo and behold, it was a tall ship. What luck! In fact, there were two of them! I had found out from talking to a couple of locals that they had heard in the news that a couple of tall ships were to be traveling up the Columbia River this week, making stops at a few ports along the way. The ships were the Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain. Very cool!

013The Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain Tall Ships

Continuing my journey along this part of the historical highway, I followed the road down to the Discovery Center. It’s located right along the river. The center is a large building with wing partitions.  One section has rooms and exhibits detailing the Lewis and Clark Expedition and Native Indian history. There is also a live raptor demonstration. In another wing of the center is an excellent, county historical museum. Make sure to stop by the excellent gift shop as well. Around the outside of the building are walking trails and exhibits. Below are some photos of the center along with surrounding views.


After an afternoon well spent at the Discovery Center, I made my way through the city of The Dalles and crossed over the river to Washington State. My plan was to stay overnight in the city of Goldendale to try to get some sunset photos of Mount Adams. Goldendale sits in a rural valley with a fantastic view of the mountain. But first, I would have to climb the bluffs of the gorge to get there. At this end of the gorge are some beautiful, undulating hills that make for scenic photos. There are also wind power farms that have been springing up over the years. Some people feel that they spoil the landscape. I think they are fascinating and beautiful, in themselves.


I patiently waited for sunset to see what colors would be present in the sky. There weren’t very many clouds to speak of, so not too much drama that night. There are two mountain peaks viewable from Goldendale: Mount Hood and Mount Adams. The sun sets very close to Mount Adams, and that’s where the small amount of sunset color was.

155Mount Hood, Oregon

130Mount Hood, Oregon

143Mount Adams, Washington


All images property of Peggy A Thompson

About northwestphotos

A long time resident of Washington State, located in the beautiful Pacific Northwest USA. I enjoy regional travel, exploring all the wondrous, natural settings that the Pacific Northwest has to offer. If you get a chance, visit my Northwestphotos Zazzle store,
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7 Responses to Pleasures of the Columbia River Gorge – Part I

  1. Spectacular shots! And definitely a part of the continent that I have to see for myself someday….

  2. Gunta says:

    What fantastic luck to catch the Tall Ships sailing on the Columbia. I get to see them each year when they stop in Coos Bay. Especially love that first shot of the snow-capped mountain top. Where did you shoot that one from? When I went through the Gorge about mid-May, I just kept catches the tiniest glimpses of mountain peaks. Very frustrating, but then I didn’t have much time to explore since I was headed further east.

    • The very first photo includes Mount Hood. It is best viewed and photographed from the Washington side of the gorge, on the east end. There are pull-outs along Hwy 14 that allow one to get some fantastic shots. The landscape is fantastic along the way! Such a difference from the wetter, greener end of the gorge. And, yes, it does help if the skies are clear to be able to see the mountains.

  3. Absolutely beautiful scenery, and I loved all the info you packed into the post as well! But, count me as one of those who thinks that the wind turbines spoil a great landscape.

    • Thanks for your honest opinion. A few wind turbines here and there do not bother me, as there is plenty of beautiful landscape to go around that area; but, if they try to scatter more around that vicinity, I would be bothered. Across the river, in Oregon, there is a giant wind farm in a remote area that sits on top of the gorge. I think they put it in a good spot, away from civilization.

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