Luinil - Traveling with the Blue Star

July 2015 — Columbia River Gorge
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Copyright © 2015 - 2018 Larrie Easterly

Columbia River

Columbia River Gorge — Photo Gallery

Formed 13,000 years ago when the Missoula Floods roared across the planes of Washington and Oregon the Columbia Gorge is a wonder of nature. Cliffs rise hundreds of feet along its banks. Native Americans have long used the river as a gathering place and fishing grounds. Settlers coming to Oregon had the choice of rafting down through its rapids or taking the overland route across Mt. Hood to Oregon City at the end of the Oregon Trail. Now days it is a commercial water way for wheat and other commodities as well a recreational playground. The gorge is known for its world class wind surfing, kite boarding, hiking trails, and other outdoor activities.

Most people usually see the Gorge while speeding along Interstate 84. I have driven that road many time in the past. This time I wanted to take a more leisurely trip. My plan was to take the original U.S. Highway 30 from Portland as far as I could before having to get back onto the interstate. I would then get off the interstate in Biggs Junction and work my way back to Portland driving the backroads that are on the bluffs above the Columbia River.

Constructed in 1913 the original U.S. 30 was designated an National Historic Landmark. To celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2016 the Oregon State Legislature provided funds to update the road way and for the State Parks Department to create the a trail system that follows the original route where vehicle access is not longer possible. One thing the rehabilitation of the roadway did not do was widen the roadway. It is still a very narrow, by today's standards, twisty windy road that follows the landscape rather than blasting through it.

Turning off I-84 at Exit 19 towards Lewis and Clark State Park I followed the highway 30 signs to Portland Women's Forum wayside on the bluff above the river, just east of Corbett. From here you can see up river, east, to Vista House and beyond.

Vista House

Vista House — Photo Gallery

Built in 1917 Vista House sits on Crown Point with a commanding view of the river to the east and west. It was built as a place for travelers to rest and relax as they traveled along the Columbia River. The building was renovated in 2005 and continues to be a rest stop for travelers on the old road. Summertime is a great time to visit but be careful in the winter months. The wind blowing down the gorge has blown people over and rolled them like balls across the parking lot. It has also been known to bend the hinges on car doors backward. Look it up on YouTube if you want.

One thing that I enjoy photographing is waterfalls. There are roughly 12 on the Oregon side and six on the Washington side between the Portland Women's Forum and The Dalles. The most renowned is Multnomah Falls. At 620 feet it is the second highest year-round waterfall in the U.S. The lodge and the falls has an interesting history. The land for the lodge was donated by the Washington Railroad and Navigation Company, now Union Pacific. The construction of the lodge was paid for by City of Portland in 1925. The land that the falls is on and the bridge across the outlet stream was donated in 1914. In 1939 the lodge was turned over to the U.S. Forrest Service. The upper part of the lodge has a restaurant with a dining room that has a glass wall and ceiling so that you can see the falls as you eat. The first floor has concessions and a gift shop.

Dechutes River

Dechutes River — Photo Gallery

The historic highway rejoins the interstate at Exit 35. From there to Biggs Junction is about 90 minutes. At Biggs I headed back west on the Biggs Rufus Highway, that parallels the interstate, towards Deschutes River State Park. The park straddles the Deschutes River at its confluence with the Columbia River. The Deschutes is known for its white water rafting and the west side of the park has a boat ramp where the rafters end their journey. The west side also gives access to the bluffs above the river. Driving through the park and up a rough gravel road, Old Moody Road, that passes under a railroad bridge provides access to the bluffs on the south side of the Columbia.

The view from on top of the bluffs is spectacular in all directions. Continuing west on Old Moody the road followed a curving path along the bluffs, sometimes with river views sometimes not. One thing that surprised was to come across fences on both sides of the road. There were cattle grazing on one side and wheat fields on the other. Eventually I came across two ranches that looked very well maintained.

Old Moody Road eventually leads away from the river and travels through rolling wheat fields eventually connecting with Fifteen Mile Road east of The Dalles. While stopped for a photo opportunity I talked with some people who were taking a break from their bicycle ride. They were also enjoying the beautiful scenery and weather. The Dalles is where the pioneers embarked on the treacherous river journey to the end of the Oregon Trail.

Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge — Photo Gallery

It was also the end of this trip through the Columbia Gorge. As I headed back home on the Interstate I looked back at my photo safari that allows me to find some great places to photograph as well as getting a glimpse of how other live. Will come back to this area another time to learn more about it and capture the beautiful views.

Till next time.


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