Columbia River Gorge

Today we explored several aspects of the Columbia River Gorge. We were astonished at the abrupt transition from the arid steppes of eastern Washington and Oregon to the lush, temperate rainforests to the west, a result of the moisture-trapping power of the Cascade Range.

We traveled by Zodiac from the Sea Lion to shore to board our coaches that took us to the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center, where we viewed excellent exhibits on the geology, botany, zoology and cultural history of the area, including displays outlining the 58,000 pounds of cargo transported by the Corps of Discovery.

We then drove along a restored portion of the Columbia River Historic Highway, built in 1919-1922, a marvel of early 20th century design and engineering, to the Rowena Crest Overlook for spectacular views up and down river. After a short drive, we divided into three groups for invigorating hikes along a section of the highway, open only to pedestrian and bicycle traffic. As we approached or passed through the Mosier Tunnels, we were rewarded for our efforts by breathtaking views of the Gorge, highlighted by early fall colors.

We re-boarded the Sea Lion in the picturesque town of Hood River and continued down river. After lunch, we viewed the steep and heavily-wooded sides of the gorge, bathed alternately in clouds and patches of sunlight. Our transit of the Bonneville Lock was our last such lock passage (no more bumps in the night!), and we were once again on the free-flowing Columbia River. We saw Coho and King salmon entering small creeks for spawning, while bald eagles circled overhead. We passed Beacon Rock, first described by Lewis and Clark, and marveled at a series of high waterfalls emerging from the mountains on the Oregon side of the Gorge. The highest, Multnomah Falls, plunges 620 feet in two stages. As the day ended, we recalled the pleasure felt by the Corps of Discovery as they neared the end of the Columbia and thus the end of their great journey west.