“Les Dalles de la Columbia” was named by nineteenth-century French fur traders to describe the rocky substrate that helped create the rapids on this section of the Columbia River. Long before the French, The Dalles was an important salmon fishing area and a vibrant trading center for native people from far and wide. Lewis and Clark stopped here to trade and to consider the best strategy to make their way through the rapids. The rapids are long gone now, silenced by The Dalles dam, which was completed in 1957. Today, a Google data center is on the outskirts of the city, taking advantage of the abundant water and cheap electricity provided by the turbines at The Dalles dam. The long local history continues to evolve.
Our explorations began with a ride along the Historic Columbia River Highway to Rowena Crest, where we enjoyed an expansive scenic overlook of the Columbia, “The Great River of the West.” Bright yellow arrowleaf balsamroot stood out among the variety of wildflowers. A short ride took us to the exceptional Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum. In addition to museum exhibits, the native plant trail and the raptor presentation were highlights.
After lunch, we departed for Draper Girls’ Farm and WAAAM (Western Antique, Aeroplane, & Automobile Museum). Teresa Draper is the third generation of her family to run the farm. Set in the shadow of Mount Hood, this family farm is a pleasure to visit. Among the draws are the goats and a cider tasting. WAAAM is another unexpected treasure. The museum has one of the largest collections of still-flying antique airplanes and still-driving antique automobiles in the country. The collection is housed in buildings covering more than two acres. At the end of the afternoon, we returned to our floating home, National Geographic Sea Bird.
After scores of visits to this area, I can say that today’s scenery was the most spectacular. Huge, scenic swaths of apple and pear trees in bloom covered the hillsides. Snowclad Mounts Adams and Hood were in full view, standing tall over the landscape.