The highway leads past dozens of waterfalls — some nearly hit the road, others are a short walk — with names like Horsetail, Sheppard’s Dell, Bridal Veil, Latourell and Wahkeena.
The most famous waterfall is Multnomah Falls; its 620-foot, two-tier drop is one of the highest in the nation and one of the most photographed.
“There are myriad falls in the area,” said Martin. “You can explore them either driving on the historic highway or [you can] get out and walk or take bike tours. The waterfalls are spectacular, and a must-stop is Multnomah Falls.”
At the Bonneville Dam, you can watch spawning salmon fighting to get upstream at an underwater visitors center and take tours of the dam.
“Look for Herman the Sturgeon,” said Chiaudano. “He is 500 pounds, 10 feet long and 70 years old. He is right there in a fish hatchery.”
At Cascade Locks, a small town where the Bridge of the Gods leads across the river to Washington, the 500-passenger Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler offers a chance to get out on the Columbia River on sightseeing and dinner cruises.
A more exciting way to get on the river is windsurfing. The gorge acts as a natural wind tunnel and has become world-famous for its wind-related water sports.
“We are known as the windsurfing capital of the world,” said Kerry Cobb, executive director of the Hood River Chamber of Commerce. “Right here at Hood River is an ideal place, with lots of waves in the river and lots of wind. People come from all over the world to do that and to watch.”
Cobb said many other outdoor recreation opportunities abound in the area, among them stand-up paddle boarding, hiking, biking and running. But even the most sedentary travelers can enjoy the nearly daily show of colorful surfers racing with the wind.
Shopping and dining are also great options in Hood River.
“We have a very quaint downtown,” said Cobb, “full of distinctive shops that sell things like alpaca clothing, locally made jewelry and art.
“We have a lot of great chefs here; they are attracted by the local produce and the lifestyle. Or you can come just to relax.”
The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Wasco County Historical Museum in The Dalles gives good insight into the gorge’s 40 million-year-old history and its rich human heritage.
“We are the interpretative center for the gorge,” said Paula Fairclo, marketing manager for the center. “We are actually two museums in one, which works out nicely. You see the history of the county, and the Discovery Center picks up from the ice age through modern times.”
The varied and interactive displays include fossil skeletons from the region, Native American artifacts, a covered wagon and exhibits about the construction of the Columbia River Highway.
West Columbia Gorge
Chamber of Commerce
— www.westcolumbiagorgechamber.com —
Chamber of Commerce
— www.hoodriver.org —
— www.traveloregon.com —