Colombia River Gorge

As much as I loved Portland, it was hot and busy and so I was glad we had planned to escape the city for a day with an eco-tour out to the Colombia River Gorge. The mighty Colombia river starts its journey in the Rocky Mountains in British Colombia, then flows North West before turning South in to the US, forming the border between the states of Washington and Oregon before emptying in to the Pacific Ocean. The river is the fourth largest in the US, at 2,000km long.

We first drove up to Mount Hood, an active volcano. We learned how scientists are monitoring the volcano, and geologist have studied evidence from previous eruptions to try and predict the impact of a future eruption. The general thinking is that it is a matter of when, and not if. Some of the most serious impacts are predicted to be not from the lava or hot ashes, but from severe flooding and landslides as the glaciers on the mountain melt away. At the top of the mountain is Timberline Lodge, a beautiful wooden lodge which was built in the 1930’s to create employment after the depression. Today the lodge is a hotel, restaurant, and information centre, and the sort of place that would be great to be holed up in the snow for a week. It was also used in the film The Shining (another one to add to the list).

We stopped for lunch at Hood River, which I was surprised to learn is the windsurfing capital of Oregon, despite being hundreds of miles from the coast. The size of the river and the frequent winds make it a prime destination for anything involving a sail or a board.

After lunch, we made our way down the river, stopping at various waterfalls and viewing vistas along the way. We were driving along one of the oldest roads in the US, now known as the Oregon Scenic Highway.

We also visited the Bonneville Dam, one of hundreds which have tamed the Colombia river to generate power, to provide irrigation and allow safe navigation. We saw the fish ladders that have been put in place to try and increase the safe passage of salmon up and down the river, as the damming had controversially reduced salmon numbers by 99%.

It was a great day, really educational and gave us a different perspective on the area – both in terms of its history and the continuing impact of development on the people and wildlife that call the river home.

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