From the Sea to the River – More, Marvelous Oregon

Genie Davis September 13, 2010 No Comments


Our family left the coastal area of Oregon and the beautiful ocean beaches for the river – the Columbia River Gorge.  Make sure to read about the start of our family fun Oregon Coast excursion as well as Part 2 in Southern Oregon.  Just as magnificent in its own way as the sea, the wide windy river is vast and beautiful. The perfect base to discover the river area and the waterfalls, scenic roads, and historic spots throughout the area is the town of Hood River and the Columbia River Gorge Hotel.

Comfortable family suites and linked rooms with shared baths are available at this old fashioned, elegant, yet warm and comfortable destination. Kids will love the cage elevator and friendly operator, and the views from the rooms of gardens or river are beautiful. The gardens themselves and the entire property can fill an afternoon. Out on the river you’ll see windsurfers, boaters, and wake boarders. Hood River prides itself on a perfect confluence of wind and is a wind surfing capitol. In the garden itself you’ll find perfectly arranged plantings of both flowers and foliage designed to reflect all the seasons. There are broad grassy areas, fantastic river views, and even a small water fall on the property, the Wah Gwin Gwin or Rushing Water Falls behind the Hotel, which cascades beautifully two hundred and eight feet down to the river below.

Originally developed in 1904 by Bobby Rand, a Hood River pioneer, Rand sold the property in the 1920′s to Simon Benson. Benson helped build the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway, and he had a plan to create a hotel worthy of the awesome natural scenery of the area. The hotel is worthy to this day. We loved our room, which was a small suite of two rooms connected by a hall and bathroom with a garden view. We also loved the hotel’s restaurant, with friendly service, a beautiful river and sunset view, and a wide arrangement of fish, meats, and vegetables including an excellently priced kid’s menu. In the afternoon, free cider for the kids and champagne for the adults and a fluid jazz guitarist in the lounge area add to the enjoyment of the grounds and view.

In the morning, the restaurant is justifiably famous for its multiple course breakfast, which can be purchased as part of your vacation package or bought a la carte. We were able to score an incredible deal that included the breakfast with the room rate, and the meal kept everyone going all day. Eggs, trout, pancakes, apple fritters that my kids compared to churros, oatmeal, towering fruit plates, biscuits with honey and fresh orange juice, all were among the offerings. The formal service was delightful – elegant, yes, but never fussy, and kids are always welcome in the room.

Thus fortified we left the hotel to tour all the areas of the Gorge waterfalls. A short drive packs in a great deal of scenery. The Columbia Gorge Highway is a destination in itself with stone walls and viaducts, moss and overhanging trees. It’s lush and lovely. Starting nearest to Portland, you’ll find Crown Point, considered the symbol of the Columbia River Gorge. The octagonal building with its copper dome includes a small museum, gift shop and interpretive display, and is open spring through late fall.

A feeling of being in a rain forest accompanies you as you drive past a number of beautiful falls all within a five mile stretch of road: Latourell Falls, Shepperd’s Dell, Bridal Veil Falls, and Wahkeena Falls. While each has an easy path for an up close look, our favorite was Wahkeena. Bridal Veil Falls has the most challenging trail – not difficult, but not for the youngest travelers.

Columbia River Gorge Oregon

Columbia River Gorge Oregon

Multnomah Falls is the most famous and most tourist filled. Six hundred and twenty feet high, it has few waterfall ‘peers’ – in fact, only three falls in the U.S. are higher. While a trail winds to the top of the falls you can stop at any of several look outs to snap awesome photos and get a good look at the beautiful rushing water.

Other sites include Bonneville Dam at River Mile 146.1, an impressive and awesome example of man made beauty. The Cascade Locks, named for the locks built in the late 1800s to guide boats past once difficult rapids, are another worthwhile stop.

Cross the Bridge of the Gods, another architectural marvel, built in 1926, to view the Columbia River from the Washington state side. It’s name reflects a Native American Legend; the crossing reveals the full vastness of the river.

Once on the Washington side, you’ll find broader, more open river views and rolling grasslands here than on the tree lined, more rain-forest like Oregon side. Train tracks parallel this side of the river, and we enjoyed roadside views of passing trains on land matching the boats on the water.

Columbia River Gorge Hotel Waterfall

Columbia River Gorge Hotel Waterfall

You’ll also find the Maryhill museum a wonderful and eccentric collection that includes a Rodin collection and a full size replica of Stonehenge. There’s also a mixture of Native American art and artifacts and Romanian cultural icons in a well laid out classically styled museum. The Stonehenge replica was also designed by museum founder Sam Hill and it directly overlooks the river and train tracks. A moving peace memorial dedicated to locals who passed away in World War I, it’s also a great spot for photographs and hide and seek for the younger members of your party. We didn’t think Sam Hill would’ve minded.

Crossing back to the Oregon side, be sure and check out the interesting area history and ecology presented at the Columbia River Discovery Center in The Dalles. It’s justifiably billed as the Official Interpretive Center of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, and its interactive exhibits will give you and your family hours of fun and learning.

avatarAbout the Author:

Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling.

Tags: Reviews, Travel Excursions

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