The Mighty Columbia River

The Columbia River forms 300 miles of the Oregon border with Washington State. It is used for fishing, transportation, access to the Pacific Ocean, recreation, and the making of electricity. Its headwaters are in the Canadian Rockies and it flows into the Pacific Ocean at Astoria, Oregon.

It was first discovered in 1792 by the American explorer, Robert Gray, who named the river after his ship. In 1805 Lewis and Clark traveled down the river to the Pacific Ocean. They spent the winter at Fort Clatsop on the Oregon Coast.

In 1825 Fort Vancouver was established on the Washington side of the river for the Hudson's Bay Company for the purpose of fur trading with trappers and Indians.



When the migration on the Oregon Trail began the river was the route the pioneers took to western Oregon Territory before there was a road crossing the Cascade Mountains. The river actually cuts through the Cascade Mountain Range and forms the spectacular Columbia River Gorge.

The various indian tribes in the area have fishing rights in the river. Licenses for fishing for Salmon are available during season. The number of days fishing is open depends on the fish count.


The mouth of the river, the Columbia Bar is possibly the most dangerous stretch of water to navigate in the world. There have been hundreds of shipwreaks on or near the bar. The best place to see the bar is from the south jetty at Fort Stevens State Park near Warrenton. Or you could cross it in a fishing boat for the complete experience. I had a roommate in college who crossed it in her father's commecial fishing boat. Her father ended up tying her to the boat because he was afraid she was going to jump overboard. She was that seasick. (Picture of the south jetty above.)

Whenever I had out-of-state visitors I always took them for a drive up the gorge on the Historic Columbia River Highway. We always visited Multnomah Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Vista House and Bonneville Dam.    There are some delightful hikes to take in the gorge where you can see more waterfalls. The Historic Columbia River Trail is a part of the old highway that is closed to motorized traffic.  Hiking or biking this 4.7 mile section  even if you can only do part of it will give you some thrilling views plus you travel through the old tunnels that the Model T Fords used to use.  Learn how to find and get on the old Columbia River Highway and all the things to see and do here.

It is fun to stop in Hood River and watch the windsurfers and kiteboarders. When you take this trip be sure you have room for lots of photos on your camera. You will need it.

Visit Hood River in the spring to view the pear and apple orchards in bloom and if you are there in the late summer and fall, take home bags of lucious fruit from those trees. Visit Hood River's many wineries on a wine tasting tour.

Another excellent way to see the Gorge is to take a 7-day cruise that goes clear to the Snake river and gives you a feel for what the old west was like. There are also both brunch cruises and dinner cruises.

Take a scenic excursion from Hood River to Park Dale at the base of Mt. Hood. The Mt. Hood Railroad has all kinds of different themed excursions year round. The trip is four hours long and you will see some very beautiful scenery--especially in the spring and fall. In April the fruit trees are in bloom and in autumn you will enjoy the fall foliage.

There are some very nice places to stay in the Columbia River Gorge. There are hotels, motels, bed and breakfast, campgrounds, and RV parks. For a very relaxing and romantic place to stay over looking the Columbia River and Gorge, try the Columbia Gorge Hotel.

Another elegant and romantic hotel that over looks the Gorge is the Columbia Cliff Villas.

From the Gorge you can continue on to Eastern Oregon on the I-84 or return to Portland on the same highway. Or you can circle around Mt. Hood and then continue on into Central Oregon.








Columbia River