The Columbia River Gorge is a beautiful river canyon over 80 miles long and up to 4,000 feet deep. The north side of the canyon is in the state of Washington, the south side is in the state of Oregon, and the Columbia River runs through the length of the gorge. The gorge was carved by volcanic eruptions and massive floods during the last ice age. The gorge also has the greatest concentration of waterfalls in North America, with over 90 named waterfalls on the Oregon side alone.
Vista House is an observatory at Crown Point on a bluff 700 feet above the Columbia River. The Vista House was built in 1918 and has a marble interior and brass fixtures. At the time, some critics called it the “$100,000 Outhouse.”
The Vista House was completely restored to its original appearance in 2005. It’s now a popular tourist attraction, complete with a small deli and souvenir shop. The exterior boasts a spectacular 360-degree view of the Columbia River Gorge. Here you can see Theresa, Darby and Shadow waiting for me while I check out the Vista House interior.
As mentioned above, Columbia River Gorge is full of waterfalls. The Columbia River slowly eroded the gorge over time, but the most dramatic change occurred during the last ice age about 10,000 years ago when the Missoula Floods cut the steep canyon walls that exist today. These floods reached as high as the Vista House and were the result of periodic sudden ruptures of upstream ice dams. We saw about a dozen waterfalls on our visit to the gorge, including the 176-foot Horsetail Falls (above) that drops along a wall lined with moss and ferns.
Multnomah Falls is the second-highest year-round waterfall in the United States, after the 2,000+ foot Yosemite Falls. This is a controversial statistic because Yosemite Falls can run dry in autumn and during droughts. Multnomah Falls drops in two major steps: a 542-foot upper falls and 69-foot lower falls, over which Benson Bridge is suspended.
In September 1995, a 400-ton boulder–loosened by erosion–fell 225 feet from the cliff behind the waterfall into the upper pool above Benson Bridge. This caused a 70-foot wave to wash over the bridge, resulting in minor injuries to 20 members of a wedding party that happened to be on the bridge for photos. Multnomah Falls are one of the most popular tourist attractions in the gorge. Below the falls sits a lodge, which is on the National Register of Historic Places and includes a restaurant, information center, and gift shop.
Underground springs from nearby Larch Mountain are the year-round source of water for Multnomah Falls. Runoff from the mountain’s snowpack in the spring and rainwater during other seasons add to the flow. Here is a view of the Lodge, parking lots, and Columbia River from the top of Multnomah Falls.
The Wahkeena Falls had a wide spray that made it quite challenging to take its photo without soaking the lens with water droplets.
The Sheppards Dell Falls is a 220-foot drop in two stages. The upper stage is a plunge formation, while the lower falls is a horsetail formation.
It seems like every park with waterfalls has a “Bridal Veil Falls.” This 118-foot Bridal Veil Falls had a wide plume just like a bridal veil.
The 224-foot Latourell Falls were amazing. The falls generated a wind and spray that hit us as we stood 50 feet away from the base of the falls. Behind the waterfall was an amphitheater made from lava flows with its distinct hexagonal shaped columns. The width of the columns are determined by the rate at which the lava cools.
The 289-foot Elowah Falls pours straight down onto boulders. This was one of our favorite waterfalls, as it was so quiet here, and we had the place all to ourselves.