U.S. National Forest Campground Guide

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Oregon and Washington

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Forest Information

The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is east of Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington in a canyon along the Columbia River in Oregon and Washington. It is comprised of 295,000 acres with four campgrounds, two of which meet the selection criteria.

When Lewis and Clark, along with the Corps of Discovery, first saw the Columbia River it was untamed and free-flowing. Clark described the narrows near the Dalles as "agitated gut swelling, boiling & whorling in every direction." Today, that stretch of wild water is gone, tamed by massive dams. And, the Columbia River moves through the "Gorge" with a deceptive passive appearance past the Dalles and on to the Pacific Ocean. Still a spectacular river canyon, the "Gorge" is 80 miles long with walls towering up to 4,000 feet deep. This stretch of the Columbia River was established by Congress in 1986 as the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (Gorge). With many of the wonders Lewis and Clark observed and still present for the visitor, the Gorge is more than a place of natural wonder. It is a place for all sorts of recreational activities.

The Gorge offers visitors panoramic viewpoints, waterfalls, back road exploration, biking, wilderness trails, fishing, interpretive centers, museums, wineries, wind surfing, kayaking, historic communities, fishing, camping, and more. While these activities are enjoyed by thousands of individuals each year, perhaps the most popular activities enjoyed by visitors are driving through the Gorge, along Interstate 84 on the Oregon side, and viewing its glorious waterfalls. State Rt. 14, along the Washington side of the Gorge, offers visitors the opportunity to visit several of the quaint historic communities.

People have been discovering the Gorge's waterfalls since Lewis wrote "We passed several beautiful cascades which fell from a great height over the stupendous rocks which closes the river on both sides. . ." The original Columbia River Highway, opened in 1916, was heralded as "one of the greatest engineering feats of the modern age" and provided the public with easy access to several more spectacular "cascades." With water falling 620 feet, Multnomah Falls (the second highest year-round waterfall in the nation) has long been a must stop. The classic 1925 lodge at the fall's base hosts a Forest Service visitor center, dining rooms, banquet facilities, and a gift shop and is also worth a visit.

Although some say they aren't as spectacular as Multnomah Falls, many visitors also enjoy Bridal Veil, Mist, Wahkeena, and Fairy falls. Then, there are Horsetail, Ponytail, Oneonta, and Triple falls. Each of these waterfalls is a gem in itself but not as easy to reach as Multnomah Falls where you can drive to up to it. The problem is solved with a network of maintained trails. Trail number 438 starts at Horsetail Falls and winds around to Ponytail, Oneonta, and Triple falls. Trails number 415, 420, and 441 provide access to the other waterfalls mentioned. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes and bring your camera.

The trail system in the Gorge provides visitors with access to more than just waterfalls. There are dramatic vistas, lush old- growth conifer forests, and meadows full of magnificent wildflowers to discover. Hikers can find evidence, such as the remnants of fish wheels, petroglyphys and pictographs, of the Native people's presence in the Gorge. Gorge Trail #400 is one of several courses hikers and mountain bikers find a challenge while enjoying the scenery. Perhaps the best feature of the numerous trails that crisscross the Gorge is that they provide visitors with an up-close-and-personal view of the area's amazing geology.

Built by eons of ash, lava, and mud flows produced by the fiery volcanoes of the Cascade Mountains, the Columbia River cuts a deep corridor through all those layers. Then, about 15,000 years ago and near the end of the last Ice Age, a gigantic flood swept down the river corridor and scoured cliffs. The massive wall of water, estimated to have been 1,200 feet tall, left tributary streams hanging high over the river and produced one of the world's greatest concentrations of waterfalls. And, the shaping of the Gorge continues today. Wind, rain, snow, ice, and the Columbia River itself continue to change the shape and reshape the Gorge.

The Gorge has two developed campgrounds which can be used as base camps for exploring the area. Eagle Creek campground is the oldest of the two. Originally built on the banks of the Columbia River in 1915, the campground is now located on a hillside above the River. Secluded sites tucked in lush vegetation, the Eagle Creek campground is the center of a recreation area that includes miles of trails and good fishing opportunities. Eagle Creek campground has a long and interesting history which is recalled by the design used for the Wyeth campground. With a more open and spacious feel, Wyeth is better suited to campers in recreational vehicles. Formerly the location of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp 21, the campground has a quaint "feel" with CCC-style curbstones and the replication of a Public Comfort Station structure.

While the campgrounds are a great place to just sit and enjoy the surroundings, the Gorge offers, besides the waterfalls, much to do. There is the Vista House at Crown Point State Park, the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in The Dalles, Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center, and of course the Booneville Dam and Visitor Center, to mention just a few attractions. There is wind surfing for the adventurous, vineyards for wine drinkers, lots of places to shop, orchards full of great tasting fruit, and many memories to make. With so much to do, see, discover, and experience, the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Area awaits you.

SUPERVISOR ADDRESS 902 Wasco St. Suite 200 Hood River, Oregon 97031 RANGER DISTRICT ADDRESS Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area 902 Wasco St. Suite 200 Hood River, Oregon 97031 541-308-1700

Fred and Suzi Dow