First Time in Washington State

Wednesday we decided to take the advice of fellow RV-Dreamer, Ruth, and explore the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge. I was particularly excited because Washington is one of the few states I have ever visited in any capacity.  Lee and I were trying to figure out how many states were left and at least for him we thought there was only Arkansas, but I still had Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, and Washington.

The day was a nice one, although the river area was a little hazy.  I tried to clean up the pictures the best I could, but unfortunately they don’t do justice to how absolutely beautiful the landscapes were.  Still it was a lovely day and a busy one (we started at 9am and didn’t get home until past 8pm), so I am going to jump right in and take you on the picture tour.

As soon as we crossed the river I was struck by how different the two sides of the gorge are.  The Washington side was much more developed and there were numerous houses along the banks for the river.  State Route 14 also runs closer to the river and along a busy train track so we saw several trains throughout the day.

The river and the landscape on the Washington side

One of the many houses we saw along the banks although I wouldn’t want to be that close to the railroad tracks

The views of the other side and the occasional peek of Historic Route 30 gave us a different perspective on the Oregon side

You can see the train tracks were here before the road from this view of the two tunnels

Our first stop was a little St. Cloud day use area.  Although the area was mowed it was very overgrown but since it allowed us an opportunity to walk down to the river bank we walked through the weeds.  The difference between this day use area and the ones we have been looking over was not lost on me, and I wondered about the folks that were watching over this little place, because it had lots of potential but obviously needed lots of work.

Beautiful views of the Oregon side

I loved the wild roses

There were lots of this giant butterflies

Unfortunately I needed to use the restroom and this is what I walked into. It pretty much reinforced for me that even though what we are doing isn’t glamorous, it does impact people’s nature experiences. It certainly impacted mine.

Next we stopped in the Bonneville Dam area. Initially we were just stopping by to snap a few pictures but on a whim Lee decided to go inside and check out the dam and I am so glad that we did.  Visiting the dam was totally free and not only are huge chunks of it accessible without taking a tour, but they also have the largest fish ladder system I have ever seen.  We really enjoyed our time there and even had lunch at their very clean picnic area.

Along the drive I was able to get a picture of some waterfalls on the Oregon side. I think this is the area near Multnomah Falls although I am not 100% sure. It was on the very edge of my long lens but looked amazing.

COE fishing area.

Beautiful views of the Oregon coast

You can see Hwy 30 right in the middle forefront of the picture

The dam

Huge fish ladders

All of those little dots along the waterline were people fishing at the end of the fish ladders. Huge crowd for a Wednesday at noon

Great view of the generators

They had to put  lights in this fish tunnel, because the fish won’t use it if it’s totally dark.

More fish tunnel

The coolest thing was we could walk down into part of the dam and through viewing windows see fish going through the tunnels

No fish but we did see these lamprey on the windows waiting to catch a ride

Great display and educational area

After the dam we crossed the Bridge of the Gods to the Portland side and viewed the historic locks.  We really should have done this when we were on the Oregon side, but somehow we missed this the first time around.  It cost $3 each way to cross the bridge ($2 if it’s a regular car or truck), but despite the cost I am glad we did it because by sheer coincidence we got to see a Native American dip net fishing from the locks which was a great moment.

Bridge of the Gods which has significant historical significance in the area

Native American folklore talked of a time when a landslide allowed for a natural bridge across the river. While it existed the people were able to catch many salmon

The local tribes believed that Coyote the creator changed the nature of the river to help the people

Since these are ancestral fishing grounds, local tribes people are allowed to dip net fish from the river and use these platforms


Lee waving me forward to see the dip net fishing

The nets had a string attached and by feeling the string move the fisherman could tell how many fish were in the net and how big they were. Amazing. Every net pull he made had at least 4 fish in it

He pulled the huge net onto the dock which took some strength

Then he put them in a bucket which was pulled to the top of the lock

The natives are allowed to sell their fish and this gentleman bough two coolers full, fresh from the river.

Even without the dip netting the park is still a cool place.  There is a small museum, which we skipped (cost is $3 per person), some walking paths, and wonderful rose garden.

The roses were huge and smelled wonderful

Paths along the river

After the locks we crossed the bridge back to the Washington side of the river and drove down to the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center.  I can’t say enough about this wonderful museum.  We have been to many small museums throughout the country in our travels and this is one of the absolute best small museums we have ever been to.  Usually these museums “pick a lane” and stay in it, but this museum covered a variety of subjects, yet managed to remain cohesive in the whole by following a timeline of the events in the area.  Through generous donation they also had a couple of very unusual collections including an amazing rosary collection, which is the largest private collection of rosaries in the United States. 

The museum. The glass was wonderful because it allowed for wonderful views of the river

Beautiful 3 story tall carvings are on one corner of the building

Lee and I both loved this quote. No offense to our friends in the east, but this has been our sentiment

Several collections of native artifacts including pieces of petroglyph

I loved that they had an historical library

This was one of my favorite pieces. A map of the area as drawn by Lewis and Clark and two of their many medallions they handed out during their travels

There was a giant two-story high commercial fish wheel you could walk up into

This life-sized statue of a native on a platform dip net fishing had even greater significance since we had seen the modern equivalent that same day

One of the local citizens of Stevenson was editor of Stars and Stripes during WWII

There was also an extensive Asian collection on loan from several county residents

I really loved these Japanese reed boots

Beautiful bicentennial quilt

An a beautiful centennial quilt for the area

The quilt version of a beautiful Mount Hood picture I have taken

One of my favorite parts was the rosary collection which started as a curiosity and turned into a life long project of deep devotion

So many cases of rosary beads, each bead set cataloged and displayed

This one was life-sized wall art

The “bead” was as big as my hand

He had numerous rosarys owned by famous people, but this JFK owned one was very special

They even had an outside area with numerous items including this train

And a pill box which armed guards stayed in during WWII

Next we stopped at a small parking lot called “Swell City” and watched the windsurfers on the river which I enjoyed taking pictures of.


And somewhere along the way we passed the line between the west side of Oregon/Washington and the east side. It was really interesting because the landscape changes and the temperature jumped from 85 to 92 degrees.  It was much hotter, but beautiful in it’s own way, but we kept on until we reached a site recommended by our friend Ruth.  It was pretty far from everything else, and I was tempted to turn around, but Lee really wanted to see it and I am glad we did.  Stonehenge is a life sized re-creation of the original and was the first WWI war memorial in the United States. Sam Hill was a local patron in the area and a pacifist and Quaker.  He visited England during WWI, saw Stonehenge, and was told that pagan sacrifices were made on the altar.  He built this memorial to honor the fallen from his county, but also used the Stonehenge image to make a statement about the war.  Knowing today that Stonehenge was probably not used for pagan sacrifice but was rather a sundial, I didn’t expect to like the memorial very much, but surprisingly I did.  It was very well done and absolutely honored the fallen.  The good news is you can easily visit this monument by exiting Highway 84 and it has a large parking lot that will support big rigs.  I highly recommend it if for no other reason than there are stunning views of the river and the valley from here.  I also found it extremely photogenic and I know this is a picture heavy post already, but I have to share some of these.

The changing landscape


There was a beautiful waterfall where this bridge now stands. We read that the tribes were paid a one-time payment of $26M when the dam system destroyed the falls


View from behind the monument

They also added a smaller monument with the names of country residents who died in other wars

I loved that they had recently added Afghanistan to the monument. I think this is the first time I’ve seen this and hope other towns do the same


It was an absolutely lovely day and once again the Columbia Gorge did not disappoint. I am so glad that we went all the way to Stonehenge because it was a perfect capper to the day. And the weather (despite the haze) was very cooperative.  Good thing too, because the forecast calls for rain the next 6 days so will let you know more about working in the rain in the next post.

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5 thoughts on “First Time in Washington State

  1. What a marvelous day you had! Thanks for sharing all the interesting places to visit. I am wondering what the bird is in the third photo from the top in the blog (of the river).

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