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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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