Up to 4,000 feet deep, the Columbia River Gorge stretches for more than 80 miles as the Columbia River winds westward through the Cascade Range, forming the boundary between the State of Washington to the north and Oregon to the south. Three volcanoes dominate the Cascades and are major attractions when visiting the Gorge. Majestic Mt. Hood is the highest point in Oregon. It is one of the three dormant volcanoes in this region, with Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens located across the river in Washington state.
The western Gorge, with an average annual rainfall of 75 inches, is lush and green with misty mountains, old growth forest and over 40 plus waterfalls. The eastern Gorge, with an annual rainfall of less than 15 inches, is a region of rocky bluffs, rolling hills, desert wildflowers and wide open spaces.
Just taking a drive through the Columbia River Gorge and exploring the Mt. Hood Scenic Byway is an experience in itself, as you will be in awe of the spectacular geological wonders.
In 1986, a group of hikers and outdoor enthusiasts organized a campaign to preserve the Columbia River Gorge’s scenic beauty by successfully encouraging Congress to pass the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act. The purpose of the act is to protect and provide for the enhancement of scenic, cultural, recreational and natural resources of the Gorge— and to protect and support the economy of the Gorge by encouraging growth to occur in existing areas and by allowing future economic development outside these areas if it is compatible with Gorge resources.
The Scenic Area stretches 85 miles and begins in western Oregon, spanning from Troutdale to the Deschutes River and in western Washington from Washougal to Wishram. With 75,000 people calling this area home, two million tourists visit each year. Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood territories, Mt. St. Helens Area, Deschutes River Valley and Goldendale are all outside the scenic area boundaries but are all considered popular tourist attractions when visiting the Columbia River Gorge.