Oregon State Parks Day and Free Fishing!

Come see us in the beautiful Columbia River gorge where the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) invites people to stay and play for free to celebrate State Parks Day on Saturday, June 3.

Enjoy camping free on the night of June 3 for all RV hookup sites and tent sites at Ainsworth, Viento, and Memaloose State Parks. In addition, day-use parking will be free both June 3 and 4 at our parks that charge a day-use fee. People can reserve online http://oregonstateparks.org or by calling 800-452-5687. Phone reservations must be made by 5 p.m. June 2. The campsite rental will be free, but all reservations will still include an $8 non-refundable transaction fee. Of the 56 state park campgrounds, 46 take reservations.

Also featured the first weekend every June is free fishing sponsored by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). During Free Fishing Weekend, June 3 and 4 no license, tag or endorsement is required to fish, crab or clam anywhere in Oregon. If you are new to fishing and wondering how to get started, come to our Free Fishing event at Benson State Recreation Area from 9 am – noon on Saturday June 3. Benson State Recreation Area features a small lake along the Columbia River with picnic tables and restrooms. Take exit 30 Eastbound on I-84.

For other events sponsored by ODFW in Oregon check the following link:

Free family fishing events

 

 

Happy Birthday Vista House – 99 years and counting!

Vista House Dedication May 5, 1918

Every year on May 5,  since 1918, there is a celebration for Vista House, the majestic, historic building perched high above the Columbia River on Crown Point, with such an incredible view.  When Vista House was dedicated 99 years ago there was much ado made over this beautiful building that was designed to be a “comfort station” for motorists. The Oregonian reported that this rest stop was “intended to be the finishing achievement for the greatest highway in America” and architect Edgar M. Lazarus turned the functional need for “facilities” into a grand building and a memorial to the settlers who made the arduous trek west on the Oregon Trail.

Come join us this year on Friday, May 5 from 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM as we celebrate 99 years with birthday cake, music, and visiting antique cars. Next year? Yes, there will be much ado made over the beloved building as it reaches the 100 year milestone, save the date!

The Gorge’s “New” Waterfalls!

Recently, we’ve had a number of questions about the Columbia River Gorge’s “new” waterfalls.

Are there actually new waterfalls in the Gorge??

Well, yes and no.

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New view of an old fall:  In 1938, Warren Falls was decidedly threatening to wash out the Columbia River Highway, so a tunnel was blasted through the adjacent cliff, and the creek was diverted through – creating Hole-In-the-Wall Falls.

 

New Waterfalls

In September, Oregon State Parks, Oregon Department of Transportation, and their partners opened a new 1.3-mile section of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail.  This section starts at Starvation Creek Trailhead (Exit 55, eastbound only) and is a westward out-and-back hike or bicycle ride to Lindsey Creek.  The trail connects with an existing 1.2-mile section of the State Trail that runs from Viento State Park to Starvation Creek Trailhead – making for a nice 5-mile hike or ride if you’re looking for an afternoon outing.  The section is a part of a larger effort to connect a 73-mile stretch of the Highway from Troutdale to The Dalles.

 

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The Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail is an on-going project to reconnect sections of the Highway for a 73-mile stretch from Troutdale to The Dalles.

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Warren Creek bridge is designed and constructed in the style of the old Columbia River Highway.

 

This new section of trail also boasts views of three waterfalls.  While these falls have always been accessible to hikers; now, for the first time, they are accessible from a paved, well-graded universal trail.

 

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Interstate 84 was constructed in the 1950 as a new “water grade route” through the Columbia River Gorge. At times, segments of the Columbia River Highway were destroyed or replaced by this bigger, faster thoroughfare. The new State Trail parallels I-84 in places.

 

 Four in One

For those of you who have never been to Starvation Creek, there are actually four waterfalls awaiting you in about a 1-mile stretch.  Below, from east to west, are your three “new” waterfalls in addition to the “old” Starvation Creek Falls – an often overlooked waterfall a short jaunt east of the Starvation Creek Trailhead.

The four waterfalls within one mile of the Starvation Creek Trailhead. All are easily viewed along the paved Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail.  The new section of the State Trail is in red.

 

DISTANCE FROM STARVATION CREEK TRAILHEAD (approximate)

  • Starvation Creek Falls             0.1 miles east
  • Cabin Creek Falls                    0.3 miles west
  • Hole-in-the-Wall Falls              0.6 miles west
  • Lancaster Falls                       0.8 miles west

 

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Starvation Creek Falls is a short (0.1 mile) walk from the Starvation Creek Trailhead. It’s a lovely spot for a picnic.

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Cabin Creek Falls is the first of three waterfalls along the new section of the State Trail heading west from the Starvation Creek Trailhead.

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Hole-in-the-Wall Falls is another lovely spot to pull off for a bite to eat.

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Named for the Columbia River Highway’s designer and engineer, Samuel Lancaster, this waterfall is just visible from a viewpoint along the State Trail. For a better look at Lancaster Falls, take a hike up Starvation Ridge Trail.

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Multiple viewpoints keep this new section of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail interesting. Park at Starvation Creek Trailhead for a 2.6-mile out-and-back hike or ride, or park at Viento State Park for a solid 5-mile out-and-back.

 

Want to Learn More?

For more history about this area and a loop hike, check out the WyEast Blog

For this same loop hike and links to others starting from Starvation Creek Trailhead, check out the Friends of the Columbia Gorge Hikes

And for the history buff, our ranger go-to site for Gorge history, read up on on the Lindsey to Starvation Creek section of the Highway at Recreating the Historic Columbia River Highway

Trick-or-Treat? The Good Ghost of Vista House

Join us on for Trick-or-Treating at Vista House on Halloween from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm!  Details below.

 

October at the Vista House is always an interesting month . . .

From the shift in weather and beginning of the winter winds, to the outside weather (rain) making its way inside, to the shorter hours that the building is open, everything changes.  And this last change, being closed more often to the public, means that the local “residents” of Vista House have more time to be in their building alone.   Besides the mice, one of these local residents is (I believe) the ghost of the building’s architect, Edgar M. Lazarus.

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Who resides at Vista House when all of the visitors go home?



Many staff who have worked in Vista House late night in the fall have reported feeling the presence of Lazarus.  I have felt it before, too.  However, I have never been scared of it.  It is a nice, almost nurturing, presence to me.  I feel that he is just there watching over his building.  Happy that we are there, too, keeping watch and taking care—which is why I think I don’t find it scary.  If I was causing damage at Vista House, it might be a different story.

One of the ways Edgar Lazarus makes himself known (other than just the “feeling” that he is there) is by playing with the elevator or “lift.”  The lift is situated in the basement level of Vista House—volunteers in the rotunda level push toggles and buttons to raise and lower the lift.  The control box at the main level desk is the only way to operate the lift.  That said, I have had times when the lift is completely powered off, I am in the building by myself in the hallway in the basement when the lift door will start to open and close.  Or times when I’m upstairs and can hear the lift door opening and closing even though I can see with my own eyes that no one’s hands are on the control.  At times, it is just the outside door opening and closing; at other times, both the inside and outside door start opening and closing.

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Vista House architect, Edgar M. Lazarus.

I have always attributed this lift movement to Lazarus.  When the renovations were made on Vista House in 2004, we kept everything original (or at least as originally designed) EXCEPT the addition of the ADA elevator or “lift.”  This was the only “modern” addition to the building.  I do not think that Lazarus is upset by the lift, more than he is interested in it.  I think Lazarus, being an architect with a quizzical mind, is intrigued by the lift—curious about how it works—and that he is simply playing with it.

I had always attributed the change in the temperature/weather as the sign that strange-ness was coming to Vista House.  However, upon further research, I recently found out that Edgar M. Lazarus died on October 2, 1939 after a bitter dispute over his fees for the design and construction of Vista House.

Is it just a coincidence that Vista House’s ghost-play starts in October?

Or does the spirit of Edgar M. Lazarus begin making his rounds each year on the day he died, taking up residence in Vista House—the building he is best known for and one he felt he was never fully paid for?

(Special thanks to Ranger Mo Czinger for this ghostly account.)

 

 

 

Vista House will be open for trick-or-treating from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm on Halloween evening.  Park Rangers will be passing out candy.  The store, espresso bar, and balcony will be closed.  The event will be cancelled if the wind gusts exceed 50 mph:  Wind at Crown Point’s Vista House

 

 

Bike Your (NEWEST) Park Day

This coming Saturday, September 24, is national “Bike Your Park Day.”  But before you start flipping through your mental files of favorite parks for one last fall ride, we’d like to suggest something different.

And new.

Brand new.

How about a ride through the awe-inspiring Columbia River Gorge on the newest section of State Trail in Oregon?

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Be among the first to check out this view!  (Photo credit:  Ken Denis, Friends of Columbia Gorge)

We cordially invite you and your family and friends to join us on Saturday, September 24 from 10 AM to 12:30 PM as we dedicate the newest segment of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail: a 1.2 mile, car-free stretch from Starvation Creek to Lindsey Creek.

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Scout out all the rest places to share later with friends!  (Photo credit:  Ken Denis, Friends of the Columbia Gorge)

Be among the first to experience the graceful design of this new paved trail, with its stone walls, overlooks, picnic nooks, and new bridge that all mirror the elegant Historic Columbia River Highway.

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Beat your co-workers to the view of Warren Creek from above!  (Photo credit:  Ken Denis, Friends of Columbia Gorge)

The official ceremony begins at Viento State Park (I-84 exit 56) at 10 AM.  Following the dedication, you can pick up a “passport” and tour from Viento to Starvation Creek to Lindsey Creek, visiting information stations and collecting stickers along the way.  At the turn-around, be sure to grab a selfie as we ceremonially break ground for our next project—three more miles of trail.

Bike Your Park Day:  Gorge Style

BEGIN:  Take I-84, exit 56 for Viento State Park.  Arrive by 9:30 AM for good parking.

CELEBRATE:  State Trail dedication begins at 10 AM.

RIDE:  Approximately 2 miles one way, paved and car-free from Viento State Park to Lindsey Creek.

ALONG THE WAY:  Meet with key players and collect stickers for your Passport.  Take photos of the Gorge’s newest trail!

TURNAROUND:  At Lindsey Creek, take part in ground-breaking for the next 3 miles of trail, then head back 2 miles to your vehicle!

WANT TO SEE MORE?  Head west to exit 44 for 6.5 miles of paved, car-free riding from Cascade Locks to John B. Yeon Trailhead OR head east to exit 64 for 4.5 miles of paved, car-free riding from Mark O. Hatfield West Visitor Center to the East Trailhead.

BONUS:  This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the Historic Columbia River Highway.  You will literally be traveling through time!

LEARN MORE:  About the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail

 

Recollections from the Old Road

(Special thanks to Kristen Stallman of the Oregon Department of Transportation for this  feature.  ODOT encourages you to share your story:  kristen.stallman@odot.state.or.us

The 100th anniversary of the dedication of Historic Columbia River Highway this year provides an opportune time to remember what life was like along the Historic Highway back in the day (1916 – late 1950s) when this was the only road between Portland and points east.

It is certainly hard to imagine this bucolic life today as we speed 65 mph on I-84 and to imagine  only seventy or so years ago, all the car travel through the Gorge was forced to the narrow, two-lane, scenic highway.   It must have been an incredible 30 mile per hour drive punctuated with breathtaking views and dotted with roadside cafes, souvenir shops and service stations.  However, it wasn’t always stress-free.  Stories of getting car sick, terrible weather, and flat tires were quite common and add to the lore of this historic road.

 

Mike and George Johnson share stories of their grandfather’s highway businesses.

 

Mike Johnson (Vancouver, Washington) and his cousin George Johnson (Hood River, Oregon) surely remember what life was like along the Columbia River Highway.  Mike and George’s grandparents operated Johnson’s Café and service station located on what is now the parking lot at Vista House at Crown Point.  They spent their childhood at Crown Point.  Mike and George shared their stories with Kristen Stallman in Troutdale on July 25, 2016.

The Johnsons family’s black and white photos dated as early as 1926 fill albums made of black paper pages bound together with string.  These pages document a family history linked to the Columbia River Highway.  In fact, George lived in the basement apartment below the store with his mom for the first several years of his life while his dad fought in Pacific during World War II.  Mike’s baby album is so organized and thorough it was as if his mom was doing her best to capture every stage of her new-born baby’s life to share with his proud dad upon his return from the war.  These meticulous photo albums celebrated generations of Johnsons which included snapshots of their thriving businesses and a host of characters along the Historic Highway.

 

1916 View of the W. A. Johnson Cafe

1926 view of the W.A. Johnson Café with a view of Vista House in the distance.

These small black and white photos feature the Johnson family at holiday gatherings, neighbors such as the Hendersons (Crown Point Chalet) and Dimitts (Postcards), favorite customers (State Highway Patrolmen, truck drivers), locals and staff, not to mention the famous pets such as “Muggins” the famed café cat.  The pages of photos document the many epic weather events that were truly unique to living and operating a business at Crown Point during the winter months.  Photos of ice encrusted Vista House and piles of snow were common as were traffic accidents.  A long truck didn’t do so well as it tried to make the famous figure eight curves east of Vista House. Could 60 mph gale force wind be to blame?  The familiar rock walls and Vista House’s circling steps are featured in these historic family photos.   It is easy for one who is familiar to with the site to pick out the same locations todays and step back in time.

 

Cat

“Muggins,” the famed cafe cat.

Bear

Do YOU know the story of this bear on the Columbia River Highway?

 

George Johnson and Mike Johnson have a love of the Columbia River Highway and the Gorge. Their stories and photos make the highway come alive for all of us who appreciate its history and beauty.  They did leave us with one mystery.  The albums portray the Columbia River Highway bear.  Stephen Kenney, a local historian, shared similar story to of a bear shackled at a gas station near the Stark Street Bridge, but the photos make it appear like it was someplace at higher elevation.  If anyone has information on the Columbia River Highway bear please share!

 

Crown Point Businesses

Vista House + Grand Piano = One Wild Evening

Last Friday night, Vista House and all the visitors within experienced a first:  A classical music concert on a full-sized Steinway grand piano in the center of the Gorge’s iconic rotunda.

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Pianist Hunter Noack in the Vista House rotunda on August 20th.

The free event was part of Oregon pianist, Hunter Noack’s efforts to bring classical music into the kinds places that inspire it.  Hunter’s series, “In a Landscape:  Music in the Wild” is taking place from August 20 to September 1 in some of Oregon’s special places:  Crown Point, Timberline Lodge, Tryon Creek, Hoyt Arboretum, Hagg Lake, and more – the only venue with tickets still available is Portland’s Director Park.  http://www.hunternoack.com/

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Pink Martini’s China Forbes singing with Noack.

And the concerts are just what you might imagine – a grand piano sitting unexpectedly in a magnificent landscape with a young musician at the keys sharing his passion while a hundred or so visitors listen on and, in the case of Vista House, admire the timeless view of the Gorge at sunset.

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Pink Martini’s China Forbes and Tom Lauderdale.

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The charismatic and humble Hunter Noack who dreamed up the “In a Landscape: Music in the Wild” series.

As if the music of the talented, gracious Noack wasn’t enough for the evening, Hunter invited two special guests to join him.  Vocalist China Forbes of Pink Martini joined Noack for a few songs, and then pianist Tom Lauderdale of the same joined China for a couple.  Looking around the building that night, it was clear that everyone –  musicians and visitors alike – was mesmerized by the pull of music reverberating between the rotunda’s limestone walls, marble floors, and opalescent glass windows.

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Looking east as the sun sets over Crown Point.

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The sun setting over the Columbia River.

It was a night like no other, and a reminder like no other of what Oregon’s special places sound like.

Celebrate 100 years of the Historic Columbia River Highway

Your Parks "Go Guide"

Events this summer

VistaHouse More than 700,000 visitors each year stop at the iconic Vista House at Crown Point along the Historic Columbia River Highway.

Hailed “King of Roads,” Historic Route 30 was officially dedicated on June 7, 1916, with a dazzling affair that drew the attention of the nation and the world. This summer, we invite you to explore and rediscover the historic highway and the beautiful Columbia River Gorge it traverses. Take a drive, hike or bike ride. View magnificent waterfalls and vistas and stop by the communities along the way–many are hosting  events to celebrate the centennial. Here’s our guide to four new experiences you can have in the Gorge this summer.

1.Music in the Gorge. This summer brings opportunity to attend some not-so-traditional concerts in some unexpected venues.

  • Sing-along, play along, or just sit back and enjoy the Song Circles at Vista House at Crown…

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Planning for the Big One-Oh-Oh

On June 7, 2016 (and during the months that follow) the Columbia River Gorge will be celebrating.  Our favorite traveling companion is turning 100!  And what a long, winding road it has been.  

Literally.

Antique autos parked below Multnomah Falls as they might have in the 1920s.

Autos and owners from left to right:  Steve Knepper’s 1929 Model A Ford Roadster, Edward DeVito’s 1918 Model R-1 Hupmobile Touring Car, Donn Snyder’s 1912 Reo Touring Car — all parked at Multnomah Falls as they might have in the 1920s.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Historic Columbia River Highway (HCRH).  Begun in 1913 and fully completed in 1922, the scenic byway was dedicated on June 7, 1916 with celebrations at both Vista House on Crown Point and Multnomah Falls.  And in recognition, this year the entire Gorge is hosting a series of events throughout the summer months.  And you’re invited.  

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Add Warrenite paving and take out the railing, and this is about how things would have looked 100 years ago!  1918 Hupmobile (left) and 1929 Model A (right).

Want to learn about the Highway?  Visit the Troutdale Historical Society or Maryhill Museum to delve into the “King of Roads'” historical past.  Want to revel in the Highway?  Attend one of the summer’s many HCRH-themed festivals.  Want to experience the Highway?  Take a leisurely drive or, better yet, bike or hike one of the reconnected HCRH State Trail segments.  Want to breathe the Highway?  Sign up for one of the many Gorge runs and rides.  Want to see the Highway through the eyes of yesteryear?  Come out to watch antique autos parade by as they caravan from Troutdale to The Dalles on the July 23, 2016.

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Driving along the Historic Columbia River Highway’s iconic white fence.

For a list of tours, rides, runs, festivals, and events visit the Oregon Department of Transportations’s website:  HCRH Centennial Events

For a sneak peek into the July’s antique auto tour, take a look below at some photos from our January test-drive!

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My “ride” for the day, a 1929 Model A Ford Roadster.

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The view at Vista House from the passenger’s seat on a rainy, blustery day in January.

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Even the license plate is cooler.

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Three cheers for the Portland chapter of the Horseless Carriage Club for an amazing day!

 

Holiday Cheer is Here!

‘Tis the season, and rangers and volunteers in the Gorge are feeling holiday spirit!

Last week, rangers changed the light bulbs on “Thor’s Crown” from all white to red and green.  And over the past week, rangers and Vista House volunteers have been working on decorating Vista House’s first ever tree!  As always, it’s been a team effort to make the holidays happen.

Special Thanks

  • To the Olcott Christmas Tree farm in Corbett, Oregon for donating the perfect tree.
  • To the Friends of Vista House Volunteer Development Committee for donating ornaments and helping to decorate.
  • To the Friends of Vista House Volunteer Coordinator for donating a train for under the tree.
  • To the Park Rangers and Vista House Volunteers for keeping the lights on and the tree watered.
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We found the perfect tree! Mr. Olcott graciously cut it down for us.

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. . . and then generously loaded it into our park truck!

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Many thanks to Olcott’s Christmas Trees in Corbett, Oregon for donating our first tree!

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Rangers were dedicated to getting the tree just right!

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Thanks to Vista House volunteers for their time and donations!

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Join us at Vista House this weekend or next to catch the holiday spirit!  We’re open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 10 am to 4 pm, weather depending.

Don’t have your own tree yet?  Check out this guide to local tree farms from the Pamplin Media Group:

http://pamplinmedia.com/sp/68-news/283724-160016-over-the-river-and-though-the-woods