Category Archives: Programs & Events

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

 

 

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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!

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

 

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!

 

I Sing, You Sing, We All Sing . . . (Or We Used To!): Children’s Sing-Along Event

Join us at Vista House on Friday, August 28 from 7-9 pm for our special childrens’ sing-along event with musician and educator, Jory Aronson!

http://jorysings.com/

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Jory Aronson engages all of the senses with her dynamic musical programs.

Bring your favorite young people and a couple of chairs for a lively evening filled with songs, instruments, skits, and puppets.

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We have been hosting (and, at times, leading!) a series of singing events in the Gorge this year.

At Rooster Rock State Park, it has been monthly song circles on the waterfront–singing songs of yesteryear as swimmers romp around in the Columbia, barges plod through the channel, and the sun sinks slowly over Washington in a crimson wave.

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Enjoy a sunset and a children’s sing-along at Vista House on Crown Point.

At Vista House, it has also been monthly song circles, but within the magical sand and limestone walls of the rotunda as visitors flock to capture the last moments of the sun’s rays falling across the Gorge, birds soar towards their final resting spots for the night, and the Columbia rolls on for as far as the eye can see.

Although they are not widely advertised, we are also bringing song back to the campground with “Old-Fashioned Campfire” events at Ainsworth State Park on the first and third Fridays of the month.  These programs, as you might imagine, are a bit different.  There are fewer instruments, Ranger Patrick and I sing far less well (although Ranger Jami can hold a tune!), and the songs are less formal.  Instead, we stomp and clap and lead skits, we beg and plead until campers come up to sing for us, and the songs less than sing-y are more, well, campy.

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As children, we sang and danced unabashedly.

Our last old-fashioned campfire at Ainsworth was hands-down our best.  Sure, we rangers are getting our shtick down.  But what really made the night so wonderful was that before the 8:30 hour even rolled around, a little camper was up on the stage declaring that she would like to sing the first song.  We could hardly say no.  And without a moment’s hesitation, she started in on “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”  Not one song later, she was marching up to the stage again, this time with her cousin in tow.  They performed “The Alphabet Song,” complete with the elemeno p.  Five minutes later they were back.  Something from Frozen, although they couldn’t agree on what until another young camper from another family jumped up and in to help the group settle on “Let It Go.”  This other camper also led us in a handful of her favorite camp songs, from “Apples and Bananas” to “Bazooka Bubblegum.”

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As a long-time performer, educator, and advocate of young children, Jory believes in the magic that can be created with music.

Besides we rangers, only one other adult dared lead any part of any other song.  It was really the kids jumping up and leading unabashedly that made the night a roaring success.  It was a reminder of both how fearless kids can be and how important singing is to us in childhood.  Learning a song as a child was a big deal, something to be celebrated . . . by singing it repeatedly.  And which of we did not use the alphabet song to learn our letters?  Many of us teach it to our kids, grandkids, nieces, and nephews today.  In some ways childhood and singing are inseparable.

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“Today, young children are often in front of screens … [I believe] that children thrive when they’re using their senses.”

Which brings me to our next event at Vista House on August 28:  A Children’s Sing-Along with Jory Aronson, a musician and early education trainer.  Jory blends song with puppets, skits, and instruments for a fully participatory musical experience for children.  Besides being fun for the whole family, there is sound benefit to music for children:

“Music is an intelligence in and of itself. It also uses some of the other 6 intelligences in various ways. Songs are linguistic, rhythm is logical, dance and using instruments is body kinesthetic, musical interpretation is interpersonal, etc. Thus, by being involved in music, a child becomes in tune with many aspects of the self.”  – Dr. Howard Gardner (The Theory of Multiple Intelligences)

Join us at Vista House on Friday, August 28 from 7-9 pm for our special kids’ event!

Singing In the Gorge

A couple of weeks ago, on a Friday night, I took several of trips.  I traveled to Michigan, back to the kitchen of my childhood home.  Everything was there—the yellow and white linoleum floor, the long wooden island painted white, the over-sized industrial sink where all kids under four years of age took a bath.

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Vista House all lit up after an evening of singing.

My mom and I were doing dishes while belting out, “Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah, someone’s in the kitchen I know-oh-oh-oh, someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah, strummin’ on the old banjo . . .”  My mother had just taught me “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.”  Thirty years later, I still know all the words.  And every time I sing them, I go back to my childhood, back to that kitchen, back to my mom making “dish detail” fun.

Then I went back to Michigan again.  Same area, different time.  This visit to St. James Catholic Church—to the “new addition” constructed after the congregation outgrew the church.

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The cathedral-like dome of Vista House as seen when laying back, listening to music.

We were all gathered there— family, friends, and churchgoers.  Service was nearly over; last hymn, last words.  As they closed my grandmother’s casket, the choir and congregation started in, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me . . .”  And as we sang, the words reached out to my grandfather and swept him to knees, arms outstretched onto my grandmother’s casket.  For the first time in my life, I saw my grandfather’s bright blue, dancing eyes fill with tears.  And from that day forward, when I hear “Amazing Grace,” that moment flashes by, and my own eyes fill with tears.

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Strangers brought together by song at a Vista House Song Circle event.

“This Land is Your Land” took me back to elementary school to music class.  Flashes of ribbons and highways and skyways.  The feeling that everything is bright and right and Disney happy.

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The sun setting as visitors sing on during the July 10 Song Circle at Vista House.

“You Are My Sunshine” took me back to summertime in our little neighborhood.  My best friend, Tony, singing to me as we walked up the gravel road on our way to climb the “Jungle Tree.”

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Musicians from the Portland FolkMusic Society leading the group in songs of yesteryear . . . and tomorrow.

All the while, I am actually at Vista House at Crown Point, in the Columbia River Gorge.  It is our second in a series of “Song Circles” in the Gorge.  I am mostly surrounded by perfect strangers, who are surrounded by the same.  But we’re all singing from the heart, smiling as if we’re with old friends.  We sing songs we’ve all known for years, transporting us back in time and space.  We sing new songs whose words when we hear them again will likely bring us back to Vista House . . . to a warm summer night, with a golden sunset, rich voices swirling around the rotunda, wrapping us in a blanket of fullness and contentment.

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Voices rising as the sun was falling.

Join us for our next Song Circle on July 31 at Rooster Rock State Park from 7 to 9 PM.  Bring a friend, your family, your favorite sing-along, and a chair!  Parking permit ($5) or annual pass ($30) required.

For more information, contact Ranger Dorothy Brown-Kwaiser, 503-695-2261 x228

Future Song Circles:

  • July 31, 7-9 PM.  Rooster Rock State Park.

  • August 28*, 7-9 PM.  Vista House.  *Special kids’ sing-along.

  • September 11, 7-9 PM.  Vista House.

“Wild” for the Gorge: Upcoming PCT Talk

As many of you have heard, Cheryl Strayed’s popular book Wild about the author’s journey on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is coming out in movie-form on December 5, 2014.  What does this have to do with the Gorge and Oregon State Parks?  Well, as it turns out, quite a bit.

 

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“Wild” comes to movie theaters on December 5, 2014. Look for shots filmed in the Gorge!

 

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Cheryl Strayed’s book “Wild” is about her personal journey on the Pacific Crest Trail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First, Strayed completed her hike of the PCT at our very own Cascade Locks in the Columbia River Gorge.  The Bridge of the Gods is the PCT route’s through the Gorge.

Second, it is a little known fact that Oregon State Parks manages the Cascade Locks Trail Head right under the bridge.  And although it is not officially part of the PCT, many thru-hikers take the Eagle Creek canyon route to get to the Gorge — completing their final miles by walking the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail to Cascade Locks.

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The Cascade Locks Trail Head — PCT thru-hikers pass through here en masse between the end of August and the beginning of September each year.  It also happens to be a lovely spot for a view of the Bridge of the Gods and the Columbia River.

 

Third, parts of Wild were shot in the Columbia River Gorge.  If you thought you spied Reese Witherspoon in the Gorge last fall, you just might have.

 

PCTA Wild Article

The Pacific Crest Trail Association has a new “Wild” webpage — along with resources, it features essays written by thru-hikers.  In this essay, I shared the aftermath of my trek.

http://www.pcta.org/wild/

 

And finally, in 2012, I took a leave of absence from Oregon State Parks to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.  I started on April 30, 2012 and finished on September 27, 2012.  151 days, 2660 miles, more than 6 million steps.  And this coming Thanksgiving weekend, I am going to share my story here in the Gorge.

 

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I completed Oregon, passed into Washington, Canada-bound on September 3, 2012.

 

Please join me for a talk on the Pacific Crest Trail, “The Good, the Bad, and the Unforgettable” on Sunday, November 30, 2014 at 2 PM at the Bonneville Lock and Dam, Bradford Visitor Center.

 

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In 2012, I took a leave of absence from Oregon State Parks  to hike the Pacific Crest Trail . . . this coming Thanksgiving weekend, I am going to share my story . . .