Category Archives: Visiting the Gorge

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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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

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

 

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

 

 

Ice Castle on Thor’s Heights

Winter storms have hit early and hard this year in the Columbia River Gorge.  Wind gusts are consistently in the 70 mph-range and ice still coats the trees, roads, and buildings around Crown Point.  Temperatures are slowly rising and winds have crept down from the 80s.  And Vista House’s Crown Point — once called “Thor’s Heights” — has lived up to its stormy name.

Here’s a look around the west end of the Gorge:

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Angel’s Rest Trailhead’s new ice skating rink.

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Ice-coated trees at Rooster Rock State Park.

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Ice covered vehicles in the town of Corbett, Oregon.

Tree Over Power Lines at Latourell

Wind and ice have taken out many trees — and sometimes the power with it.

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A passenger’s view of the Historic Columbia River Highway outside of Corbett, Oregon.

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The road to Vista House on Thursday morning.

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The view to Vista House from an icy Portland Women’s Forum.

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A melting ice castle. Vista House on Crown Point.

Wondering what the winds and temps are like at Vista House?  You can click here to check our weather station:

http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/mesowest/getobext.php?wfo=pqr&sid=D6193&num=60&raw=0&banner=off

Of course, if the wind gauge is iced over (like it has been for the last two days), it will look like there is no wind at all . . .

In Her Own Words: Cycling the Historic Columbia River Highway

In October of this year, visitor Linda Hill rode her bicycle from Portland, Oregon to The Dalles.  One of our Park Managers had the pleasure of meeting Linda at Senator Mark O. Hatfield West Trailhead outside of Hood River and asked that she share her story.  Kindly, she did.

 

1 Leaving Portland

Linda Hill leaving Portland for her 100-mile ride along the Historic Columbia River Highway

I spent 4 wonderful days in early October 2015 cycling a hundred miles from Portland to The Dalles along the Historic Columbia River Highway.  This was my dream ride to celebrate my 61st birthday and I savoured every moment.

3 Heading down to the Waterfalls

Heading down from Vista House to the waterfalls.

4 Horse Tail Falls

Horsetail Falls along the Historic Columbia River Highway.

The location of the small towns along the route let me slow down to a very enjoyable rhythm of 20 to 35 miles per day.  This pace gave me time to stop when I wanted to chat with people and enjoy the views, waterfalls, tunnels, plateaus, and a few of the many trails along this stunningly beautiful bikeway.

Even though there are plenty of campsites along this route, I decided to stay in a few of the many motels in Troutdale, Cascade Locks, and Hood River.  This decision meant that I didn’t have to carry much gear and I had a comfortable bed to sleep in each night. 

5 Bridge of the Gods

Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks.

By traveling weekdays instead of on the weekend, the traffic was very light on the portions of the historic highway that are shared with cars.  The ride from Troutdale to Cascade Locks is probably the most beautiful day of cycling I have ever had.

6 West Mark O Hatfield Trailhead

Senator Mark O. Hatfield West Trailhead, outside of Hood River.

The decision I felt best about, though, was to make use of the Columbia Area Transit (CAT) Dial-A-Ride Service to get around the yet-to-be re-connected 10 mile stretch from Wyeth to Hood River.  After watching the ODOT videos about the plans for the final 10 miles of trail, I had no interest in attempting to share any part of the I-84 Freeway with huge trucks hurtling along at 80 miles per hour.  I was especially worried about the narrow section around Shellrock Mountain that is described by Park Rangers as ‘frightening’ and ‘harrowing.’

8 Rowena Loops

Coming down the Rowena Loops on the Historic Columbia River Highway between Mosier and The Dalles.

What a relief to find out about CAT and their bicycle friendly busses. I simply called 541-386-4202 a couple of days ahead and booked an early morning ride from Cascade Locks to Hood River.  Then after being shuttled around the scary part, I hopped on my bicycle and spent a wonderful day riding up the easy 5 percent grade to the West Mark O Hatfield Trailhead and then on to the famous Mosier Tunnels, the town of Mosier where bike racks are works of art.  I climbed up and up some more to Rowena Crest and then rode the swooping loops down toward The Dalles.

At the end of my trip, I caught the scheduled CAT bus service from The Dalles back to overnight in Hood River and then the next morning I caught the bus back to Portland.

9 Columbia Area Transit

The Columbia Area Transit bus.

ABOUT THE HISTORIC COLUMBIA RIVER HIGHWAY

The Historic Columbia River Highway was designed by Samuel Lancaster and constructed between 1913 to 1922.  Its purpose was not merely to offer an east-west transportation route through the Columbia River Gorge, but to take full advantage of every natural aspect, scenic feature, waterfall, viewpoint and panorama.  When bridges or tunnels were designed, they stood by themselves as artistic compliments to the landscape.  The Columbia River Highway served millions of travelers and became one of the grandest highways in the nation.

When transportation needs required faster and larger roads, sections of the old highway were bypassed. By 1960, a new interstate highway had replaced nearly all the older road.  In the 1980s, new interest in the old scenic highway began to resurface.  Lost sections of highway were identified, unearthed and studied for potential renovation.  Ambitions restoration projects began.  Since the 1987, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has been charged with working with Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), the State Historic Preservation Office and Travel Oregon to preserve, enhance, and reconnect the Historic Columbia River Highway.

Much work has been accomplished since that date.  63 of the original 73 miles of the Historic Columbia River Highway are now open to travel either by motor vehicle (by Highway or connecting county roads) or by foot and bicycle (State Trail.)  Only 10 miles are needed to complete the connection.

To learn more about cycling the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, check out our website:

http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/HCRH/pages/trail.aspx

 

Flame-Free Foods: Don’t Let the Fire Ban Rain on Your Picnic

Due to extensively dry and hot conditions, Oregon State Parks everywhere have banned fires.

The ban covers all open fires, including those in designated fire rings.  For parks in the West Gorge (between Troutdale and Cascade Locks), it also includes briquettes.  (Propane stoves are okay—check with your destination park to confirm.)

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Open fires, including campfires in fire pits and briquettes on the grill are banned in Oregon State Parks in the west end of the Gorge.

And visitors are not the only ones affected by the ban.  Even park rangers are scratching their heads now that they cannot burn charcoal briquettes for their annual Volunteer Appreciation BBQ.

At a loss for what to do without the grill?  Here are some ideas.

 

SANDWICHES

If you’re like me, this is one of the first places your brain went when you heard the words “fire ban.”  Cold cuts, lots of spreads, a variety of cheese, garden-fresh veggies . . . the options are limitless with a good old-fashioned sandwich.  Everyone can build his or her own to his/her own liking.  But.  Sandwiches can be somewhat, well, boring.

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Instead of bread, try creative wraps!

Here’s the twist.  Instead of loaf of bread, try:

  • Bagel sandwiches
  • Loaded pita pockets
  • Flavored wraps
  • Multiple gourmet breads cut and sized for multiple mini-sandwiches

 

FINGER FOODS

And if your brain tracked like mine, soon after sandwiches you thought of trays.  Trays full of delicious finger foods.  Again, it’s bound to be a crowd pleaser as you’re sure to have something for everyone.

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If it can go on a skewer, it can be a kabob!

A few twists on the ol’ veggie tray:

  • Fruit kabobs
  • Veggie kabobs
  • Cheese and sausage kabobs
  • Bread or cracker platter with a various sweet, spicy, and tangy dips
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You can never go wrong with the artful tray.

 

ELECTRIC APPLIANCES

Thinking outside of the box and depending on where you’ve planned to hold your picnic, you might have access to regular old electricity.  Our picnic shelters and our improved campsites have power.  What can you do with power?  Plug in your kitchen appliances!

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What’s in your pot? Crock pots and blenders and other appliances can easily be plugged in.  Check with your park to see about electricity availability.

A few appliances and picnic suggestions:

  • Electric Skillet + Power = Grilled Cheese Bar
  • Electric Skillet + Power = Sandwich Melt Madness
  • Crock Pot + Power = Chili Bar
  • Crock Pot + Pre-Baked Potatoes + Power = Baked Potato Bar
  • Fondue Maker + Power = Fondue Party
  • Toaster + Power = Toast Bar
  • Blender + Power = Smoothie Station

 

OTHER BAR-IFFIC  IDEAS

The build-your-own or bar-method of food is always a solid one.

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I’m dreaming of chips, pickles, and cheese on my BLT on sourdough toast.

In addition to the above, here are a few every-day and “outside-the-bar” ideas:

  • Salad Bar:  Spice this staple up with nuts, chopped meats, crunchy toppings, fruits, and different kinds of greens.
  • Cool Pasta Bar:  Use a range of flavors and shapes of pre-cooked noodles; sliced and diced veggies, meats, and cheeses; variety of dressings.
  • BLT Bar:  Assorted breads, veggies, spreads, flavors of pre-cooked bacon.  Include a “toasting station.”
  • Nacho Bar:  Use the crock pot for cheeses and meats; switch up your chips for more choices; think of the Baja Fresh array when planning your salsas.
  • Trail Mix Bar:  Go nuts with unusual dried fruit; candies like gummies, Mike & Ikes, and coated chocolates; crunchy grains like pretzels, chips, and cereals; and, of course, nuts.
  • Cupcake Bar:  Various frostings and creative toppings.
  • Ice Cream Sundae Bar:  You know the drill.  Call your local grocery store to see about dry ice for the cooler.
  • Ice Cream Float Bar:  Mix it up with unusual sodas and frozen creams.
  • Ice Cream Sandwich Bar:  Exactly what you think it is.  Fun!
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Desserts can be more fun when you build your own!

TAKE OUT(SIDE)

All of this sound too complicated?  For a few extra bucks and a lot less hassle, you can always order your hot food from a local restaurant or store and then supplement with your own sides and desserts.  Simply order ahead, and then take your take-out outside.

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Fried chicken from a restaurant is quick, easy, and can substitute for grilled chicken.

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When in doubt, pizza is usually a pleaser. Especially now that it comes in everything from gluten- and cheese-free to meat-lovers.

Have an idea you’d like to share?   Please post below!

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.