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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
How about a ride through the awe-inspiring Columbia River Gorge on the newest section of State Trail in Oregon?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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:
For those of you who have wisely chosen to stay away this past week while the Gorge pounded out its first windy ice storm of the season, I thought we’d share a whip of the tempest.
Most of us, when we go to Latourell Falls, pull off the Historic Columbia River Highway into the parking lot, walk the 25 yards or so to the viewing point, snap a few photos, and then jump back in our vehicles to zoom off to the next waterfall. I’ll admit, I’ve done this very thing numerous times.
A few of us walk down to the base of the falls and then wind around under the Highway to find ourselves in some weird park we’ve never seen before and then scurry back to where our vehicles are parked. I’ve done this, too.
Even fewer of us do what I (after rangering for nearly 7 years in the waterfall wonderland of Silver Falls) now highly recommend. Which is this: Park at Guy W. Talbot State Park on the north side of the Historic Columbia River Highway just west of Latourell Falls (follow a state park shield with a picnic table) – technically, Latourell Falls is IN Guy W. Talbot, but few know this or park here. Use the very nice restroom if needed. Follow the braided, paved path uphill, keeping right.
What you’re about to do is hike the Latourell Falls loop backwards.
Backwards, you ask? Yes. Here’s why. If you’re willing to hike 2+ miles, it is worth it to see the upper and lower falls at Latourell – most of us, as I mentioned, only see the lower falls and miss out the upper. Waterfalls, as we all know, are quite a treat. So, for this (and I’d argue, all) waterfall hikes, do the work first – hike uphill in the forest first, and then, as you wind downhill, you’ll be rewarded with first the upper falls, and, finally, the lower falls. A couple more hundred yards, and you’ll be back at your vehicle. And a nice restroom.
I just hiked the loop backwards (having already completed frontwards) and confirmed, at least for myself, that it is the best direction. And don’t worry, your forested hike up has a few things in store for you, too. Take a look . . .
Well, it is a new year. 2014 has arrived. And it is time (nearly past time) for the year’s resolutions. Typically, resolve means to “settle or find a solution to (a problem or contentious matter).” If you’re like me, your resolutions tend to be the same . . . and tend not to work. So, a few years back, I went for the other definition of resolve, to “decide firmly on a course of action.” I switched from problem-solving to goal-setting. And this year, it is all about the Columbia River Gorge.
Want to join me? Below is the result of my brainstorm. Choose 10! Or 20. Or 30. Feeling like a “Big Year”? Go for all 50. It’s time to choose your own 2014 adventure.
50 Things to Do In the Columbia River Gorge in 2014
- Hike 100 miles of different trails in the CRG.
- Visit all State Parks in the CRG.
- Visit 25 waterfalls in the CRG (there are over 90), at least one of each type (plunge, horsetail, fan, cascade, punchbowl, block, tier, and segmented).
- Visit one Washington and one Oregon museum in the Gorge.
- Tour the Lewis and Clark sites along the CRG.
- Visit a fish hatchery.
- Conduct your own naturalist study—visit and document changes at one spot 20 times throughout the year.
- Have a “three-pronged” adventure day (bike, hike, camp, windsurf, kiteboard, standup paddleboard, bird watch, fish, swim, paddle, disc golf, rock climb . . .just pick three!)
- Drive (and/or bike!) all existing portions of the Historic Columbia River Highway.
- View the Gorge from the water.
- Hike to the highest point in the Gorge.
- Read the journals of Lewis and Clark.
- Watch a documentary on the Gorge OR a movie filmed in the Gorge.
- Learn 10 new Gorge plants. Photograph and sketch them. Note their habitat.
- Learn 10 new Gorge birds. Sketch them and learn their songs and calls. Note their habitat.
- Go on a search for the rare Larch Mountain Salamander.
- Go on a search for the rare wildflower, Columbia Kittentails (Synthyris stellata)—only found in the Gorge.
- Hike to a viewpoint for a Gorge sunrise.
- Give back by volunteering for a day trail work, invasive weed removal, or litter cleanup in the Gorge.
- Stay a night in the Gorge.
- Attend a guided hike or educational program about the Gorge.
- Visit one Oregon Trail historical site.
- Visit one Native American petroglyph or pictograph.
- Find the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the Gorge.
- Study the Missoula Floods, who was Bretz?
- Walk through an oak grove in the Gorge.
- Stand in a waterfall “mist zone.”
- Hear the distinctive warning call or “whistle” of a pika.
- Sketch a plant using the “macro” point of view.
- Sketch the Gorge landscape from a viewpoint.
- Track wildlife prints on the beach.
- Write a letter and drop it off at the Bridal Veil Post Office.
- Hug an old-growth tree.
- Visit the site of a sawmill or fish cannery.
- Step foot on the Pacific Crest Trail.
- Learn the legend and geological story behind the Bridge of the Gods.
- Research historic photos of Celilo Falls, visit the site and imagine the power of the falls.
- Hike to a viewpoint where you can take in both Mount Hood and Mount Adams.
- Talk to a park ranger.
- Ride your bike on a section of the Historic Columbia River Hwy.
- Photograph the basalt columnar joints common in the Gorge—dark, six-sided, regular columns.
- Watch the Tundra Swans at Rooster Rock’s Mirror Lake in the winter.
- Look for petrified wood near Eagle Creek.
- Dip your fingers in either end of the Gorge—at the Sandy and Deschutes Rivers.
- Spot an Amtrak train passing through on the Washington side.
- Watch the salmon run.
- Watch the dam locks give a boat passage.
- Watch the moon rise over the Gorge.
- Stargaze in the Gorge.
- Share the Gorge with a friend
Phew! It is going to be a busy year. Best get started. Worried about finishing? #51 is “Find Bigfoot.”
Well, winter has arrived. I know for most, this is a reason for concern. Temperatures are dropping, winds are picking up, visibility is low, and roads are getting slick. It is the first snow of the season; and it’s a good day to stay home with a book, a blanket, and a hot drink. And to check extreme conditions from the safe comfort of home.
Here’s what it’s looking like at the west end of the Columbia River Gorge:
It is windy. And cold.
As of 8:27 AM, temperatures at Vista House on Crown Point were +1 degree Fahrenheit with the wind chill. That wind was gusting up to 53 miles per hour. Interested in seeing this data for yourself? Check out our NOAA Weather Conditions at Crown Point:
It is snowing.
What was flurries on I-205 in Portland is turning into snow on I-84 heading east. It’s one of those days where an unexpected gust can slide you sideways a bit, even if you’re only going 35 mph.
It’s also freezing.
And has been for days. Yesterday, the Tundra Swans were feeding in the center of Mirror Lake at Rooster Rock, rumps up in the air. Today, they were ice skating. Joining them in the performance were:
- Hooded Merganser
- Green-winged Teal
- Northern Pintail
- Song Sparrow
- Ruby-crowned Kinglet
- Steller’s Jay
- Black-capped Chickadee
Winter is a time of subtle beauty in the Gorge. If you want to see it for yourself, just come prepared for extreme winter conditions. Check the weather and the roads, bundle up, pack a little extra of everything, and play it safe. If, like today, it’s unsafe to drive, wait a day or two. The Gorge will still be here, waiting with a windy embrace.