I don’t think there is another state in the country as geographically diverse as Oregon. I’ve taken you on little trips to the Oregon Coast, to high desert country in Central Oregon, through the very fertile Willamette Valley and to the mountains and now I would like to show you one of the most beautiful places in our state, the Columbia River Gorge and Willamette Falls. The Columbia River is the natural boundary between Oregon and Washington.
The Columbia Gorge is a spectacular river canyon 85 miles long and up to 4,000 feet deep. Carved by volcanic eruptions and Ice Age floods over millions of years, the Gorge is the only sea-level route through the Cascade Mountains. The cataclysmic floods also transformed flowing river tributaries into hanging waterfalls creating the largest concentration of waterfalls in North America.
Multnomah Falls is as magnificent and memorable as any in the country and is located just a 30- minute drive outside of Portland. Visiting Multnomah Falls, a 611-foot-tall roaring, awe-inspiring cascade of icy water, lets you experience the power and beauty of nature up close. From the parking area off of I-84, a 5-minute walk is all that separates you from the exhilarating spray at the base of the falls. Multnomah Falls is the most visited tourist site in the state.
According to Native American lore, Multnomah Falls was created to win the heart of a young princess who wanted a hidden place to bathe. Although you can see the top portion of the falls from the highway, to view both tiers you have to walk to the viewing area located in a carved-out opening in the rock face. Tilting your head up in the narrow rocky confines of the steep cliffs, you get a mind-boggling perspective on the sheer magnitude of the falls.
For an even closer view, walk another several hundred feet up the paved trail to reach Benson Bridge, which spans the falls at the first tier’s misty base. Standing on the bridge you have a perfect view of the top tier’s full 542-foot height and a knee-wobbling vantage point over the second tier’s 69-foot drop! The bridge is named for Simon Benson, a prominent Portland businessman who owned the falls in the early part of the 1900s. Before his death, Benson gave Multnomah Falls to the City of Portland, which later transferred ownership to the USDA Forest Service.
To make the outing complete, visit the Multnomah Falls Lodge which was built in 1925 to serve throngs of tourists who came to view the spectacular sights of the Columbia Gorge. Today, the historic structure (made of every type of rock found in the gorge) houses a gift shop with plenty of postcards, a restaurant with Northwest Cuisine and unbeatable views of the falls, and a US Forest Service Information Center where you can find trail maps. During the summer months vendors offer ice cream, coffee, sodas and other quick snacks from booths and carts in front of the lodge.
If you have never visited the Pacific Northwest I hope you will have the opportunity to do so very soon. You will be amazed at the beauty and geographic diversity you will find here. In just a matter of a few hours you can leave Portland and visit our coastal beaches, ski resorts in the mountains, first class golf courses in Central Oregon, and tour the best wine region in the country. Hope to see you soon.
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