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Travel news, consumer advice and trip reports for the Northwest and beyond.

Topic: columbia river gorge

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November 19, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Trail segment opens, linking 34-mile Columbia Gorge ride

Bicyclists ride on the new McCord Creek Bridge, part of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, near Cascade Locks, Ore. (Oregon Dept. of Transportation photo) After a few false starts and final construction delays, a new 1.6-mile segment of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail opened Thursday, making it possible for cyclists to travel…

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Comments | More in biking, Northwest, Oregon, Outdoors | Topics: bicycling the Columbia Gorge, columbia river gorge, Columbia River Gorge trail

April 12, 2013 at 6:00 AM

Highway 14 through Gorge is a slower road worth taking

When did you last drive Highway 14 on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge? For me, it had been too long, I decided Thursday when I needed to drive from Columbia Hills State Park to the Willamette Valley wine country, two destinations for upcoming travel stories.

Highway 14 hugs the  shoreline through much of the Columbia River Gorge. (photo by Brian J. Cantwell / The Seattle Times)

Highway 14 hugs the shoreline through much of the Columbia River Gorge. (photo by Brian J. Cantwell / The Seattle Times)

I’ve always been in a hurry in recent years when on my way through the Gorge, so I took the freeway. (And you can’t complain about scenery, even zipping along Interstate 84 on the Oregon side of the river.)

But two-lane Highway 14 is a road worth seeking out, for a bunch of reasons:

  • Narrow tunnels! Low clearance! The highway transits a half-dozen low and narrow tunnels, which are fun to drive through. (Honk your horn for the echo.)
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Comments | Topics: Bridge of the Gods, Columbia River, columbia river gorge

April 10, 2013 at 9:41 PM

It’s wildflower time in Central Washington and the Gorge

If Skagit Valley tulip fields are too crowded, head east for proof that spring is here. The wildflowers are blooming in Central Washington and the Columbia River Gorge.

Arrowleaf balsamroot bloom by a trail at Horsethief Butte, in Columbia Hills State Park. (photo by Brian J. Cantwell / The Seattle Times)

Arrowleaf balsamroot blooms at Horsethief Butte in Columbia Hills State Park, in Klickitat County. (photo by Brian J. Cantwell / The Seattle Times)

On a drive across the state Wednesday to visit Columbia Hills State Park to do research for an upcoming installment in our series of state park profiles, I crossed Snoqualmie Pass (in pelting, 40-degree rain), then cut over through Yakima and then south over Satus Pass to the Gorge.

By the time I was heading up out of the Yakima Valley, in welcome sunshine, I got my first sightings of blazing yellow arrowleaf balsamroot, that cheerful sunflower relative that grows among sagebrush and is a sure harbinger of spring in the high desert.

Next as I headed over 3,100-foot Satus on Highway 97 were meadows of filaree, tiny five-petaled star flowers that gave whole pastures a special dye job — or maybe just a quick color rinse, because as I passed at 60 mph the flowers seemed to disappear if you looked straight at them, but in my peripheral vision whole fields went cotton-candy pink from thousands of fingernail-sized blossoms.

As the highway descended past Goldendale and into the gorge, purple

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Comments | Topics: arrowleaf balsamroot, columbia hills state park, columbia river gorge

January 16, 2013 at 6:30 AM

Where and when to find ‘popsicle’ waterfalls in the Columbia Gorge

After reading about winter in Hood River, Ore.,  and my remark about “popsicle” waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge, an 80-year-old reader from Kenmore emailed to ask about the winter phenomenon of frozen waterfalls, a sight she said is on her personal “bucket list.”

Multnomah Falls can be an icy cascade in winter, as seen in January 2012. (photo by Brian J. Cantwell / The Seattle Times)

I lived on my boat on the Columbia River for four years and I can tell you that cold spells such as we’ve had this week are the thing to watch for. (Wind would shriek in the rigging, and there was no need to run the fridge, we could just put the milk or beer outside in the cockpit.)

But it’s warming up now and you’ll likely need to watch for another weather window (a well-frosted window).

Several good waterfalls located along the Historic Columbia River Highway (Highway 30) on the Oregon side of the Gorge are viewable with minimal effort. The easiest to see and most visited is Multnomah Falls, which in two tiers is almost as tall as the Space Needle. Lest that part about “shrieking winds” puts you off, there’s also a historic stone lodge here, with restaurant, fireplaces and a Forest Service visitor center. But if you’d rather find a falls to yourself, drive a mile or two in either direction and crowds disappear.

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Comments | More in Northwest | Topics: columbia river gorge, frozen waterfalls, historic columbia river highway

January 15, 2013 at 6:00 AM

New York Times discovers White Salmon River (and a few other places)

A deserving backwater of the Pacific Northwest, where I yee-haa’d and shrieked with the best of them on my first-ever whitewater rafting trip (back in the Early Cretaceous), made it on to The New York Times’ list Sunday of “The 46 Places To Go In 2013.”

A kayaker rides the White Salmon River about five miles above the former site of Condit Dam. (photo by Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times, 2011)

Lucky No. 13 on the 2013 list was the White Salmon River, down by the Columbia River Gorge where Skamania and Klickitat counties rub rocky shoulders.

The NYT blurb noted that the October removal of “a major dam” (Condit Dam, as reported here by The Seattle Times’ Lynda Mapes) made the river “a whitewater paddler’s dream come true.”

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Comments | More in Northwest | Topics: columbia river gorge, condit dam, rafting