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The Columbia River Gorge NSA is managed by the US Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service. We knew we had to see the famous waterfalls while we were in Oregon and we decided to tour the gorge with Sea to Summit tours. We met our guide Shahn by Pioneer Square in Portland and loaded into a comfortable minibus for our full day tour.
Shahn drove us along the Historic Columbia River Highway stopping at numerous waterfalls, vista point, a dam and salmon ladder, an orchard and other picturesque places, culminating with a stop at the Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. Shahn kept us entertained during drive time and at each stop with the history of the places we saw and advising the best places for photos, snacks, etc… We never would have fit all of this into one day if we’d tried to do it on our own, and my husband would have been cranky from all the driving and trying to find parking. I highly recommend seeing the area with Sea to Summit.
Vista House: Our first stop was the Vista House at Crown Point. This historic landmark observatory was built in 1916 and has views up and down the Columbia River from its perch on the Cliff.
Latourell Falls: The first waterfall we stopped at was Latourell Falls. There is an easy path from the parking lot to the base of the falls. It was here that I discovered that I’d packed the wrong foot for my tripod, so no pretty long exposure waterfall pics for me. And I felt pretty foolish having lugged the heavy thing across the country and up and down the pacific northwest for no good reason.
Multnomah Falls: The most visited tourist attraction in Oregon, Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in the state and proclaims itself to be the second tallest in the US. We walked up the path to the bridge over the lower tier and explored the small museum in the historic lodge
Horsetail Falls: This skinny waterfall, resembling a horse’s tail is only a few steps away from the parking lot. We jumped out, snapped a few photos and moved on to the next stop.
Bonneville Lock and Dam: This Dam on the Columbia River is managed by the US Army. The visitor center has some interesting displays and an underwater viewing area of the salmon bypassing the Dam via the salmon ladder. We stood outside for a while watching the salmon jump up the ladder (and the birds of prey swooping in for an easy lunch.)