Waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge

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The Columbia River Gorge from near Multnomah Falls. Photographed 11/19/2015 east of Portland, Oregon.

Forming much of the border between Oregon and Washington, the Columbia River bisects the volcanic rocks of the Cascade Range. Over the last 12-17 million years the volcanoes of the Cascades have built themselves skyward while the relentless erosive action of moving water has worked its way down. For over 80 miles the mighty Columbia has carved its way through the resistant basalt of the mountains, creating the Columbia River Gorge. This stretch of river is the only water route through the Cascade Range and one of the most beautiful places in the Pacific Northwest.

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Downstream of Multomah Falls near its confluence with the Columbia River. Photographed 11/19/2015 east of Portland, Oregon.

While out here visiting customers my business partner and I found ourselves driving right through the heart of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Interstate 84 and a number of parallel side roads follow the river, providing access to the approximately 80 waterfalls on the Oregon side. The most impressive of these is Multnomah Falls, dropping 620 feet from the northern flank of Mount Hood to the river below.

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Multomah Falls east of Portland, Oregon.  Photographed 11/19/2015.

As the second-highest year-round waterfall in the United States, Multnomah Falls attracts over two million visitors per year. To accommodate visitors and promote tourism the city of Portland and wealthy financiers built the Multnomah Falls Lodge, offering information, dining, and rooms to travelers. Today the US Forest Service administers this location as part of Mount Hood National Forest.

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The lodge and Multomah Falls east of Portland, Oregon.  Photographed 11/19/2015.

While Multnomah is the most impressive waterfall to be found here, many others are also worth a visit. Since we were out here on business my friend and I didn’t have time to see many, but another notable cascade was Wahkeena Falls:

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Wahkeena Falls photographed 11/19/2015 east of Portland, Oregon.

We hiked here quite a bit, from the moss-covered rocks and stone bridges surrounding the top of the falls to the colorful autumn leaves near the base:

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Wahkeena Falls photographed 11/19/2015 east of Portland, Oregon.

Along the way we also came across this modest yet attractive waterfall.  There are so many in this area that some, like this one, don’t even have names:

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Some unnamed cascade near Wahkeena Falls. Photographed 11/19/2015 east of Portland, Oregon.

Although we had a long drive that evening, it was worth stopping for a couple of hours at these remarkable locations. If you’re ever near Portland, OR or Yakima or Kennewick, WA, this area is worth driving a couple of hours to see. If you have more time I suspect it’s worth an extended visit. The magnificent waterfalls, lush foliage, and rugged terrain are perfect for exploration.

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Wahkeena Falls photographed 11/19/2015 east of Portland, Oregon. Friend Jim for scale.

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About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in General, Geology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge

  1. I love Multnomah Falls! My brother lives nearby there so we have been several times. I haven’t visited the others though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful shots of a wonderful part of the country that I didn’t even know existed when I visited Portland. Thanks for sharing.
    What a thrill it must be to wake up in that Lodge and see the view!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Marli Miller says:

    nice article –and nice photos!
    nice article and nice photos!

    Like

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