King of the Roads



The historic Columbia River Gorge Highway has been called the King of the Roads.
 Construction on the Pacific Northwest’s “first modern road” and the “nation’s first scenic highway” started in 1913. The beauty spots were located first and the road engineered to connect them.

The iconic view of the Columbia River Gorge that includes the Vista House at Crown Point (above) is taken from the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint (The Portland Women’s Forum purchased the property in 1946 and gifted it to the State of Oregon in 1963.) It is the original site of the 1912 Chanticleer Inn, where Portlanders arriving by train or steamboat to Rooster Rock (now a State Park) would hike up to a promontory 700′ above the river to enjoy a $1.50 chicken dinner and a gorgeous view!

“We will cash in year after year on our crop of scenic beauty without depleting it in any way.”  Sam Hill

With the completion of a highway it became apparent that certain “necessaries” were needed. The design for the Vista House at Crown Point morphed from a “simple comfort station” (what we call a Rest Area) to an elegant Pioneer Memorial and the cost ballooned to more than 8 times its original estimate – from $17,230 to $99,148.05.

Friends of the Vista House volunteers dress in vintage clothing to welcome visitors to the Vista House.

At 730′ elevation, Crown Point is the highest point of the Columia River Gorge Highway offering spectacular views 20 miles up and down river.

The Columbia River Gorge was designed not only to get from point A to point B but to connect the beauty spots with a highway. The bridges, viaducts, and masonwork have been called “poetry in stone.” This is the highway and bridge at 250′ tall Latourell Falls.

 

The greatest concentration of waterfalls in North America are found in the Columbia River Gorge where there are 70 named waterfalls on the Oregon side alone.

With 4 million annual visitors, Portland’s most visited natural site is Multnomah Falls, the 2nd tallest 2-tiered, year-around U.S. waterfall. Or is it?

No, we’ve been lied to! No matter how much one monkeys around with the numbers (2-tiered, year-around, contiguous states, etc.) Multnomah Falls is not the 2nd tallest U.S. waterfall, although it is the tallest in Oregon.

Whether 70th, 108th or 137th tallest US waterfall, Multnomah Falls is stunning! Philanthropist Simon Benson purchased acres of land for the sole purpose of donating them to the State for parks. Because of him Multnomah Falls and Wahkeena Falls were preserved for the public.

The pool of Multnomah Falls upper fall as seen from Benson Bridge.

192′ tall Horsetail Falls is one of my favorite waterfalls.

 

I grew up in Parkrose, an east county Portland suburb, with the Columbia River Gorge practically in my backyard. I remember picnicking and swimming at Lake Benson, visiting Multnomah Falls, Bonneville Dam and the fish hatchery many times.

Once I started driving, I started sharing the beauties of the historic Columbia River Gorge Highway with my teenage friends. The beginnings of a tour guiding career!

Bomneville Dam, the oldest federal dam on the Columbia River was a WPA project dedicated by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937.

To see 80-year-old Herman the Sturgeon requires a stop at Bonneville Fish Hatchery, the oldest in the State of Oregon,

One of the roadside fruit stands along the Columbia River Gorge Highway – part of Historic Highway 30.

U-pick blueberries $5 a can!


The Bridge of the Gods at Cascade Locks crosses the Columbia River.

“The people of Oregon Country have constructed perhaps the greatest highway in the most magnificent setting in the world.” New York Daily newspaper

Returning home after traveling around the world…I’d have to agree!

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