Recently I was in Portland, OR to do a training session for a company that Cartan Tours works with. This was my first visit to Portland. (In fact, I have not been to Portland, ME either but it is on my list of places to visit.) After a great training, what started out as a simple drive to Hood River, Oregon and back so that I could ride on the Mount Hood Railway turned into a remarkable journey!
I was traveling with Raymond Quinton (the person I did the training session for) and Clem Ogilby from Best Oregon Tours. Clem operates his own charter touring company and has been to many places not only around Portland, but around the world. He is a Certified Tour Director from the International Tour Management Institute, located in San Francisco. As we departed Portland, I instantly felt the kindness and enthusiasm in Clem’s voice as he started to point out how the topography was changing in the short time we were on the road. A VERY knowledgeable person, he is also a history buff. There are two roads that would take us to our eventual destination. One is the Columbia River Highway, the other is a back road. We took the Historic Columbia River Highway (1914).
Clem told us how Lewis and Clark had explored this area on their famous journey during the years of 1805-06 and how they only had primitive tools and pure manpower to search for a passage to the Pacific Ocean. Captivating! Our first stop was at Chanticleer Point and Panorama. From there we could observe the Columbia River Valley Gorge as well as Washington State on the opposite side of the river. He pointed out our next stop which would be Vista House (1914).
From Chanticleer Point and Panorama, it seemed that Vista House was a good distance away. However, in reality it was much closer that it appeared and we arrived shortly thereafter. The road wove and curved back and forth through the forest filled with many different species of trees and animals. Vista House provides a spectacular view. It was very windy! So windy, that the upstairs observation deck was closed. We toured the inside and viewed some historical photos on display. After a brief stop for souvenirs and a small snack, we were back on the road.
With Clem, you travel in a small group. This makes those little out of the way places easy to access with a 14 passenger van. When we got out of the van there were a couple of ladies with their paints, brushes, and easels. Oregon is a very artistic place. A short walk on an asphalt sidewalk took us to the Latourell Falls (249’). Clem explained that the type of falls we were seeing were of the plunge type – water pours over the top without touching the side. The lichen covered columnar basalt formations around the falls steal the show.
From Latourell Falls, we traveled up the road to the famous Multnomah Falls. This is a tiered falls, the upper falls are 542 feet high (Plunge Type) and the lower falls are 69 feet high (Pitcher Type). It is the highest waterfall in the state of Oregon and is regarded as the second tallest year-round waterfall in the United States. There is a visitor center with pictures, maps, and history of the area along with an explanation of the species of animals that roam the area. Again, a gift shop, restroom facilities, and food can all be found here.
Clem took us to the Bonneville Fish Hatchery (1909) next. There are huge tanks filled with salmon in various stages of their lives. This is an amazing site to see and I’d highly recommend seeing it for yourself! There are Rainbow Trout ponds where you can buy fish food for .25 to create an instant feeding frenzy. DO NOT put your hands in the water, the fish DO BITE! We walked over to another exhibit where you could view the fish underwater. Swimming amongst the salmon are examples of the white sturgeon, the largest fresh water fish in North America. There is one in particular to note: Herman who is over 10 feet long, 450 pounds, and approximately 70 years old! There is an information center, along with a gift shop and washroom facilities.
The area of Cascade Locks was our next stop filled with many interesting facts. First there was the steel Bridge of the Gods which aviation great Charles Lindberg flew underneath in 1927 aboard the Spirit of St. Louis. Clem pointed out the salmon fishing platforms overhanging the Columbia River, a practice that has little changed over the last 1000 years. We also got to see the Civil War era steam locomotive known as the Oregon Pony which has been beautifully preserved and displayed. There are two bronze statues in this area, one of a mountain lion and another of Native American Sacagawea along with her papoose and Labrador dog. At this location you can take a sternwheeler paddleboat ride to enhance the whole experience at this stop.
After an amazing day, our final stop was the Columbia Gorge Hotel in Hood River. Coming up soon will be the second part of my adventure which will include information about the hotel, train ride, and visit to the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum (WAAAM).
Cartan Tours has a designed a new tour for this Portland trip, and we are working on more! For tour details, go to www.americanriversandrails.com or contact your Cartan Tours Travel Consultant.