I’ve never seen anything sparkle the way that the Columbia River glitters in the sunlight. I had my first look at the shimmering spectacle on a summer day during an Oregon road trip that took me just outside Portland and along the Columbia River Gorge. I don’t know what Lewis and Clark thought in 1805 when they beheld the brilliant waters that slice through what is now the Mt. Hood and Gifford Pinchot national forests, but my guess is that it was some version of what I gasped aloud: “Holy crap.”
A few long, pondering gazes out the window of the car was certainly not a filling enough taste of the Columbia River Gorge for me, so I pulled over to a small grassy rest stop, crossed some train tracks and gently made my way out onto a rickety dock. The sun shone warmly on my face, the water lapped quietly beneath me, and a few birds swooped playfully overhead. The peacefulness of the scene washed over me with such intensity that I thought maybe I had actually tumbled off the dock and into the river — not that I would have minded.
Besides the river itself, Multnomah Falls is perhaps the most popular draw in this area for those seeking to soak in Oregon’s natural splendor — and it’s certainly worth a stop — but don’t miss less touristy sights along the scenic drive, such as the Latourell and Bridal Veil waterfalls and Oneonta Gorge. The adventurous can access the stunning Oneonta Falls via a unique hike through the gorge. There is no trail — hikers must literally bathe in the area’s beauty by walking in the river that cuts through the gorge and by scrambling over rocks and logs.