All About the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Website

The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area protects a spectacular canyon where the Columbia River carves the only sealevel route through the Cascade Mountain Range. Shaped by volcanic flows and prehistoric floods, this eighty-mile stretch of the Columbia River is surrounded by cliffs and breath-taking overlooks up to 4,000 feet above the river. The National Scenic Area maintains National Forest System lands and recreational facilities within its boundaries and manages the nearby Klickitat and Lower White Salmon Wild & Scenic Rivers.

Created by the 1986 National Scenic Area Act, the Area’s special designation directs the Forest Service to protect and enhance scenic, natural, cultural and recreational resources across all lands within the Scenic Area through a regional planning partnership with the Columbia River Gorge Commission, the states of Oregon and Washington, six counties, and four treaty tribes. The partnership also encourages compatible local economic development within 13 designated urban areas. A number of nationally significant attractions lie within the Scenic Area, including the Pacific Crest National Trail, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, the Ice Age Geologic Trail, and the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness.

The Columbia River is the main artery that flows through the heart of the Pacific Northwest. According to the Center for Columbia River History, the watershed includes territory in seven states, one Canadian province, and occupies a 259,000 square-mile basin. The Columbia River begins in British Columbia, and flows for approximately 1,200 miles to the Pacific Ocean. For the last 10,000 years, the Columbia River has served as a transportation corridor for a diverse assortment of life, including fish, fowl, plants, and humans. The Gorge would not be the same without this “River of Life.” Waterfalls: The Pounding Heart of the Gorge In addition to jawdropping cliffs, beautiful rivers, and unparalleled hiking, the Columbia River Gorge is characterized by a series of beautiful waterfalls, many of which can be seen from the highway.

The highest of these is 620-foot Multnomah Falls, which receives over two million visitors a year, making it one of the most visited natural attractions in the Pacific Northwest. Multnomah Falls also offers a magnificent glimpse at the area’s geology, with four distinct flows of Columbia River basalt visible in the fall’s cliff face. The waterfalls are located along America’s first scenic highway, the Historic Columbia River Highway. This historic route once brought early car campers to nearby Eagle Creek, the Forest Service’s oldest developed campground, which was created in 1916 with a cliff-side trail that is still popular today

319,000 acres total
100,000 acres is fs managed
220 miles of trail
26 trailheads
13 urban areas
13-person management commission
  • Your Fees At Work

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    See what was accomplished this last year on the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area thanks to recreation fees.