About the Area

The Columbia River Gorge

Looking down the columbia river gorge, you see tree covered hills and crown point

The Columbia River Gorge is so much more than just a natural wonder -- it is a critical transportation corridor and vibrant community of 75,000 people living in fertile countryside and 13 urban areas spanning two states and six counties. The Columbia River itself is the Gorge's centerpiece, a lifeline of water and the only sea level route through the Cascade Mountain Range. The Cascades' geology creates a rain shadow effect, causing a dramatic precipitation difference that distinguishes the lush conifer forests in the West end of the Gorge from the grasslands of the Gorge's East end. Add to that world-class geological features carved out by volcanoes and massive floods, such as steep slopes, near-vertical drops, and jaw-dropping vistas, and you can begin to understand what makes this area so unique.

The combined effect of local weather and geology creates a wind tunnel that causes summer winds to average 20 mph (with gusts up to 50 mph). The magnificent water, wind, and landscapes of the area make it a world-class destination for outdoor sports such as hiking, bikingwatersports and windsports. There are also myriad state parks, National Wildlife Refuges, fish hatcheries and tribal allotments, and the Scenic Area shares boundaries with the Mt. Hood National Forest to the South and the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to the North. As a Forest Service unit, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area manages many of the region's premier outdoor recreation sites - so be sure to explore our recreation page for ideas on things to do. Interested in how we manage lands within the Gorge and work with our partners? Check out our page About the National Scenic Area.

Fertile Landscapes

The Gorge has a rich agricultural tradition that remains alive and well today, with U-Pick farms, wineries, breweries, and orchards. Here are some culinary tours to check out:

History & Culture

The Columbia River Gorge has drawn people for more than 13,000 years, and Native Americans flourished on the abundant natural resources and fisheries of the Columbia River’s rapids and pools. The 1804-1806 expedition of Lewis and Clark drew French Canadian “voyageurs” and later, the Oregon Trail brought many other settlers in search of new opportunities to live off the land. Learn more at our History & Culture page.

Better still, explore the region's rich history and culture at our official interpretive center at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center in The Dalles, or visit one the area's other local museums:

Local Communities: ​Shops, Restaurants, and More

Within the Columbia River Gorge's six counties lie 13 urban areas and other unincorporated communities. Each small town has its own character and an eclectic mix of stores, galleries, hotels, restaurants, breweries, wineries, and parks worth visiting. Learn more at these websites: