Oregon: Scenic Gateway to the Great Pacific Northwest
One of the greatest things, and there are many, about living in Portland, Oregon is the proximity of outstanding and breathtaking scenic areas that are literally within an hour of the metropolitan area. Depending on the compass heading of your initial departure, it is easy to set out on a daylong adventure that will take you to true alpine mountain wilderness areas, the most exciting coastal viewpoints, arid high desserts, or vast river gorges that are filled with celebrations of geological anomalies.
Heading east out of Portland, Oregon, the entrance to the awe-inspiring Columbia River gorge can be reached within 20 minutes to one half hour. The first world-class scenic site on this trip is Multnomah Falls. The second-tallest year-round waterfall in the nation, the water of the Multnomah Falls drops 620 feet from Larch Mountain. During winter months, cold weather freezes the plummeting water at times to form truly majestic icesicle.
There is a cozy lodge at the base of the falls that was built in 1925 where you can enjoy fine northwest cuisine and enjoy a magnificent view of the falls from your table. Legends are told claiming that the image of a Native American princess can be seen in the mist that rises from the crashing waters at the base of the falls.
Traveling just a few minutes farther up the historic Columbia River Highway, you will come to Crown Point and Vista House. Built in 1916, this octagonal building with a copper dome is also the home of a museum, a gift shop and interpretive display of historic and geologic points of interest throughout the Gorge. Vista House sits on a cliff 733 feet above the Columbia River and serves as a memorial to Oregon Pioneers.
Heading west from the Portland, all roads lead to the Pacific Ocean and the Oregon coast and beaches. The Oregon coast is considered to be one of the most exciting coastlines in the entire world. From the mouth of the Columbia River at Astoria where more ships have been lost than in the dreaded Bermuda Triangle, through the dense forests of evergreens and massive sand dunes reminiscent of the Sahara, Oregon has nearly 363 miles of truly pristine, public coastline. The picturesque seaside villages, historic lighthouses, galleries, museums, and a world class aquarium and research facility all combine with the dramatic scenery, mild temperatures, and fabulously wide range of ever changing weather conditions to make the coast one of Oregon’s most popular excursion areas.
Traveling north from Portland, Oregon on Interstate 5 takes you immediately out of Oregon and into the State of Washington. Just 53 mile northeast of Portland is Mount St. Helens, an active stratovolcano. The volcano is located in the Cascade Mountain Range and is part what is known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, which includes over 160 active volcanoes. Well known for its ash explosions and pyroclastic flows, Mount St. Helens is most famous for the catastrophic eruption that occurred on May 18, 1980, at 8:32 am. This eruption is considered to be the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States.
Southern Oregon is high desert country where the average yearly rainfall drops from 90 inches on the Oregon coast and 45 inches in the Portland area to just 10-12 inches in areas east of the Cascade Mountain Range. Although the rugged and mountainous terrain abundant with fossils and mineral deposits is usually brown, it is astounding to also be able to find areas known as micro-climates. These fascinating places are a sort of high desert oasis where only a certain type of plant will grow, and then, only in that area. Horehound is an example of the kind of vegetative discovery one can find in these unique areas that in some cases only measure one hundred feet long. Mosses in the Oregon high desert become black and dry without moisture, however when they come into contact with water they become green in a matter of seconds.
You can travel the entire globe and still find endless fascination, wonder, and discoveries of nature that are every bit as spellbinding as any place on Earth within an hour of Portland, Oregon.