Vacation with NATURE for experiences of A LIFETIME

Vacation with NATURE for experiences of A LIFETIME

By Theresa Semchee

Ohio certified volunteer naturalist

Vacationing with nature is breathtaking. It is relaxing. It is awe-inspiring. I recently visited the beautiful state of Oregon. As a volunteer naturalist, I was very interested in the beauty and natural resources so I went on an adventure along the Columbia River Gorge.

Geologists tell us that the Cascade Range formed 35 million years ago as plates of the earth’s crust collided. Then, 20 million years ago, molten basalt gushing from cracks near the Idaho border covered 80,000 square miles and shifted the Columbia River north to its present location, creating the only sea level passage through the Cascade Mountains.

During the last ice age, melting ice dams in Montana released massive floods that scoured this canyon. Helped by these floods, the Columbia River cut through layers of stone faster than her small tributaries, creating the greatest concentration of high waterfalls in North America.

My adventure was breath-taking around every turn. Samuel Lancaster designed the historic Columbia River Highway, “so as not to mar what God has put there.”

First selecting the beauty spots along the route, he and his crew designed the road to serve motorists and preserve scenic vistas. The highway bridges were among the first steel-reinforced concrete bridges of the motor age in Oregon. Between 1914 and 1922 workmen constructed 24 bridges to span creeks, waterfalls and rivers.

During the early 1900s, advocates for a scenic highway recognized that the beauty of the gorge should be preserved for future generations. Upon completion of the Historic Columbia River Highway in 1915, generous landowners donated property to create scenic retreats along the route. Many of the highway’s most spectacular features – Chanticleer Point, Crown Point, Shepperd’s Dell and Latourell, Wahkeena and Multnomah Falls – were all donated by philanthropist or civic groups.

The state of Oregon and the National Park service has done an amazing job of preserving this area for all to enjoy. There are numerous opportunities along the highway to stop and view the gorge and the seven waterfalls. Hiking and bike trails are everywhere.

The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is here today because of the overwhelming desire to preserve the beauty of the gorge and its natural habitats. Over 2 million visitors visit these falls each year. Everything is free and open every day. Too bad it is a bit farther then a one tank trip.

If you head west, try to find time to take a drive down the old Oregon Trail. It is well worth it.

Keep it clean and green.

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