Favorite Roads – Columbia River highway

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The famous Rowena curves of the Columbia River highway.

This is a continuation of my Favorite Roads Series… see first Favorite Road post here.

This post and others to follow – I will share thoughts and pictures on  my favorite road in Oregon – the historic Columbia River highway.  A 75 mile scenic two lane road following the Columbia River from Troutdale to The Dalles in Oregon.

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The highway near Rowena Crest is a great area to cycle.

Photographing the historic highway provides a bounty of creative opportunity – from waterfalls to tree lined roads to historic structures (Vista House, Multnomah Falls Lodge), bridges, wildflowers, hiking trails, basalt columns, and views – in the posts ahead I will share some of my favorite spots.  Today’s post is about one of the most famous sections of the highway – the Rowena loops and crest.

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Balsamroot and lupine as far as the eye can see at Rowena Plateau.

As with many great rivers across the world, the Columbia River has a tremendous history – from native Americans to the explorers Lewis and Clark – the Oregon Trail, and in the 20th century the burst of dam building and the building of the new freeway which parallels the historic Columbia River highway.

Pictured at the top of this post are the famous Rowena Crest curves – one of the most photographed spots in Oregon.  When the highway was built vehicles could not manage anything more than a 10% grade – so engineers created a series of  curves and loops to make the gradual 500 foot ascent to the top of Rowena Crest – not knowing they were creating a photographer’s dream.

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Rowena Narrows – where pirates would dwell.

Before dams flooded this area – Rowena was where the river narrowed as it passed basalt cliffs – Rowena Crest on the south side and Klickitat River watershed on the north.  Pirates and others tried to seize boats passing through the “narrows”.  There was a small army post at the base of Rowena Crest to protect the boats and others in this area.  A young Army lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant was commissioned here for a short time before he went on to become a famous Civil War general and then president of the United States.

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View of Columbia River highway from Rowena Crest.

8 thoughts on “Favorite Roads – Columbia River highway”

  1. That road really is a photographer’s dream. It’s such a beautiful landscape. And I love the blue and yellow flowers growing wild along the road. Such a picture. I’m wondering now whether my husband and I will ever drive along this road when we retire. We plan to do some travelling- one day. At the moment we are still supporting two girls through university. One is doing education, and one studying medicine. All the best. Karen x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dave – yes you must. If you get off the freeway at Mosier – you can get on the old highway and take it all the way to The Dalles. The stretch between Mosier and Rowena is the best part and be sure to pull over at Rowena Crest to see the curves. I recommend going in April when the whole plateau up there is covered in yellow balsamroot. It’s really an amazing sight. There is a short hike (1-2 miles) out on the plateau with great wildflowers, birds of prey and a nice view of Lyle, Washington across the river.

      Liked by 2 people

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