Where the sun meets the rain

View from Klickitat County Information Center, Rt 14, WA

View from Klickitat County Information Center, Rt 14, WA

Maryhill, WA, “the place where the sun of the east meets the rain of the west” (Samuel Maryhill, 1907) is 2.8 square miles of land along the Columbia River Gorge approximately 100 miles east of Vancouver, WA.  Residing just east of the cascade mountain range, the dry landscape resembles more of a golden moonscape than its lush green neighbors just 20 miles west.  Across the river are panoramic views of the Central Oregon Plateau that seem to stretch out endlessly. In addition to the golden landscape and views of central Oregon, Maryhill and the surrounding areas have some fun places to visit.

image-view of gorge from Maryhill Museum

View of gorge from Maryhill Museum

The Maryhill Museum
The Maryhill Museum is a “three-story European, beaux-arts style concrete mansion”[1] situated high above the Columbia River offering picture perfect views of the surrounding gorge.  The architecture alone is worth the visit, and with their newly opened, $10 million dollar Mary & Bruce Stevenson wing and 26 acres to explore, there is much to see.

image for Maryhill Museum

Maryhill Museum

The museum’s permanent exhibits include works from masters like Auguste Rodin to unique and beautiful collections such as the international chess sets displaying 100 or more sculpted chess pieces from various time periods and cultures.

The Maryhill Loops Road
The Maryhill Loops Road, just a short drive from the museum, is the first macadam asphalt-paved road in the Pacific NW. It climbs 850 feet at a 5% grade with 17 curves and 8 hairpins. Now closed to motor vehicles most days, visitors can walk or bike the road daily from 7am – 5pm.

image for Stonehendge

Stonehendge, Maryhill, WA

Stonehendge
Three miles east of Maryhill Museum, a full sized replica of Stonehendge towers over the Columbia River and gorge. Built in 1918 as war memorial, the monument offers a unique vista at, or just before, sunset when the sun is blazing through the eastern facing stone archways. While it was constructed as closely as possible to the original in size and design, a few differences do exist. The original, on Salisbury Plain, England, is aligned to the midsummer sunrise while the Maryhill replica is aligned to the astronomical horizon (three degrees off). In addition, the surrounding hills obscure the actual horizon and there is a five degree difference in latitude from the original location. In short, don’t expect to use this version as an astronomical calendar, but the view is probably better. See a video of it.

Domaine Pouillon
About 14 miles east of Maryhill, in Lyle, WA tucked away in the hills is Domaine Pouillon, a gem of a vineyard and worth a visit to their tasting room.  On our stop we tasted four wines (GewürztraminerDeuxKatydidPierre) and were impressed with all four. After several wine tasting tours this year in both the Columbia River and Willamette Valleys, I thought Domain Pouillon’s were some of the best I’ve tasted.

image of petroglypyh

Petroglyph at Columbia State Park

Other places close in to Maryhill
Maryhill Winery, Petroglyphs at Columbia State Park , the towns of Wishram and Goldendale.

Footnotes:

1. http://www.maryhillmuseum.org/About_Us/history.html

Steamboat Dock, Stevenson WA

Steamboat dock in Stevenson, WA

Alt Text for the image "Steamboat Dock, Stevenson WA"

Steamboat Dock, Stevenson WA
Copyright, 2012 Columbia River Tunnel Permits

If you haven’t been to the waterfront steamboat dock in Stevenson, WA, you are missing out on one of the true hidden gems in the Columbia River Gorge.  Between 1850 and 1920, the height of steamboat use, Stevenson was a vital stop for more wood to power these ships.  Today it is a quiet dock jutting out into the Columbia River allowing visitors a unique view of the gorge without getting wet or needing a boat.

The area from Stevenson east towards Hood River is often referred to as the windsurfing capital of the country, and the moment you step out onto this dock you’ll understand why.  (Warning – hold onto your hats!)  Expect a blast of wind as you leave the protected shoreline and head up the dock where you might even delight in seeing windsurfers and kite surfers dotting both sides of the river riding the high winds and often throwing in a cool trick or two.  The day I went (9/15/2012) the winds were fierce and kite and windsurfers crowed the area.

One kite surfer took great pleasure in entertaining viewers on the dock.  For about 30 minutes he zoomed in close to the dock only to leap from the water, dancing and flipping in the air, before landing back in the water and often posing mid air for photos.

Kite Surfer Posing for Photos

Kite surfer posing for photos.
Copyright 2012, Columbia River Tunnel Permits

Even the rare calm day, or a day when you don’t encounter daring kite surfers, the views from the the dock are stunning, particularly at sunset.  It gives an air of being in Austria or Switzerland.  It’s a real hidden gem that I have yet to see written about in the tourist books.

There are two nice options to grab a bite or quench your thirst as well. The CXXX Bar and Grill is the little building (as you are looking back onshore) to the right of the dock.  You can see the outdoor patio surrounded in plexiglass to protect patrons from the constant winds, allowing them to relax with drink or food and enjoy the beautiful views.  CXXX Bar and Grill serves Walking Man beer and the staff is super friendly. The house salad and fries were great for a pub; I didn’t expect baby greens in my house salad, and the homemade vinaigrette was tasty. It is not an upscale experience, but it was fun and the view was great.

Looking East - Kite Surfer

Looking East from the dock.                                       2012 Copyright, Columbia River Tunnel Permits

For a more upscale experience, Skamania Lodge is only a couple of miles from the dock.  They have a much larger outdoor patio overlooking the Columbia Gorge and surrounding peaks where you can get just a beer, or go all out and get a beautiful meal.  Expect to bit more than you would at CXXX; it all depends on what you are looking for.

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the ever elusive Bigfoot! Skamania is Bigfoot country after all. I think we may have even seem him kite boarding, but don’t take my word for it.  Go check out Stevenson, WA for yourself.  And if you have time, make sure to drive over the Bridge of The Gods at least once ($1 toll each way).

Looking West Photo

Looking west from the dock.                                       2012 Copyright, Columbia River Tunnel Permits

Getting there:

Downtown Stevenson, WA is located right on Rt 14 45 miles (an hour) east Vancouver by way of Rt14 E, and it’s 47 miles (an hour) east of Portland OR by way of I-84 to the Bridge of The Gods (go right when you come off the bride). To get to the steamboat dock, from downtown Skamania go right on Russel Street and follow 2 blocks to the dock. Parking is free, and there is also a picnic area with a mesmerizing wind sculpture.

No matter which way you arrive at Stevenson your drive will be easy and beautiful, as will your visit.

You can view videos of the kite surfer on our YouTube site. Video 1 and Video 2.