The Columbia River Gorge stretches more than 80 miles along the border of Washington and Oregon in the Pacific Northwest. The gorge is the only navigable route through the Cascade Range, and it is a protected National Scenic Area. All along the gorge, activities entice for nature lovers, fitness enthusiasts and families alike. Families with children can enjoy a wide range of healthy and educational activities.
A number of museums line the Columbia River Gorge, teaching about the history of the region, as well as the arts and sciences. The Wonder Works Children's Museum of the Gorge has exhibits for children ages 6 and under. The many areas in the museum include places to jump and tumble, play spaces that encourage kids to use their imagination, and areas for creative play such as crafts. The museum is also available for birthday parties. The Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum explores the history of the area, including the Native American population. There are many informative exhibits, but kids might best enjoy the outdoor, interactive displays such as the diesel locomotive, huge fish wheel and logging equipment.
There are a variety of water sports available in the gorge, including kayaking, whitewater rafting, windsurfing, and fishing. In addition, the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler Dining and Sightseeing Cruises offer a tour down the river to see notable landmarks such as Multnomah Falls, Beacon Rock, and the Bonneville Locks and Dam. Children 4 years and older are welcome aboard. At the Bonneville Dam Washington Shore Visitors Complex you can learn more about the history and the operations of the dam. Children will love observing the operations of the dam from the viewing gallery or watching the salmon activity around the dam's fish ladder. There's also an underwater viewing area.
Outdoor enthusiasts of all ages can enjoy numerous activities in the gorge, including hiking and climbing. Older kids will love zipping past the tree tops on the Skamania Lodge Zip Tour. Lines range in length from 100 feet to 1,000 feet, and the overall tour lasts about two hours. Children must be at least 75 pounds to go on the tour. There are numerous hikes along the gorge, but the Wahclella Falls Hike is perfect for families. It is a mostly flat trail of about 2 miles that passes Wahclella Falls and Munra Falls. Kids will love getting the chance to burn off some of that never-ending supply of energy, and even the younger children will enjoy the close-up views of the waterfalls.
State parks provide families a number of activities, from outdoor play to water fun. Beacon Rock State Park takes its name from the huge basalt rock on the side of the Columbia River. You can take the kids to the park for camping, paddling, swimming and boating. Doug's Beach State Park is a top attraction for windsurfers, but kids can enjoy swimming by the shore and cooling off on a hot day. There are also opportunities for paddling and fishing.
- Wonder Works Children's Museum of the Gorge
- Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum
- Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler Dining and Sightseeing Cruises
- Bonneville Dam Washington Shore Visitors Complex
- Skamania Lodge Zip Tour
- Portland Hikers: Wahclella Falls Hike
- Washington State Parks: Complete Information for Beacon Rock
- Washington State Parks: Complete Information for Doug's Beach
- U.S. Forest Service: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
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