Looking for things to do in Hood River Oregon? Take a beautiful scenic drive down the Columbia River to the town of Cascade Locks, about half an hour to the west. This gem of a little town is steeped in history, as it’s one of the oldest communities on the Columbia River. The rough water here is legendary, and it’s the reason for the first settlement: travelers heading downriver needed help to portage around the rapids. This need to get around the rough portion of the river created a lot of changes in the region, and it also created the town of Cascade Locks. Today, it’s a beautiful place to enjoy the scenery as well as immerse yourself in some fascinating Columbia River history when you visit the Cascade Locks Historical Museum.
One Thing Leads to Another
Just how did this modern-day river town come to be? Well, it all started about a thousand years ago with a massive landslide that dammed the Columbia River. This created a natural bridge that native peoples called the Bridge of the Gods, and they used it to cross the river. Sometime around the 1690s, this natural bridge collapsed, creating the rapids in the area today. These rapids presented a huge challenge to the pioneers who headed west down the Columbia, searching for greener pastures and a better life.
As this portion of the river was impassable, they had to portage around it. This led to the need for better transportation, and the first steam locomotive to be built on the Pacific Coast was used here for this purpose, starting in 1864. It’s called the Oregon Pony, and you can visit it today here at Cascade Locks Historical Museum. The Cascade Locks themselves, a master-work of engineering built to safely move boat traffic up and down the rapids, were completed in 1896. This led to a boom in river traffic, and thus the town of Cascade Locks grew up.
Cascade Locks Historical Museum
Open from May through September, the Cascade Locks Historical Museum is located in the Port of Cascade Locks Marine Park, in one of the three original locktenders’ houses. The Cascade Locks Historical Museum overlooks the original lock and canal, and along with the Oregon Pony, you’ll find fascinating historical artifacts, displays, and photographs. It’s a great place to learn more about Native American history in the Gorge, as well as about these incredible feats of engineering that were built over a hundred years ago. Anyone interested in railroad and river history absolutely must check it out! You’ll also enjoy visiting the rest of the Marine Park, and especially won’t want to miss a river cruise on the sternwheeler Columbia Gorge. Cascade Locks is a great day trip the whole family will love!
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