The Columbia River flows out of Canada, south through Washington, and then forms the border between Washington and Oregon before emptying into the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, it passes by some incredible areas like Lake Roosevelt, the Grand Coulee Dam, Central Washington’s Columbia Basin, the Hanford Reach, the confluence with the Snake River, the beautiful Columbia River Gorge where the river cuts through the Cascade Mountains, and finally where it widens at its mouth. The Columbia River is a great attraction itself, as well as an accent for any place located along it.
When you visit one of the many attractions or destinations along the river though, you need to find a great place to spend the night. With that in mind, here are five great Columbia River getaway destinations.
Kettle Falls, Washington
Kettle Falls sits south of the border with British Columbia, and once was an important salmon fishing site for local Native American tribes. The waterfalls that the community is named after were flooded by the rising water behind Grand Coulee Dam, but it is still an interesting small destination to get away to. The scenery that surrounds it is gorgeous and if you can get out on the water there, your trip is sure to be a success. The China Bend Winery is a great stop in the area. Other attractions and places to visit or stay at in the area around Kettle Falls includes the Old Kettle Falls Recreation Site, the Gifford Inchelium ferry crossing, Quillisascut Farm, and Northern Ales.
Crescent Bar, Washington
Crescent Bar is a small resort community on the Columbia River, located southeast of Wenatchee. Just upriver is Rock Island Dam, the first hydroelectric dam built on the American stretch of the Columbia River. Downriver from Crescent Bar is Wanapum Dam. This means that water recreation is one of the big draws there as the river is wider and deeper and allows for plenty of room. Crescent Bar is home to two golf courses, rental condos, restaurants, beach areas, boat launches, watercraft rentals, camping options, and more. Crescent Bar is also conveniently located near the famous Gorge Amphitheater where world class music acts can be seen all summer long.
Hood River, Oregon
Hood River sits in the Cascade Mountains, right on the Columbia River in the extremely gorgeous Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Hood River has been famous for years as a great place to either watch windsurfers, or to get out on the water yourself. If you’re a fan of large dams, this is a great getaway because either on your way there or back, depending on your direction of travel, you’ll be able to see McNary Dam, John Day Dam, The Dalles Dam, and Bonneville Dam. Most of these have great visitors centers, picnic areas, and scenic overlooks. The most popular attraction for those visiting Hood River usually ends up being the Columbia River Gorge itself. It simply is one of the most beautiful spots in the Pacific Northwest. Other things to see when visiting there include Horsetail Falls, the Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum, Marchesi Vineyards, Double Mountain Ranch, Gorge White House, Naked Winery, Smiley’s Red Barn, Mount Hood Railroad, and more.
Kelso – Longview, Washington
The neighboring communities of Kelso and Longview are located on the northern shore of the Columbia River, just west of Portland and Vancouver. This area has long ties to the lumber industry and also offers several side trips that make for great drives. It’s also close enough to use as a headquarters if you’re visiting Portland too. Some of the top attractions there are the Cowlitz County Historical Museum, Lake Sacajawea Park, the Rutherglen Mansion, and Willow Grove Park. A great way to enjoy the area is to book passage on any of the many river tours available there or back in Portland that will allow you to explore this part of the Columbia River. Another great attraction to check out there is the Ape Cave Lava Tubes. Here, you and your family, can venture underground and explore the longest continuous lava tube in the continental United States.
Astoria is a very welcoming community on the south shore of the Columbia River, located just before it empties into the Pacific Ocean. Astoria also sits on the south end of one of the best attractions in the area, the Astoria-Megler Bridge. This amazing bridge is just over four miles in length and makes for a great drive because you can look out one window and see upriver, the water of the Columbia River coming your way, and then look the other direction to see it leaving out into the ocean. Many visitors to Astoria end up driving back across the bridge to experience it all over again. Astoria also offers a nice selection of restaurants, bars, and pubs too. Other attractions to see in and around Astoria include Fort Stevens State Park, the Columbia River Maritime Museum, Fort Clatsop National Memorial, the Astoria Oregon Riverwalk, Flavel House Museum, Shallon Winery, the Lewis and Clark National and State Historical Parks, Bumble Bee Cannery Museum, and the Oregon Film Museum. A must visit attraction there is the Astoria Column which allows you to climb the stairs to the top for the best view of the community and the surrounding scenery. If you’re traveling with children, you’ll also not want to miss out on a ride on the Astoria Riverfront Trolley.