Magazine article Sunset

Step into the Wonders of Columbia Gorge

Magazine article Sunset

Step into the Wonders of Columbia Gorge

Article excerpt

A new interpretive center opens on the Washington shore near Skamania Lodge

Perched on the north bank of the Columbia River in Stevenson, Washington, the new Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center, which opens May 17, is a great place to learn about how the gorge was shaped by both nature and people.

The grand scale of the 23,000-square-foot center befits the Columbia Gorge. You enter by way of a portico modeled loosely on a railroad trestle, and find yourself in a building with windows on one wall and simulated basalt cliffs opposite. Operated by the Skamania County Historical Society, the $10-million center was funded by the society and a number of government and private organizations.

The view from the center's windows makes it clear that powerful forces shaped this place: lava flows, volcanic ash falls, periodic floods, and mud slides all played parts in creating a channel that cuts through the Cascade Range at near sea level. For an interpretation of how these forces shaped the gorge, step into the center's theater and watch the multimedia presentation.

CULTURAL HISTORY

Side by side in the Grand Gallery, a 37-foot-diameter fish wheel and native dip nets provide contrasting examples of the ways different cultures tapped the Columbia's wealth. The fish wheels were so efficient that they were outlawed 60 years ago (even then it was clear that salmon runs weren't inexhaustible). Dip nets are still used on a small scale by Northwest native fishermen. …

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