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The Columbia is the largest river in America’s Pacific Northwest. For about 100 mi east of Portland, Oregon, the Columbia works its way through the Cascade Range and formed the Columbia River Gorge, up to 4,000 ft (1.200 m) deep and well known because of its dramatic scenic views. It also marks the state line between Washington and Oregon.
We stayed there for 5 days in two different campgrounds near the towns of Cascade Locks and Hood River, respectively.

The Columbia near Portland, OR

Located near Cascade Locks is the Bonneville Dam, the last one of 14 dams along the river which provide electricity and irrigation and prevent flooding. The river’s heavy flow and its relatively steep gradient gives it tremendous potential for the generation of electricity. The 14 dams have an installed capacity of over 25,000 MW, and the three major tributary rivers another 10,000 MW.

Bonneville dam

The fish ladder – through underwater windows we could actually see the salmon winding their way up the ladder

Although the Bonneville dam does not exactly look impressive, its electric capacity of 1,218 MW is about the same as the huge Glen Canyon dam of the Colorado:

Glen Canyon dam of the Colorado in Arizona

The reason is that the water flow of the Columbia is so much greater than of the Colorado. By the way, both power plants ar dwarfed by the Grand Coulee dam of the Columbia, with 6,800 MW the largest hydroelectric plant in the US and one of the largest in the world.

The Columbia River Gorge between Portland and Cascade Locks – hazy because of wildfires
The historic river highway winding through the canyon east of Hood River

Around Hood River, OR, where the canyon walls are the steepest, the gorge creates a draft that results in almost continuously blowing high winds, which in turn attract thousands of windsurfers. Consequently, Hood River is dubbed as “World Capital of Surfing”.

Near Hood River


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