- Dallesport, Washington
- Wishram, Washington
- Biggs Junction, Oregon
- Maryhill, Washington
- Rufus, Oregon
- Arlington, Oregon
- Umatilla, Oregon
- Kennewick, Washington
- Richland, Washington
The town of Dallesport (pop. 1,202) in Klickitat County, Washington, is opposite The Dalles in Oregon. It has traditionally been the site of the Wishram tribe, who lived on the north bank of the Columbia about 10 miles in both directions from The Dalles, Oregon.
All four Columbia River treaty tribes, The Nez Perce, The Umatilla, the Warm Springs, and Yakama Nation enjoy fishing rights along the Columbia from the Bonneville to McNary dams. The Columbia Gorge Airport is east of town.
The town of Wishram (pop 213) is directly across from the historic Celilo Falls site. There have been village sites at the Wishram location for millennia… until 1957, when the falls and nearby settlements were submerged by the The Dalles Dam.
Wishram is a hub for train traffic coming north from Oregon and California, as well as those coming west. It’s situated where bridging the Columbia River is relatively easy.
The Oregon Trunk Rail Bridge has piers resting on the exposed basalt rock above the water fall during low water periods. As a result, the SP&S Railroad was extended southward from Wishram, Washington toward Bend, Oregon.
Five miles downstream of Biggs Junction is the mouth of the Deschutes River. Oregon Trail pioneers crossed the John Day River, to the south, then headed west. At Biggs Junction the wagons topped a hill and saw their first views of the mighty Columbia River. The Lewis and Clark Trail also passes through the area.
Hill’s mansion overlooking the Columbia River is now the Maryhill Museum. Sam Hill devoted much attention to advocating good roads in Washington and Oregon. Between 1909 and 1913 he built, at his own $100,000 expense, the first asphalt-paved road in the Pacific Northwest, experimenting over its 10-mile length with seven different paving techniques.
Hill constructed two notable monuments. The replica of Stonehenge, at Maryhill, commemorates the dead of World War I, while the Peace Arch, at the U.S.–Canada border, celebrates peaceful relations and the open border between the two nations.
The community of Rufus (pop 249), grew after a flood in 1894 which literally washed out the neighboring town to the west, Grant, which was never rebuilt. The city was named for an early settler, Rufus Carrol Wallis. It’s 100 miles east of Portland and 100 miles west of Pendleton.
The city of Arlington (pop 586) is in Gilliam County, the third-least populous county in Oregon. The economy got a boost from the Shepherds Flat Wind Farm, an 845 megawatt (MW) wind farm, approximately 5 miles southeast of the city. With over 300 wind turbines, it’s one of the largest wind farms in the country.
The Gorge is lined with wind farms which conveniently tie into the Bonneville transmission lines built for the dams. Other renewable energy projects include the 400 MW Golden Hills Wind Farm in Sherman County.
Some 9 miles, SSE of Arlington, the Montague Wind Power Project is being built by Apple which has two data centers in Prineville and is building a third. Meanwhile, Facebook is building a 5th datacenter in Prineville. Google has its own collection of data centers in The Dalles.
Cheap hydropower from dams make Oregon and Washington good spots for data centers.
For nearly 30 years, a fleet of 50 garbage trucks arrives every day from Portland to windswept plateau south of Arlington, home of Waste Management’s Columbia Ridge Landfill and Recycling Center. The 12,00-acre dump employs 90 people — roughly 5 percent of the county’s population — and kicks in millions of dollars annually to local coffers. The contract is set to expire in 2019 and Portland is currently weighing whether to continue its relationship with Columbia Ridge.
Pendleton probably shouldn’t be included in this list since it is far south of the Columbia River, but what the heck. It’s home to the Pendleton Roundup and the Pendleton Woolen Mills. Less well know is the Pendleton UAS range which tests autonomous Airbus Sky Taxis that may be used by Uber.
Amazon plans to build a new 120-acre data center park in Umatilla. The facility will join on of their three sites in East Oregon, at the Port of Morrow Industrial Park (Boardman) and at the McNary industrial park just outside of Umatilla.
McNary Dam near the city of Umatilla, joins Oregon to Benton County, Washington. In 1968 the city moved to higher ground due to the building of the John Day Dam, completed in 1971, making it the newest dam on the lower Columbia. The Umatilla Indian Reservation lies east of Pendleton. Prehistoric settlement once thrived on the banks of the Umatilla and Columbia River. An ancient Indian burial ground remains on the land still and is protected from relic collectors and vandals.
The Snake River, at 1,078 miles long, is the largest tributary of the Columbia River. The Snake River Plain was created by a volcanic hotspot which now lies underneath Yellowstone. More than 11,000 years ago, prehistoric Native Americans lived along the Snake and Oregon Trail pioneers followed the Snake River.
Hells Canyon, along the border of eastern Oregon, eastern Washington and western Idaho is part of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and is North America’s deepest river gorge at 7,993 feet. The Snake and Yakima rivers feed into the region.
The Tri-Cities boasts more than 200 wineries within a 50-mile radius, producing some of the finest wines in the world.
The City of Richland (pop 51,150) is near the Hanford nuclear site, which refined plutonium for the Fat Man bomb used to attack Nagasaki in 1945. The historic B Reactor, the world’s first plutonium production reactor, is now a museum. Hanford is currently the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States and is the focus of the world’s largest environmental cleanup.
For centuries the Wanapum, Yakama and Walla Walla Indians harvested salmon here, entering the Yakima River. Today that village site is called Columbia Point. The Sacagawea Heritage Trail travels along the Columbia River through the Tri-Cities. The 23-mile multipurpose blacktop loop trail on both sides of the river goes from Sacagawea State Park at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers up to the I-182 bridge at the Columbia Point Marina on the upper end. Three bridges provide a number of ride options.
The Columbia River, with an average flow of 265,000 cubic feet per second, produces 44 percent of the nation’s hydroelectric power.
All this cheap power – 2-3 cents per kilowatt/hr, caused Microsoft, Amazon, Google and others to build some of the world’s most advanced data centers along the Columbia. It has also been a boon for Bitcoin miners who have made Wenatchee Washington the “Bitcoin mining capital of the USA”. Bitcoin miners are on track to use more power than all the residents combined!
Hanford Reach is a free-flowing 51 mile section of the Columbia River, near Hanford, the only section of the Columbia that is not tidal nor part of a reservoir. The Reach National Monument is part of the Columbia River Plateau, formed by basalt lava flows and water erosion.
Just upstream is the Priest Rapids Dam, located at mile marker 397 from the mouth of the Columbia.
This is as far upriver as we’re going on this virtual tour. Time to head back. Thanks for your company on this adventure! Let’s do it again sometime.