The incorporated city of Cascade Locks is located on Interstate 84 in western Hood River County. Cascade Locks is a 45 minute drive east from Portland International Airport on I-84, and directly across the Columbia River from Stevenson Washington.Cascade Locks is situated on the south side of the Columbia river, and surrounded on the other three sides by the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The elevation of the town is 170 feet above the Columbia River. Nestled in the Cascade Mountain Range, the scenery of the Cascade Locks area is particularly spectacular. The site was once called Whiskey Flats. The 2000 census listed Cascade Locks population at1,120. Cascade Locks was incorporated in 1935.
History of Cascade Locks
The federal government adopted a plan for permanent improvements at the Cascades of the Columbia in 1875, and began work in 1878. For the history of the construction of the Cascade locks see the Oregonian, Jan. 1, 1895, p. 8. The locks were completed Nov. 5, 1896. The community was named for the locks. Scott’s History of the Oregon Country, v. 3, p. 190, gave a detailed history of the various aids to transportation developed at this point. The locks were submerged early in 1938 as a result of the construction of Bonneville Dam, but the town was not disturbed. The steel cantilever “Bridge of the Gods” was raised about 40 feet to facilitate navigation. — Source: Oregon Geographic Names, Sixth Edition, 1992, Lewis L. McArthur, Oregon Historical Society Press, ISBN O-87595-237-2.
In 1803 Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson to learn and report about western geography, climate, plants and the indigenous people encountered on their journey to find the great waterway to the Pacific Ocean.
Lewis and Clark’s Discovery Corps portaged around the rapids of the Cascades in 1805. Forty years later the pioneers traveling the water route on the Oregon Trail were forced to make the same portage. The small settlement that grew up on the banks of the Cascades was involved in helping early travelers on the river get around the rapids, first by foot and then by mule-drawn rail cars.
The little OREGON PONY, the first steam engine in the Northwest, carried passengers and freight past the rapids in 1864. Today, the engine can be seen in the Port of Cascade Locks Marine Park near the site where it was first used.
With the completion of the navigational canal and locks at the site of the rapids in 1896 the modern-day Cascade Locks was born.
Sternwheeler Columbia Gorge
The whistles of the sternwheelers making their runs from Portland to The Dalles and back each day echoed from the surrounding mountains. The names of the sternwheelers – The Belle, The Sadie B, Regulator, Harvest Queen and the most famous of all, The Bailey Gatzert – were legends in the Columbia River Gorge.
History has been brought to life with a working replica of thes 19th Century sternwheelers. From mid-June to the end of September, the Sternwheeler Columbia Gorge, based in Cascade Locks makes daily two hour excursions on the river. During the cruise, a narrative is given on local history, Indian legends, geology and points of interest. A snack bar and lounge, with both indoor and outdoor seating, is provided. The Sternwheeler is also available for banquets and wedding receptions.
Cascade Locks History Museum
Port Marina Park
Cascade Locks, OR
Exhibits of the western Columbia Gorge with special focus on historic paddleboats, railroads, and steamboats in the Gorge. Exhibits feature history of the Bridge of the Gods, early river navigation, and development of the portage and locks around the Cascades rapids. (The rapids were subsequently inundated by construction of Bonneville Dam in 1938). Weekends only, noon to 5 p.m. through May; open daily June through October, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closes November through April. 1 NW Portage Road near Port Marina Park in Cascade Locks. (541) 374-8535.
Bridge Of The Gods
Indian legend says the Great Spirit built a bridge of stone across the Columbia River that was a great gift. Scientist say that about 1,000 years ago the mountain on the Washington side of the Columbia river near what is now the town of Cascade Locks, caved off, blocking the river. The natural dam was high enough to cause a great inland sea covering the inland prairies as far away as Idaho. For many years, natural erosion slowly weakened the dam and finally washed it out. The waters of the inland sea rushed out, tearing away more of the earth and rocks and until a great tunnel was formed under the moutain range leaving a natural bridge over the water. The bridge was called “The Great Cross Over” and is now named “The Bridge of the Gods”.
The Bridge of the Gods as it exists today was completed by the Wauna Toll Bridge Company in October of 1926.The total cantilever structure length is 1131 feet; overall bridge length is 1858 feet and width is 35 feet.With the construction of Bonneville Dam in 1938 the Bridge had to be raised to accommodate the rise in back water from the new dam. The Bridge was raised 44 feet from it’s existing 91 feet to a total of 135 feet aboue the Bonneville pool. The Bridge of the Gods is the third oldest bridge on the Columbia River. It plays a major role inthe Pacific Crest Trail by linking Oregon and Washington states.
Another local attraction is the Bonneville Dam, with the Bradford Island Visitor Center located just west of Cascade Locks (take the Bonneville Dam exit from Interstate 84).