Saturday, February 28, 2015

POTM...*: The Columbia River Gorge

(*Photo of the Month)

I had the good geographic fortune of attending a workshop this past week in Corbett, Oregon, on the bluff above the entry to the Columbia River Gorge. Our first day was fair and sunny but offered little time to break away and see the nearby sights; that only presented itself after the clouds, rain and fog had rolled in, of course, weather that remained for the duration. It IS winter in the Pacific Northwest after all.

Yet the days were still lovely in spite of being wet and chilled. By the time we made it over to the overlooks along old U.S. 30, and dropped down into the gorge to see Multnomah Falls (and several others), it was solidly overcast. My photo of the month is of the beginning of the gorge, on a day such as it was, just east of Corbett, from a vantage called Chanticleer Point. Scoured out and down by massive floods released when ice dams as far away as Montana broke through (during melting from the most recent ice age), this gorge has seen these cataclysmic events perhaps a hundred times. Assisted by these floods, the
Multnomah Falls
Columbia cut through the sediment layers far faster than its tributaries, leaving the greatest concentration of high hanging waterfalls in all of North America. (Multnomah, the steepest, has 542 and 69 foot cascades.)

Even the old road alongside seems to successfully highlight the area’s beauty, giving public access to views sublime and enchanting. As Samuel Hill, the area’s road builder, contemplated the construction task before him, he aspired, “…I prayed for strong men, and that we might have sense enough to do things the right way so as not to mar what God had put there.” Or another road engineer’s comment: “I am thankful to God for His goodness in permitting me to have a part in building this road as a frame to the beautiful picture which He created.”

(I used to think that the song, Columbia, The Gem of the Ocean -- the song that always seemed to be played in the old movies when ships were shown sailing at full speed -- was about this river. Or if not that, then of some famous old ship in the U.S. fleet. I’ve now found it was about neither; the song actually was in the running as our national anthem in the late 19th Century, Columbia a common poetic nickname for the U.S.A. portrayed as an almost angelic, heroic female figure swathed in flag-like clothing.)

What always amazes me about the Columbia is the massive amount of water flowing through the drainage, emptying as it does such a large expanse of western North America with very few other large rivers doing so. It will only become wider as it makes its way to the Pacific nearly 125 miles away.

From the Bible… “You take care of the earth and water it, making it rich and fertile. The river of God has plenty of water; it provides a bountiful harvest of grain, for you have ordered it so.” (Psalm 65:9)

~~RGM, February 28, 2015        

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