Stevenson, Washington in the Columbia River Gorge
November 29, 2020
Stevenson is an old Columbia River port town lying about 50 miles upstream from the Portland (OR)/Vancouver (WA) metro area. The town of 1,500 lies on the steep northern banks of the Columbia River at the western edge of the Columbia River Gorge. The high Cascade Mountains can be seen across the river on the Oregon side.
Main Street Stevenson is called the Lewis and Clark Highway after the famous explorers. The Corps of Discovery, as Lewis and Clark referred to their expedition, came past this spot going downriver in November 1805, and again returning upriver in April 1806. They referred to the area as the “Great Shoote” for the difficult rapids at this spot.
In the 20th Century a series of dams were built on the Columbia to help tame the river and to provide hydro-electric power. The Bonneville Dam, 10 miles downstream of Stevenson, was completed in 1937 and provides some calm to the river at this point. This is how the Columbia River at Stevenson looks today:
Stevenson is an old riverport town. Little of the port remains but the government recently built a jetty into the river, some shoreline sidewalks, and a park to commemorate the old port.
Stevenson is still small despite its location (within commuting distance to Portland). Today the town is half rural residential and half rural logging community. There are a few diners downtown and a few brewpubs have been popping up to service the hiking, biking, and wind-surfing crowd.
It’s often cold and windy around here but I lucked out today. Today is a clear, warm November day. About half the autumn leaves remain on the trees, leaving the hillsides speckled with gold against an evergreen background.
The Skamania County Courthouse is a 1970s-style building three stories tall with a wide front lawn sloping down toward the Lewis and Clark Highway below. The bright green of the Washington state flag reflects off the courthouse’s front glass windows. Views from the building could be sold as real estate; they look up and down the Columbia River and include the steep green cliffs of the Columbia River Gorge on the Oregon side.
A large tree stump from Skamania County’s logging days serves as the county veterans’ memorial. The best view of the Columbia River Gorge has been reserved for the veterans’ memory.
All photos taken by the author. Photos taken on November 2, 2009.
A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.