Rowena Crest – Columbia Gorge: Carpets of Wildflowers and What a View!

14 04 2015
rowena crest,mosier,columbia gorge,hiking,wildflowers,lupine,balsamrot,columbia river highway

Balsamroot and lupine everywhere

In the spring, head just east of the Cascades in the Columbia Gorge, and take historic highway 30 up to Rowena Crest – and you will be dazzled with unlimited views and wildflowers stretching to the horizon! I was impressed with the wildflowers over at Lyle, Washington, just across the river, and I was anxious to check out the Oregon side. I went out there with my friend Jessie and we were treated with a huge display – especially of the yellow balsamroot.rowena crest trail,hiking,columbia river gorge

Oregon’s Historic Columbia River Highway leads up to Rowena Crest trailhead. Once there, it’s not a hard hike to the views and wildflowers. It’s utterly fantastic. Unlike Lyle, where you have to hike 1,100 feet up to get to the top, you arrive already up there. The hike round trip to the view point is only about 1.5 miles, and it’s full of fields blanketed with wildflowers and littered here and there with ponds. At this time of year the parking is busy but once on the trail, we found solitude.

The area is atop a gently rolling landscape. The geology here is a full of exposed geologic history. It’s a history steeped in cataclysms of a planetary scale. A hike to the edge reveals a pancaked landscape – steppes of lava – carved out by the Columbia river 1,000 feet below. And now for some jaw-dropping history!

rowena crest,tom mccall preserve,hiking,oregon,wildflowers,columbia gorge

Looking east from Rowena Crest Oregon.

Millions of years ago, in Eastern Oregon, basaltic lava flowed in a series of 300 eruptions over thousands of years. They are known as the Columbia River Flood Basalts, and they covered an area stretching from Idaho to Washington and Oregon – in some areas the total thickness reaches 9,000ft! The flows reached the Pacific. They were so big that they filled entire valleys and some of the Eastern Oregon mountains like the Elkhorns or Blues are just the tops. In between flows, Cascade volcanoes erupted depositing 20 foot layers of ash. This can all be viewed along the Columbia Gorge. More recently ice ages shaped this land. During a recent ice age, an ice dam formed near Missoula, Montana, forming a lake the size of Lake Erie and Ontario combined. Periodically that dam broke, sending water and chunks of ice down the Columbia River Gorge all the way to the Ocean. This scoured the Gorge. It all makes for a fascinating view.

But we were here for wildflowers! Along the trail lots of lupine, which had not come into full bloom, but also blooming balsamroot.

Jessie takes some macro shots

Jessie takes some macro shots

There were other wildflowers, like buttercup, and several others I cannot name. Some were tiny, delicate and pink.

I saw two bachelor buttons – only two along the trail. I guessed that more will come into season as spring rolls on.

bachelor button,hiking,columbia gorge,rowena crest

Bachelor button

There was also a patch of May Bounty – each like a microscopic daisy.

may bounty,mosier,oregon,hiking,rowena crest,columbia river gorge

May bounty

The plateau is also home to some ponds complete with their own tiny ecosystems. Each pond comes complete with frogs, tadpoles, salamanders, crickets, trees, lily pads, red-winged blackbirds and reeds.

rowena crest,mosier,oregon,hiking,red winged blackbirds,pond

Sit quietly and listen to the frogs, crickets and red-wing blackbirds!

In sum, a visit to Oregon’s Columbia Gorge in the Mosier area is a must-see experience in the spring. Wildflowers area out earlier out there, and chances are a cloudy day west of the Cascades will be drier. A refreshing break!


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One response

18 05 2015
jill i

Found your blog via a search while blogging about about kayaking the Broken Group. Going to add a link to your blog under my blogroll at my blog Pacific Northwest Seasons. We totally intersect in outdoors interests and travels! Fun to read your stuff! Happy trails from a bi-state Northwesterner. jill

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