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Natural History of the Columbia River Gorge

Columbia Gorge Discovery Center

This 26,100 square-foot exhibit wing holds interactive displays which bring to life the tremendous volcanic upheavals and raging ice age Missoula floods that helped sculpt the Columbia River Gorge.

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The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area stretches 85 miles on both sides of one of the largest waterways on the continent. Protected by the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on November 17, 1986, the Gorge became the first landscape to become specifically designated as a National Scenic Area by Congress.

The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is recognized internationally as a destination for exploring the natural beauty and cultural richness of the Pacific Northwest. The region is home to an incredible combination of spectacular landscapes, rare plants, wildlife, recreational opportunities, farmland, ancient native Indian petroglyph and pictograph rock art, and a variety of cultural and historic sites.

Our COLUMBIA GORGE DISCOVERY CENTER exhibits introduce visitors to the geology, flora, fauna, history, and development of the Gorge natural resources. Learn how balance among many competing interests is helping preserve the region for future generations.

The Discovery Center ICE AGE exhibits examine theories of why the Ice Age occurred, and a closer look at the mighty river which sculpted a unique diversity of vegetation, wildlife, and ancient ways of life. Stand at the feet of a life-size replica of a Columbian mammoth to bring a larger perspective to the mammals that once lived in the region. Learn about the 10,000 years of indigenous NATIVE HISTORY that makes the Columbia Gorge one of the oldest areas of human habitation in the Western hemisphere and the Native basketry of the region. Learn about early explorers like LEWIS & CLARK, Oregon Trail pioneers, energy and natural resources and early transportation along the Historic Columbia River Highway.

The adjacent wing, Wasco County Historical Museum, highlights the pioneer settlement of Wasco County, past and present. The George Lawrence Co. HARNESS & SADDLERY exhibit will show the fine detail of the art of leatherworking.

Picnic on the lawn under the Solar Pavilion, then come inside to see how the solar panels contribute to the STEWARDSHIP & RENEWABLE ENERGY of the museum. Take a NATURE WALK and admire the beauty of the arid landscape and the native plants that grow in the area.

Our Raptor Program will introduce you to live birds of prey as you learn about these majestic birds and their habitat.

Our exhibits are multi-media and interactive. The museum is family friendly and wheelchair accessible. There’s lots to see and do, and we hope you enjoy your visit to Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum.