The Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, the only one of its kind in the United States, has a coastline of more than 160 miles; an area over 292,000 acres, encompassing six counties within two states.  It contains an unparalleled combination of incredible scenery, geology, plants, wildlife, and multicultural history.

Near the end of the last Ice Age the Columbia River cut its way through the Cascade Mountain Range in a torrential flood caused by the breaking of an inland ice dam, eroding the nearly 70 mile long gorge.  The Cascade Range acts as a “rainshadow,” effecting the climate, flora, and fauna in the region. The weather varies considerably from one end of the Gorge to the other due to this rainshadow effect.  The west end has a mild, moist climate with up to 80 inches of annual rainfall in Carson, and the semi-arid east end with wide temperature ranges and annual rainfall approaching 8 inches.

We encourage our guests driving from Portland and Vancouver to drive on Hwy 14 on their eastbound journey, to have an uninterrupted view of the Columbia River and Oregon’s waterfalls. Many of these scenes are not visible from I-84 or Historic Hwy 30.  Returning to Portland from Lyle is best to drive westbound on I-84 so that travelers will have an uninterrupted view of the Columbia River and Washington coastline and mountains without oncoming traffic interference.

Historic Lyle

Founded in late 1800′s by postmaster James O. Lyle, the City of Lyle was once a center of commerce, boasting export of the largest number of live sheep from any port in North America.  The sheep population in Washington circa 1900 was estimated to be over 600,000.  Lyle was the city on the Columbia River closest to the grazing lands of Goldendale and Shaniko, yet below Celilo Falls so that steam ships and barges could be loaded with sheep and grain for shipment to the East Coast of the US, via Astoria and the Panama Canal.

Lyle, Washington Today

With over 300 days of sun each year, Lyle is a favorite of many visitors seeking to get away from the wetter climates of Portland, Seattle, or even Hood River.  Lyle is located at the confluence of the Columbia and Klickitat Rivers.  The Klickitat River, with a “wild and scenic” designation has one of the greatest vertical drops per mile of any river in Washington.  Annual migrations of Salmon and Steelhead make the Columbia and Klickitat Rivers outstanding fishing grounds.  The Klickitat is also a popular kayaking destination.

In the center of the emerging wine industry and grape producing vineyards, Lyle is just minutes from 14 wine tasting rooms and many more vineyards.  On the same latitude as the Rhone Valley in France, our wine grape growers take advantage of at least three micro-climates, with altitude changes up to 2,000 ft., and can grow every grape varietal known to be grown in the U.S.  This 40 mile growing region encompasses parts the Columbia Gorge and the Columbia Valley appellations.

Wildflowers abound throughout Klickitat County and Lyle is a central point to explore the many varieties covering Columbia Hills State Park.