As long as you're in the area, try to take a tour at one of th Columbia River dams, either Bonneville or the Dalles.
Try to see the dams when salmon or steelhead are on a spawning run. The timing varies depending on species, but a good choice is usually the fall chinook run; check with the dam visitor centers. Both dams have ladder systems that are used to help fish bypass the dams on their way upstream to spawn, and you get pretty good views of the fish milling around as they head east.
The free tours also include a look at the giant machinery used to generate electricity.
Contact Bonneville Lock and Dam Visitor Center, Cascade Locks, Ore. 97014, (503) 374-8820; and the Dalles Lock and Dam Visitors Center, P.O. Box 564, the Dalles, Ore. 97058, (503) 296-9778.
The river is wide and the hills are high and wind blows up the gorge like a rifle shot: This adds up to some of the best freshwater windsurfing on the continent. The gorge is becoming an increasingly popular windsurfing area, and the U.S. Windsurfing Association has sanctioned races in the gorge. On most summer afternoons, there are so many boards on the river it looks like a dragonfly convention. There are even some river areas especially designed for boarders.
For information on rentals, rules and conditions, write to Northwest Sailboard magazine, P.O. Box 918, Hood River, Ore. 97031 or call (503) 386-7440. There are several shops in Hood River that rent boards and wet suits.
About five miles west of Cascade Locks, the Columbia River Scenic Highway (Highway 30) branches off Interstate 84 and hugs the riverbank. Along the 22-mile stretch, the old highway passes a series of photogenic waterfalls, many of which are reached on short hiking trails. The Multnomah falls, 620 feet high and right next to the road, are especially worth a look.
The highway was completed in 1916 and featured many innovations used on alpine highways in Europe. In fact, many of the stone guardrails built by Italian workers still exist. Most of the old road has been closed, but several scenic stretches are still open to modern traffic.
For details, contact Troutdale Chamber of Commerce, P.O. Box 245, Troutdale, Ore. 97060, (503) 669-7473.
The stern-wheeler Columbia Gorge runs trips from Cascade Locks down to the Bonneville Dam and back, with historical and geological commentary. The boat has a snack bar and beverages. The trips, about two hours long, are $11 for adults, $6 for kids. Call Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler at (503) 374-8427.