Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center | OK Which Way


Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center


The Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center is in Washington, within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The center tells the human and natural history of the area with a variety of exhibits. We visited the interpretive center to learn about the Native Americans from the area. But, we learned so much more – including topics on natural resources, transportation, and communities of the Columbia Gorge.

Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center building | OK Which Way

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Visiting Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center

Location: Stevenson, Washington along the Columbia River
Parking: free
Entrance Fee: $10/adults; $6/ages 6-12 click here for current pricing
Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm, closed on holidays

The Drive

The Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center sits just off WA-14, making it an easy place to visit. No matter which direction you’re coming from, the views are spectacular as you follow the gorge that separates Oregon from Washington.

Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center view | OK Which Way


Interpretive Center Exhibits



The tour begins with exhibits focused on the life of the Cascade Chinook tribe.

Standing tall in the middle of the exhibit is a replica of  Tsagaglalal, or She Who Watches. She is probably the most recognizable petroglyph in the area. The original Tsagaglalal art is located about an hour’s drive east within Columbia Hills State Park. If you are interested in seeing her, be sure to check out their website to sign up for a tour.

Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Tsagaglalal | OK Which Way


Some items on display from the Chinook tribe are a root gathering bag, child’s spoon, canoe anchor and net sinkers, and a stone used in playing games.

Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center chinook tribe artifacts | OK Which Way


Also on display is a beautiful ceremonial dress made from buckskin with bead and shell embellishments.

Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center chinook tribe ceremonial dress | OK Which Way



With Lewis & Clark exploring the area in the early 1800’s, change was certainly coming. A huge change occurred between 1850 and 1853 when land speculators and settlers filed claims under the Donation Land Act along the north bank of the Columbia River. This section highlights the contact between the two diverse groups.

We noticed a bronze sculpture with Native Americans and members of the Corp of Discovery. There was a small sign encouraging us to find a few items in the sculpture like a quill pen, fishing net, and blue trade beads. I love things like that. I guarantee my kids would have took a quick glance at the sculpture and moved on. Instead, they examined the sculpture searching for the items.

Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Lewis and Clark statue | OK Which Way
Council Fire on the Columbia by David Manuel


We also examined a model of the Clahclehlah village. Lewis & Clark visited this site in 1805 and 1806. It was excavated from 1977-1979 during the construction of a powerhouse at Bonneville Dam. Many artifacts were found.

Items typically traded by the people of Clahclehlah in the early 1800’s were wapato roots, salmon tails, hazelnuts, tobacco, wool blankets and dentalium shells.

Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Clahclehlah village | OK Which Way



This exhibit focuses on the pioneers that moved to the area and the military forts needed to protect them from Native Americans.

Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Stevenson Washington | OK Which Way



Since Japan is right across the Pacific Ocean many Japanese immigrants came to the Pacific NW in the early 1900’s. They helped build roads, railroads, and tunnels, they planted orchards and operated ranches.

Side note: Check out my blog post on how many Japanese immigrants and their families were treated after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Japanese collection | OK Which Way



An impressive rosary collection – The Don Brown Rosary Collection displays about 4000 rosaries.

Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center rosary collection | OK Which Way



A small section is dedicated to sternwheelers and the SP & S (Spokane, Portland & Seattle) Railroad. The sternwheelers were put out of business once the railroad came through. I’m curious what will eventually make automobiles obsolete.

Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center sternwheeler | OK Which Way
Bailey Gatzert pilot wheel
The Bailey Gatzert was a sternwheeler built in 1890. She ran up and down the Columbia River and around Puget Sound until the 1920’s.



A large, open area showcases the timber and fishing industries.

Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center logging | OK Which Way


Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center steam engine | OK Which Way
The Corliss Engine, a giant saw mill steam engine weighing 32 tons. It was made in 1895 and provided energy to a sawmill until 1949.



It is a small section of the museum, but I found the effects of Bonneville Dam and our need for its hydro-electric power very interesting.

Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center bonneville dam | OK Which Way



Outside is a plethora of early logging and road building equipment.

Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center logging equipment | OK Which Way


If you find historical information exciting, I do recommend this museum. It covers many topics with displays that are well done.

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