Friday, December 7, 2012

Within a Scant Few Miles

Trey Smith


photo by Scottywong

The Columbia River Gorge is a magnificent area. As described in Wikipedia,
The Columbia River cuts the only sea-level passageway through the Cascade Mountain Range here between the Deschutes River and the Sandy River, also marking the state lines between Oregon and Washington. The wide range of elevation and precipitation makes the Columbia River Gorge an extremely diverse and dynamic place. Ranging from 4,000 feet to sea level, and transitioning from 100 inches of precipitation to only 10 in 80 miles, the Gorge creates a diverse collection of ecosystems from the temperate rain forest on the western end (with an average annual precipitation of 75-100 inches) to the eastern grasslands (with average annual precipitation between 10 and 15 inches), with a transitional dry woodland between Hood River and The Dalles. Isolated micro-habitats have allowed for many species of endemic plants and animals to prosper, including at least 13 endemic wildflowers.
Not only can the weather be significantly different as you traverse the Gorge's length, but there are differences as well on either side. From what we learned during our brief trip to the Hood River-White Salmon area, when snow falls, there tends to be more of it on the Washington side!!

If you ever travel to this area, the biggest change is experienced in the 20 or so miles between Hood River and The Dalles, Oregon. In the Hood River area, there are trees everywhere. Travel just a few scant miles east to The Dalles and the trees become very sparse. If you travel east a bit more toward Arlington (another 20 miles or so), they almost disappear altogether. In other words, in less than one hour's travel time, you go from majestic forested mountains to grassland slopes dominated by sagebrush.

It's awe inspiring.

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