Image: Mac Holt

The Mouth

Cannery Pier Hotel and Spa

The Finnish spa, private balconies, and in-room fireplaces upgrade a former cannery site to a first-class hotel with views of the mouth’s mighty Astoria–Megler Bridge. Rooms are stocked with binoculars for wildlife spotting or reading the serial numbers off passing barge cargo.

Lewis and Clark National Historical Park

The epic 1805 Corps of Discovery journey ended here, and several sites memorialize where the motley crew of white men (plus, crucially, Sacajawea and Clark’s slave York) spent their winter: Fort Clatsop, where buckskinned reenactors perform candlemaking, or Cape Disappointment State Park across the river, with lighthouses and a historical interpretive center. To truly understand how Lewis and Clark felt about that cold coastal winter, hit up the riverside spot the latter dubbed Dismal

Columbia River Maritime Museum

Despite its size and huge glass swoop of a central gallery, the riverfront building can’t contain all the boats in its repository—a floating lighthouse and hardy pilot boat are on display outside. Within the museum are shipwreck artifacts and movies about local sea life, basically the most water you can get without seasickness.

The Gorge

Hot Springs

The traditional soak at Bonneville Hot Springs spa starts in a claw-foot tub full of warm mineral water, then ends with a burritolike wrap in linen cloth. Nearby Carson Hot Springs does the same, but in the original 1923 bathhouse where the white curtains and rows of tubs evoke the feel of an old-timey sanitarium.,


A neat circle of stones sits on a bluff on the gorge, not a puzzling salute to the prehistoric monument in Britain but a World War I memorial finished in 1929. It was commissioned by industrialist and transportation activist Sam Hill, who turned his nearby mansion into the Maryhill Museum of Art.

Columbia Gorge Riverside Lodge

Riverfront balconies with hot tubs on a shady spot of the forested stretch of the gorge—what’s not to love? Only the trains that pass mere feet away throughout the night. Though the complimentary earplugs and the log cabin home aesthetic more than counter the clatter of the railway.

The Reach

Wild Horse Monument

The true name of the 15-horse sculpture that overlooks Vantage, I-90, and the Wanapum Lake is Grandfather Cuts Loose the Ponies—and it’s unfinished. Chewelah artist David Govedare wanted the galloping steeds, erected for the state’s centennial in 1989, to be escaping a giant basket, but further funding has not yet materialized. The sculpture is up a steep hill and best seen from the eastbound I-90 pullout just past the river crossing. 

Cave B Estate Winery and Resort

The fanciest digs on the Columbia River are hidden outside the not-quite-a-town of George, next to the Gorge Amphitheater. That stage and its fields of festival camping are mostly out of sight, and the posh bungalows, river-view pool, winery tasting room, and fully furnished yurts are more suited to destination weddings and serene retreats.

The Reach

Though built in a move to rebrand the Hanford Reservation as more of a tourist destination than a hazardous waste site, the visitor center’s job isn’t as tough as it sounds—there’s plenty of history, nature, and culture to cover in the new riverfront space. But while the technological advances of the Hanford nuclear reactors are well presented, don’t expect much attention spent on where its most famous payload ended up: Nagasaki.

Wild Horse Monument.

The Lake

Fort Spokane

Though it didn’t used to be the happiest spot on the Columbia River—the 1880 fort was used as both an Indian boarding school and a tuberculosis hospital—the original quartermaster stable is a cheery red and the brick guardhouse a beautiful home to exhibits on a sometimes-unpleasant history.


In a corner of the state without fancy resorts, the best place to crash is usually in a tent. The 16 drive-in and 11 boat-in campgrounds on Lake Roosevelt offer lakeshore sites and, in some spots, swimmable beaches. Four have reservable sites. 

Grand Coulee Dam

It’s the ultimate dam, the largest construction project in the world when it was made in the 1930s—celebrated as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” in newspapers. Sending power to 11 states, it’s the biggest hydroelectric plant in the country, even as the control panels inside have the midcentury look of a Dr. Strangelove set. Free tours venture inside the 12 million cubic feet of concrete, while summer laser shows are projected on the spillway at night.

Grand Coulee Dam.

Image: Edmund Lowe

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