The Columbia River Gorge is home to some of the most diverse and dynamic natural landscapes in the nation.
In it are basalt cliffs, grasslands at its east end, temperate rain forests west,and holds a host of rare plants and animals.
Fortunately, its wilderness areas are just as distinct.
Gorge residents are spoiled with quantity – access to seven wilderness areas within close driving distance dappled throughout Washington and Oregon, mainly lining the Cascades. Washington’s gorge area wildernesses include: Trapper Creek, Indian Heaven, and Mount Adams. Oregon’s are: Mount Hood, Badger Creek, and Lower White River and Mark O. Hatfield.
Both states make the top 10 list of states with the most wilderness acreage. Washington beats out Oregon with 10% of protected land (4,463,093 acres) while Oregon contains 4% of its land in wilderness (2,476,115 acres).
Although acreage means more protected spaces of wilderness, it also means more places in which to feel truly detached from the industrialized world; helping to nurture an adventuresome spirit and provide true freedom and solitude in nature.
Mark Hatfield understood this better than some. He was instrumental in the preservation and expansion of one of Oregon’s most beautiful wilderness areas.
As an Oregon senator, he championed the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act through Congress in the 1980’s. The Scenic Area is recognized as a national resource and protects rare plants, forests, wildlife, farmland, ancient Indian rock art, as well as cultural and historic sites.
He also pushed for the expansion of the Columbia Wilderness from 1978-1984 which since has been one of the largest wilderness expansions. In 1996, Congress renamed the it the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness in tribute to him.
President Obama further expanded the wilderness in 2009, by signing a new wilderness bill into law creating new boundaries–stretching from Larch Mountain and Multnomah Creek on the west to Mount Defiance on the east.
The Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness is located east of Portland, Oregon and parallels the Columbia River. It features over 65, 822 acres of wilderness and some 200 miles of trails–including 14 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail.
The trail system can be accessed from the south at the Wahtum Lake trail head, Rainy Lake Campground, or Indian Springs in the Mt. Hood National Forest; or from I-84 in the Columbia Gorge via the Eagle Creek Trail, Tanner Butte, Herman Creek and Nick Eaton Ridge trails.
Because of its proximity to Portland and stunning location, this wilderness is a favorite of Portlanders, gorge residents and visitors. It’s popular for hiking, camping, horseback riding, and fishing. A true legacy of Mark O. Hatfield, this wilderness is cherished by all and a gift to future generations.