Classic Roads: Washington SR-14

Classic Roads: Washington SR-14 Historic Columbia River Gorge Highway

Historic Columbia River Gorge Highway

Seen from high above, two-lane tarmac traces a serpentine path along the banks of a river that is both colossal and historic. The river flows into the Pacific Ocean through a deep, wide chasm of scoured volcanic rock, deposited over many millennia. Riders feel strong winds racing through the gorge as sunlight glints off the deep blue water. Suddenly, the light is extinguished upon entering the first of seven caves that pass through volcanic outcroppings. And then, just as abruptly, riders are again bathed in sunlight. The Lewis & Clark Expedition undoubtedly experienced some of the same sensory hedonism when they first negotiated this magnificent work of nature in 1805.

Although not as famous as the Historic US 30 on the Oregon side of the Columbia River, Washington’s SR 14 offers a classic road experience that shouldn’t be missed. The suggested two-lane route begins just east of Vancouver, WA, and extends approximately 170 miles along the north shore of the Columbia River.

Magnificence from Cataclysm
Over millions of years, extensive volcanic activity had overlain much of the land in the Pacific Northwest with layer upon layer of seemingly impermeable basalt rock. Around 10,000 years ago, a blink of an eye in geological time, the landscape along the Columbia River underwent a dramatic transformation.