The Columbia River, the body of water marking the state line between Oregon and Washington, is lined with miniature towns offering everything from abundant fishing and scenic hiking to antique shopping and quirky sightseeing.
Read the other articles in our series about Washington small towns, organized by region (in no particular order): Metro Seattle, North Cascades, The Islands, Peninsulas & Coast, The Volcanoes, North Central, Wine Country, Northeast and Southeast.
Situated between Vancouver and Woodland, Battle Ground was named for an anticipated battle in 1855 between U.S. soldiers and the Klickitat tribe. The battle never actually occurred, but the name stuck. Today this town draws skaters and locals to its 27,500-square-foot skate park and annual Harvest Days festival every July.
Maple trees shade the sidewalks in this former mill town, nestled on the banks of the Columbia River, where shoppers stroll the charming downtown to peruse boutiques, galleries and antique malls. At 1927-era Liberty Theatre, movie buffs pair a hoppy Alpha Ale IPA from Camas’s own Mill City Brew Werks with their indie flicks.
From 1976 to 1978, the entire town of North Bonneville—400 residents at the time—relocated to make way for a new powerhouse. Today this community is a popular stop on Highway 14 for windsurfing on the Columbia River and an abundance of hikes (hint: keep an eye out for carved-wood sasquatches along the trails), or watch salmon hopping up the Bonneville Lock and Dam.
This riverfront town tucks into the Gorge’s basalt cliffs, where everything from Native American petroglyphs to laid-back eateries is open for exploration. Drop by the impressive Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum to trace the history of the region, keep a lookout for nesting waterfowl at Rock Creek Cove, stop for a scoop of Umpqua ice cream in a homemade waffle cone at Granny’s Gedunk Ice Cream Parlor or dig into a plate of regional cuisine at Clark and Lewie’s, a waterfront restaurant in the Old Saloon building.
While orchards, alpaca farms and logging mills dot White Salmon—population around 2,260—it’s the town’s easy access to the Gorge and the Gifford Pinchot National Forest that makes it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Rafters charge through the White Salmon River’s rapids, windsurfers and parasailers go with the flow, and hikers explore the chilly ice caves carved from ancient lava flows.
No need to do a double take. Tiny Maryhill—just only 100 or so Washingtonians call this place home—does indeed sport a life-size replica of Stonehenge. Fashioned after the original Neolithic monument, the modern-day version is made from concrete, wood and crumpled tin and was dedicated in 1918 as a World War I memorial.
Situated on a plateau 13 miles north of the Columbia River, Goldendale was once just a watering hole for Oregon Trail pioneers. Today turkey and deer hunters survey the public lands along the Klickitat River, and fishermen cast their lines for king, coho, steelhead and rainbow trout. Goldendale Observatory State Park, with one of the nation’s largest public telescopes, is a must for stargazers.
Photo credit: Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center in Stevenson, Flickr/Amy the Nurse