Outdoor Youth Education Programs

Washougal sixth graders show off their "medals" at Explore the Gorge, Spring 2015. (Photo: Michael Horodyski)

Today’s children are less connected to nature than any previous generation. As a result, this upcoming generation may not be equipped to take on the complex environmental challenges handed down to them. This could have grave consequences for the Columbia Gorge.

The goal of Friends’ outdoor education programs, Explore the Gorge and the Great Gorge Wahoo!, is to expose local youth to the wonders of the Columbia Gorge, its significance as a national treasure, and the story of its preservation through the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act. We hope these programs provide powerful memories that will develop and inspire the next generation of Gorge protectors and highlight the beauty that lies just outside their doorstep.

Explore the Gorge

Explore the Gorge is a multi-day outdoor program for Washougal sixth grade students. This program strives to nurture the connection that the students already have to the Gorge, and build on their sense of place to develop a land stewardship ethic. Over 1,000 middle school students have participated in this program.

Explore the Gorge was established in 2008 by long-time Friends supporter and Vancouver resident Phyllis Clausen in honor of her late husband. Phyllis has a strong background of conservation work in the Gorge. When schools started to lose funding for outdoor school, she saw a local need for environmental education and established the Vic Clausen Youth Education Fund to start the youth program. Explore the Gorge is run in partnership with the Washougal School District (in Washington), and continues as a valued program today.

“I feel so encouraged to know that our program is growing and that in other places, too, people are remembering the values of outdoor programs for kids' long term health and overall development. You are doing something of significant worth.” - Phyllis Clausen, founder of Explore the Gorge

2015 Program Photo Gallery and Program Information

Explore the Gorge in the News

June 10, 2014, Camas-Washougal Post Record: A Connection to Conservation
June 11, 2013: Camas-Washougal Post Record: A Natural Classroom
June 21, 2011, Camas-Washougal Post Record: Empowering Observation
2013 Lewis & Clark magazine

The Great Gorge Wahoo!

The Great Gorge Wahoo is an annual one-day field trip for 7th and 8th grade students at the St Andrew Nativity School in Northeast Portland. To date, over 150 students have had the opportunity to experience an educational outing in the Gorge.

In 2011, the Winthrop family established the Matthew Winthrop Memorial Fund and in the fall of that year, twenty students attended the first Great Gorge Wahoo! Since then, the program has grown and in 2014, a spring field trip was added for the 8th grade class established by the Buddy Nobles Memorial Fund.

Get involved

If you are interested in volunteering for the outdoor youth education programs, please contact Outreach Assistant Kate Lindberg at katel@gorgefriends.org.

Support the next generation's outdoor education!

A gift to fund the Explore the Gorge or the Great Gorge Wahoo! program is a perfect opportunity to honor a loved one who cherished the Columbia Gorge. A designated memorial fund can be established in your loved one’s name and the funds directed to the program of your choice.

Make a gift to the outdoor education programs today. Your gift will help continue and expand valuable outdoor education for the next generation.

For information on designating a memorial fund, contact Development Director Sandy Wright at sandy@gorgefriends.org.