Outdoor Youth Education Programs

Explore the Gorge and the Great Gorge Wahoo! highlight wonders of the Gorge

Outdoor Youth Education Programs
Portland middle-schoolers learn about the Gorge at the Great Gorge Wahoo!, one of Friends' two outdoor education programs. (photographer: Nick Wiltgen)
The goal of Friends’ two outdoor youth education programs, Explore the Gorge and The Great Gorge Wahoo!, is to expose local youth to the Columbia Gorge's wonders and significance as a national treasure, as well as tell the story of its preservation through the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act. These programs aim to provide powerful memories that will develop and inspire the next generation of Gorge protectors, deepening children's connection to the natural world just outside their doorstep.

Explore the Gorge

Explore the Gorge is a multi-day outdoor program for Washougal, WA 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 1,400 middle school students have participated in this program since its beginning in 2008.

Explore the Gorge was established in 2008 by longtime Friends' supporter and Vancouver resident Phyllis Clausen in honor of her late husband. Phyllis has a strong background in Gorge conservation work. When schools started to lose funding for their own outdoor school programs, she saw a local need for environmental education and established the Vic Clausen Youth Education Fund to start the youth program. Explore the Gorge operates in partnership with the Washougal School District and continues to be 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

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 educationally enriched outing in the Gorge.

In 2011, the Winthrop family established the Matthew Winthrop Memorial Fund. In the fall of that year, 20 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 at either program, please contact Outdoor Programs Coordinator Kate Lindberg:

Support the Next Generation of Gorge Conservationists

Donate Today

Make a gift to our outdoor youth education programs today to continue and expand these programs for the next generation.

Leave a Legacy

A gift to fund Explore the Gorge or The Great Gorge Wahoo! 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. For information on designating a memorial fund, contact Development Director Sandy Wright at sandy@gorgefriends.org or 971-634-2027.