Fort Cascades Loop
Central Gorge, Washington
Picnic area along the trail looking at Bonneville Dam (photographer: Jesse Brownlee)
Hike Details
Type:
Loop
Distance:
1.5 miles round trip
Elevation Gain:
feet
Difficulty:
Easy
Trail Features
Family Friendly:
Yes
Restrooms:
Yes
Trailhead Pass:
No
Trail Details
Cultural HistoryCultural HistoryIce Age FloodsIce Age Floods
This is a short stroll through a historic area just west of Bonneville Dam. A lot of history is crammed into this narrow area of the Columbia River Gorge. When the Table Mountain Slide occurred in late prehistoric times, it created the cascades of the Columbia River and ensured that people frequented this area. Native Americans used the cascades as a fishing area and became trading partners with travelers. Lewis and Clark mention an Indian Village on this site.
 
In later years, when Europeans began to settle the area, the cascades became a natural transportation bottleneck. The first road was built by the U.S. military in the 1850s. In 1855, the military established Fort Cascades to protect the portage from Native American raids. Peace soon returned to the area, and the military abandoned the fort in 1861 when the soldiers were called back to fight the Civil War. Settlers soon claimed the fort and outlying buildings creating the town of Cascades. Cascades became the first county seat of Skamania County, with the old Quartermaster's Office functioning as the first courthouse. By 1893, Cascades had been eclipsed by Stevenson as the county seat and social center of the area.
 
In 1894, a large flood swept through the area destroying the town site. It was never rebuilt. Today, there are no visible remains of the town itself. Extensive archaeological work has found many relics, and some of the larger items are displayed on the hike.
 
Be sure to pick up a brochure detailing the self-guided hike before beginning the hike at the Fort Cascades Trailhead. You'll first pass the site of an old fish wheel, then angle left when you come to a fork. When another trail crosses yours, take a quick trip left to a viewpoint of the dam, Wauna Point and Wauna Viewpoint. Return to your trail and continue west. Soon, you'll pass the Fort Cascades Petroglyph, a replica of a stone found in this location.
 
Please note: Dogs are welcome on a leash. Be careful of poison oak alongside the trail.
 
- Hike descriptions were collaboratively written with the generous support of oregonhikers.org.
 

Driving Directions

Fort Cascades Trailhead:  Take I-84 to Exit #44/Cascade Locks. Follow the signs to Bridge of the Gods/Stevenson. Cross the bridge ($2 toll). Take a left onto WA Hwy 14 and travel about 2 miles (past Bonneville Dam). Turn left onto Dam Access Rd. Take an immediate right and then a quick left signed for the Fort Cascades Historical Site. From Vancouver, travel east on WA Hwy 14 for 35 miles. Beyond Beacon Rock State Park and the town of North Bonneville, you'll see Bonneville Dam on your right. Just before the dam on the right side of the highway is Dam Access Rd. Turn right onto Dam Access Rd, another immediate right, and then a quick left signed for the Fort Cascades Historical Site.