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Fort Cascades Hike

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

Narrow gauge railroad exhibit at Fort Cascades (Steve Hart)
Replica petroglyph (Steve Hart)
Remnants of the Sutler's store (Steve Hart)


Hike Description

This is a short stroll through a historical area just west of Bonneville Dam.

There's a lot of history crammed in the narrow area of the Columbia River Gorge in this area. When the Table Mountain Slide occurred in late prehistoric times, it created the Cascades of the Columbia River and insured that this area frequented by people. Native American people used the Cascades as a fishing area and also became trading partners with travelers. Lewis and Clark mention an Indian Village on this site.

In later years, when Europeans began to settle in the area, the Cascades became a natural transportation bottleneck. The first road was built by the US 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 court house.

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 townsite. 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.

This hike starts at the Fort Cascades Trailhead. Be sure to pick up a brochure detailing the self-guided hike. You'll pass the site of an old fishwheel, then when you come to a fork, angle left. 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.

The trail reaches the end of the park near a fish monitoring station. Looping back toward the east, you will pas a few items found near the Sutler's store, then you cross several transportation corridors. The military road is the oldest. You'll also cross a tramway used as late as the 1930s. While little remains of any of these lines, archaeologists did find a few items from the Portage Railroad that connected river steamboats prior to the building of the current through railroads. The last point of interest is Thomas McNatt's grave. The McNatt's owned the store, stables and hotel in Cascades.


Regulations or restrictions, etc

  • None

Trip Reports

Related Discussions / Q&A

Guidebooks that cover this hike

  • Take a Walk: Portland by Brian Barker

More Links


Oregon Hikers Field Guide is built as a collaborative effort by its user community. While we make every effort to fact-check, information found here should be considered anecdotal. You should cross-check against other references before planning a hike. Trail routing and conditions are subject to change. Please contact us if you notice errors on this page.

Hiking is a potentially risky activity, and the entire risk for users of this field guide is assumed by the user, and in no event shall Trailkeepers of Oregon be liable for any injury or damages suffered as a result of relying on content in this field guide. All content posted on the field guide becomes the property of Trailkeepers of Oregon, and may not be used without permission.