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Rowena Plateau

From Oregon Hikers Field Guide

The Rowena Plateau and the Columbia River (Jeff Statt)
Looking west down the Columbia River (Jeff Statt)
Balsamroot and lupine cover the Rowena Plateau in May (Greg Lief)


Rowena Plateau sits at the far east side of the Columbia River Gorge - right at the point where the lush, temperate rain forests transitions to the arid, high desert plains of eastern Oregon between Hood River and The Dalles. In early spring, this square-mile expanse of meadows and swamp-like ponds is a wildflower lover's heaven! Its location on the eastern edge of the Gorge means the flowers come much earlier than such famous wildflower locations as Dog Mountain and Silver Star Mountain.

You can't talk about the Rowena Plateau without talking about the Tom McCall Nature Preserve. The Nature Conservancy, in conjunction with Oregon State Parks, has worked to preserve the fauna and flora here. Botanists work to monitor rare plant populations. Starting in spring, volunteers lead interpretive hikes.

The plateau is a basalt peninsula formed out of the Columbia River Basalt Flows about 15 million years ago. Between fifteen to twelve thousand years ago, the massive spates of the Missoula Floods, resulting from ice dam failures at the edge of the continental ice sheet way up in what is now Montana, swept down the Gorge, furiously scouring a pathway and temporarily covering the Rowena Plateau with about 200 feet of raging, debris-laden waters. The two kolk ponds on the plateau were formed then and later loess piles collected on the rocky surface of the tableland in evenly-shaped hummocks, the low biscuit mounds that you see today.

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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.

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