May 102012

lupine and balsamroot blooming at Tom McCall Preserve in the Columbia River Gorge

Early May is the prime time for wildflower displays in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. There are a number of locations on both the Oregon and Washington side of the river that are great for finding and photographing wildflowers. Here are three of the best places for getting photos with masses of color.

Tom McCall Preserve, pictured above, is a Nature Conservancy holding at Rowena on the Oregon side of the River. An easy stroll just a few steps from the parking area will put you in the thick of the flowers.

flowering balsamroot and view of the Columbia River from Dog Mountain Trail

Balsamroot on Dog Mountain high above the Columbia River.

On the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, Dog Mountain Trail is a favorite springtime hike, both for the broad, sloping meadows of wildflowers and for the spectacular views from the upper parts of the trail. It’s not an easy hike, but it’s definitely worth the effort. Due to the higher elevation, flowering starts a little later here, but remains great while the blooms at lower elevations are cooked.

lupine and balsamroot flowering along Dalles Mountain Road

Lupine and balsamroot flowering along Dalles Mountain Road

The Dalles Mountain Road portion of Washington’s Columbia Hills State Park is one of the first areas to bloom in spring. Located towards the eastern end of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, it gets more sun earlier in the year, and in a good season acres and acres of the broad slopes are covered with showy lupine and balsamroot. Within the state park, it’s possible to shoot right from the roadside or wander the fields looking for just the right photo composition.

For more detailed information about these locations, and additional best places to photograph wildflowers in the Columbia Gorge, please see my guidebooks Photographing Oregon and Photographing Washington.

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