The Classic Columbia River Gorge Tour

Columbia River Gorge Itineraries



4 hours

Classic Standard Tour - ½ day

5-6 hours

Classic Standard Tour with ¾ day options

7-8 hours

Classic Standard Tour with full-day options

View All Custom Gorge Tour Itinerary options on 1 page

* Latourell & Multnomah Falls (viewing bridges) hikes are typically automatically included in your tour itinerary.  Wahkeena (viewing bridge) & Bridal Veil Falls hikes are often included in the itinerary, and are recommended. These are short hikes (15-30 minutes RT max.). All other hikes ('extended hikes') are an option and must be pre-arranged before your tour; otherwise they are not an option. NOTE: All hikes are self-guided hikes and are optional; including the standard hikes, where your driver/guide will not be accompanying your group. To add the Bonneville Dam, please notify us or your tour guide ahead of time; the 5-6 hour tour option may apply. You do not have to participate in any hike as views of all of the standard falls (except Bridal Veil) are all had without hiking.

A Trailhead Release Agreement form is required from your group (see below *) to hike on any optional/extended hike.  This does not apply with the standard (viewing bridge) hikes. Be prepared for inclement weather (rain, snow, cold, ice, wind etc.) during winter time tours.  Be prepared for rainy weather during summer time tours, and dress appropriately.

* ALL HIKES ARE SOLO 'SELF-SERVICE' HIKES; your driver and/or tour guide WILL NOT be accompanying your group on your hike due to Forest Service regulations. While we consider our extended hikes to be completely safe; in wilderness areas, possible wilderness dangers are always present, including Falling—Please stay on the maintained trail. A Trailhead Release Agreement form exonerating My Chauffeur of any responsibility on the trails will be required for your tour.  Hikes are not recommended for children or pets. Trails are typically not near restrooms or running water, so you should plan on carrying your own water supply. Cliff sections (if applicable) are exposed, so anyone subject to vertigo should proceed carefully, and turn back if the first set of cliffs are uncomfortable...  If you have any apprehensions about nature hiking and/or nature areas, you should not do the extended hikes. The trail surfaces are often rocky and uneven, and anything less than a good pair of hiking shoes or boots is not adequate. Also keep in mind that the Columbia Gorge is home to poison oak, and it grows along some sections of the some trails. If you're susceptible to it, keep an eye out in sunny, open cliff-tops and open oak forests. Long pants are a good idea is you're particularly sensitive.

We are here to help plan your Gorge tour, answer questions and/or make suggestions.  Give us a call at 503-969-4370 (toll-free 1-877-692-4283) or EMAIL US.  If you have already made a reservation, contact your personal concierge.

** The options of Bonneville Dam and Upper Horsetail Falls require more time than our standard stops.  Please notify your guide ahead of time to be able to accommodate this in your schedule (we will drop out other stops) unless you want to extend your tour to the 5-6 hour option.

*** Mt. Hood tour option is between 8-10 hours long.

Columbia River Gorge Tour w/Bonneville Dam (A Unique Experience)

Much more than a dam awaits visitors to this historic site

A 'stones throw' from Multnomah Falls, this addition is convenient to add or substitute for other stops. Visit the visitor center and see salmon up close in the viewing windows and sturgeon & trout up close in the fish hatchery and view the inner workings of this magnificent dam with a free tour.

Columbia River & Bonneville Dam, Oregon. 1939

Built in the 1930s during the Great Depression, the lock & dam is the oldest of about 14 federal dams built on the Columbia River.  Enjoy watching salmon and other fish swim up the ladders; take a tour and visit the powerhouse and the navigation lock.  The historic Bonneville Fish Hatchery is located just below the dam (see below).

The Lewis and Clark Expedition camped here on Bradford Island (right) on April 9, 1806. During your visit to the Bradford Island Visitor Center you'll find displays that cover Lewis and Clark's local activity.

It was a FDR New Deal project aimed at providing hydropower production, fish and wildlife protection, recreation and navigation.  Inside the visitors center you'll view the fish ladder, where fish return from the ocean to their birthplace to spawn. You may take a guided tour through the powerhouse, and watch the turbines at work.  We will also visit the neighboring historic  sturgeon pond & viewing center (see below). And if we see a tugboat or barge coming, we can hurry to the shipping canal to see them locked through to the upper level of the river.

File:Kaplan turbine bonneville.jpg
Take a guided tour through the visitor's center & powerhouse and watch the turbines at work. The Washington Shore Facility (separate visitor center) offers something extra special. You can walk on top of an operating generator and look inside the spinning shaft. 

Self-Guided tour: The Dam spans the Columbia River and links the two states. The facility features a fascinating array of interpretive hiking trails, historical exhibits, a store, 2 educational theaters, a guided tour of the powerhouse (see below), fish ladders and views of the spillway, day-use picnic areas for up to 100, hatchery tours, a full-fledged educational visitor's center, underwater fish-viewing windows, views of Table Mountain and wildlife viewing. A visit to Bonneville Dam will not disappoint. There are visitors' centers on both the Oregon and Washington sides of the dam, and we typically visit the Bradford Island Center on the Oregon side (see map above right). The hatchery is in a separate area (see below).

You may combine this stop with a Wahclella Falls hike, if desired.

Guided Powerhouse Tour: The First Powerhouse Tour provides an overview of Bonneville Dam and a view of the generators. If you are specifically interested in the production of electricity, you should consider visiting the Second Powerhouse on the Washington shore, where visitor areas have been created to allow you to safely walk on top of a running generator. Guided powerhouse tours are by appointment.

About the Fish

It is best to visit the dam in the months of April through September when the salmon are most abundant, but you can view fish at any time of the year.  During the fall (September), when the Chinook run is at its peak, thousands of these massive fish pass up the dam every day.  A highlight is where the underwater fish viewing windows give visitors a mesmerizing look at the fish inside the fish ladder. Fish Count: 541-374-4011


White Sturgeon in the Viewing Center
- Photo by Kathy Munse

Historic Hatchery: We also see the spectacular historic fish hatchery and sturgeon pond & viewing center (A Unique Experience; view video). In the beautiful park-like setting; you'll see Herman the Sturgeon, the 11 foot long, 500 lb., 80 year old pre-historic fish lurking among his huge pre-historic relatives in the Sturgeon pond (below).

  • 80,000 Salmon return to this hatchery every year to spawn (Sept, Oct & Nov) and can be viewed in the holding ponds. From watching workers sort incoming salmon, to harvesting eggs and caring for young frys, finglerings and smolts, each stage of the operation is on display, and explained by either videos or audio explanations that can be played. This is really about education here; learning about the salmon’s lifecycle and the biology of the fish in the area.

  • The hatchery, built in 1909, continues to be the largest of Oregon’s 33 hatcheries and was 1st named "central hatchery".

  • The first stop should be a kiosk near the gift shop that has slick brochures that will give you a step-by-step tour of the hatchery. Also, make sure you bring quarters, because if you want to feed the fish at the hatchery – you will need change. But do not throw coins in the ponds!

  • Lewis & Clark camped here on April 9th, 1806.

  • Tours are self-guided and mostly outside, so make sure you glance at the weather forecast before heading out. Oregon, and the gorge in particular, can have rapidly changing weather, and if you want to enjoy the highlights of the hatchery, be prepared to be outside.

Season: When to visit really depends on what you want to see. From August through November salmon that have returned are sorted into holding ponds for processing. During these times it’s also good to visit the fish ladder. If you want to see the spawning (reproduction) operation (at the Spawning Room), late summer or early fall (Sept, Oct & Nov) is the time to visit. But they have something for people to do all year long, because the operation is always working and we have fish out for people to see. Spawning begins during the last week in October and continues until the beginning of December. As part of their natural life cycle all Pacific Northwest Salmon die after spawning.  For hatchery tours call 541-374-8393. Hatchery and dam are open year-round from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Fish Hatchery Video

Herman the Sturgeon:Herman

  • One of the highlights is the Sturgeon Viewing Center. It is one of the few places on the planet where people have the opportunity to gaze directly into the eyes of a fish 200 million years old from the Jurassic period, a modern day 'dinosaur with fins', the oldest fish on the planet.  The Columbia River has the largest population of white sturgeon on the planet, about 1,000,000 below Bonneville Dam.

  • There you'll see “Herman” the sturgeon, a 80-year-old (as of 2018), 11-foot long, 500 pound sturgeon. People love Herman, especially kids.

  • Herman is an icon and something of a pop-culture figure. He has a Facebook page, a line of Herman memorabilia, recently starred in a National Geographic documentary, made a music video with a famous rap musician Aesop Rock and for nearly 50 years was the undisputed star attraction at the Oregon State Fair.

  • Herman has been kidnapped, clobbered, mangled by thieves, survived the wildfire of 2018 and sadly, even the story about the man who jumped into the pond with Herman and repeatedly stabbed him with a knife … is true. Herman and his friends have been assaulted on multiple occasions. After being nursed back to health each time and in light of these attacks, hatchery workers responsible for taking care of Herman are guarded about any attempts to disturb him anymore. More about Herman

Sternwheeler Cruises:

During summer months, the Sternwheeler, operated by the Port of Cascade Locks may be boarded at the dock near the Bradford Island Visitor Center parking lot. For schedules and reservations contact the Port of Cascade Locks, Oregon at 541-374-8619

* Because of security concerns, visitors may be required to show ID, and it is not possible to cross the entire dam. During most of the year, more fish use the Washington shore fish ladders, so fish viewing may be better on the Washington side of the dam.  Guided powerhouse walks (free; 45 minutes) on the Oregon side are scheduled hourly or bi-hourly from 10-4 daily and on the Washington side they are scheduled at 10:30, 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. every day. Call 541-374-8820 on the morning of your tour to check on tour availability or schedule a private tour for large groups. Self-guided tours of the facilities (9-5pm) are available anytime.   For security reasons: Backpacks & purses are not allowed on the Powerhouse tour.  In addition, a COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF ALL ATTENDEES ON THE POWERHOUSE TOUR IS REQUIRED.  Give the list to your Bonneville Dam guide when you arrive at the Dam visitor center.

Bonneville Dam website

top photo courtesy of:

* Wikipedia GNU Free Documentation License applies.


After a lot of searching under bridges, boulders and banks, he discovered what he was searching for... People Entertainment!!

Herman with his stunningly gifted business acumen and apparently continuous stream of acquaintances, set out to conquer the Bonneville Dam. After an encounter with some Jesters and flute players, he was ready to set up shop in the 'underbelly' of Bonneville Dam --- the Sturgeon Pond!!! There was only one dilemma, Herman had never done viewing ponds before!

So he left for the sunny Portland suburb of Salem Oregon where he met up with some fish pond masters, and learned about viewing ponds from the ground up. These grisly old sturgeon masters knew how to do it and were hardly agreeable to hand over their secrets at first. But the charisma and tolerable looks of our champion in time won over these masters, and the secrets were revealed to him.  He was surprised when one of them said, 'hey Herman, strap this one on' referring to the 'exotic' carrying tote bag used to transfer the entertaining trinkets from one local to another.  Oh Salem... one of the secrets of the trade, and it was a good laugh.

After returning from the Salem state Fair, Herman learned a lot: like how to tease, amuse and razzle-dazzle the spectators. Also the intricacies of the gradual sturgeon pond turn and how to keep perfectly still, like he's a fake Herman! And when and when not to use such phrases as 'Hedonistic and round, characteristically developed' when referring to the visitors.  He eventually learned how to fend off repeating attackers without getting knifed, mangled, clobbered or kidnapped and countless other tricks of the trade were now in the brain, fins, and notepad of Herman. He returned to Bonneville amusing the locals with tales of busting up an intruder and saying 'If it bleeds, we can kill it." and 'I'll be back!!'; a Banaban documentary on Hindu Television featuring Herman; and the foolish, crazy times at the Fairgrounds--opera singers, ventriloquists, Burgundian Aristocrats, a guy who somehow kept a bunch of plates spinning atop a wooden pole, Chinese acrobats, and dogs who climbed ladders. Oh Salem...  Bonneville learned of these tricks and Herman soon became the best sturgeon in the world, Madre mía!!

So after flying in some 'Manchu’s bark/Cinchona' potions from down south and attaining the 'bricks and mortar' of his trade, Herman started playing around with his techniques that soon became known locally, nationally, and global!

Now 30 years later, folks are chatting about Herman in Somaliland and Samoa Island.  China has some trendy people wearing the latest Herman the Sturgeon bikinis, and companions have shared a Herman tale or two off the Ivory Coast and Senegal of all places!  I'm sure some parts of the world have yet to be infiltrated. Stay watching!



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