15-Year Vision for Sustainable Tourism

Our region’s vision of success was initially curated by weaving together hundreds of voices from workshops and surveys during the 2016 Gorge Tourism Studio, a community-based destination development program conducted by Travel Oregon.  The Columbia Gorge Tourism Alliance board updated this vision in 2023 to reflect current thinking as shared by participants of our action teams, network planning sessions and annual Summits.

The Columbia River Gorge region, including the largest nationally recognized National Scenic Area and the majestic Cascades Range within which it is nestled, offers our target visitor a world-class adventure travel experience across two states and six counties. While the mighty Columbia River is its defining feature, nationally designated Wild and Scenic Rivers are the region’s lifeblood. The Sandy and the Deschutes Rivers flank its east and west boundaries while the White Salmon, Klickitat, and Hood River carve pathways from the Cascades.

[OUTDOOR RECREATION] Free-flowing whitewater draws in the adventurous soul, skilled fishermen, and, most importantly, salmon. This transition zone from rainforest to desert creates nuclear winds, making the Gorge one of the world’s most sought-after destinations for windsurfing, kiteboarding, and technical sailing. Access to snow sports abounds on the peaks, including year-round skiing on the Palmer Glacier. The region’s paved, gravel, and single-track terrain provide bicyclists with a flight-like, captivating experience of the scenic landscape. Signature trails, including Gorge Towns to Trails, the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail, are significant draws to the region. These trails that connect waterfalls, world-renowned wildflower meadows, basalt bluffs, and the Gorge’s charming downtowns are frequented by hikers, cyclists, and trail runners alike due to the world-class experience that they provide. This includes a broad selection of restaurants offering food and beverages made from local ingredients. The quality of life for the diverse tourism workforce is satisfactory.

[CULINARY/AGRICULTURE] The Gorge, with its concentration of locally-owned boutique vineyards, breweries, cideries, and small farms, boasts an abundant and rich local food scene. Locals and visitors alike can easily eat what’s grown and produced here, and visitors are welcomed by growers to have meaningful, quality on-farm experiences. Restaurateurs are well-connected with local growers adding value to locally produced ingredients and offering memorable foodie experiences. The visitor industry has helped contribute to alleviating hunger in the region.

[CLIMATE CHANGE] Tourism stakeholders in the region know tourism’s contribution to and impact on climate change and actively work to minimize the negative impacts on natural and cultural resources. This includes efforts to limit pollution through waste, carbon emissions, and light through adaptive management. The region displays strong resilience against drastic impacts through natural disasters like wildfires, pandemics, floodings, and droughts, whose consequences can be met through a strong, coordinated support system. Active wildfire prevention protects wildlife, housing, and carbon stored in those trees.

[TRANSPORTATION] Our seamlessly integrated region-wide transportation system encourages visitors to come, travel, explore, and connect – without needing a car. Public and private transit options combined with our bike routes and trail systems have created a multi-modal web knitting together our communities, attractions, and outdoor recreation. The region is vibrant with visitation, and traffic congestion is a thing of the past.

[WELCOMABILITY] Tourism stakeholders acknowledge and understand the past and continued systematic oppression of the Native Tribes and communities of color in the Columbia River Gorge region. The Columbia River Gorge welcomes everybody to visit the region safely, regardless of their race, sexuality, gender, religion, or disability. We are committed to actively reducing barriers and negative impacts on welcomability and accessibility as well as uplifting indigenous voices to guide the reconciliation process across the entire region.

[CULTURE] The ‘Gorge Experience’ is unparalleled due to its exposure to history and culture. Locals in the Gorge’s charming communities help travelers gain a deep understanding of peoples who have inhabited the Gorge in the past, of people who reside here now, and of the natural and human forces that have shaped and reshaped the landscape. Stories of this powerful place, both cultural and natural, are infused into every element of the traveler experience. Local guides help travelers personalize and deepen their own connection to the place and an unusual and rich array of classes and events to experience local culture exist. Trails of national historic significance including the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail, the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail, Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail and the Oregon Trail also bring the region’s history to life.

[BALANCE/SEASONALITY] We have found balance and offer an unforgettable visitor experience while preserving our unique living ecosystem of people, culture, and nature. We have effectively targeted high-value visitors who appreciate the outdoors and local culture, are sensitive to their surroundings, and enjoy people-powered activities. Visitors come year-round to all corners of the Gorge and stay multiple days. Local residents live in a harmonious and symbiotic relationship with our environment and the visitors. The visitor economy does not subtract from their quality of life, including limiting the availability and affordability of housing.