The Dalles has a fairly large, attractive downtown with some interesting buildings. Although quiet and not very lively, it is still alive and functioning with plenty of various stores and restaurants. It is also interesting for the largely abandoned, boarded-up area along the railroad tracks.
The Historic Fort Dalles Surgeons Quarters are the only remaining building of 4 original structures built in the 1850’s. Designed by Louis Scholl, the buildings were based on the designs found in Andrew Jackson Downing’s “The Architecture of Country Houses.” The Gothic themed building cost $5,000 to build and was criticized by government inspectors as being very costly and expensive to maintain.
Other buildings on the fort were destroyed predominantly by fires which were likely caused by the poor quality of mortar used in the chimneys. After 1876 the fort was disbanded and in 1905 the surgeons quarters was restored by local pioneer’s and turned into a museum. It has served that purpose ever since making it one of the longest continuously operating museum in the region.
Second dam upriver from Portland (Bonneville is the first), The Dalles Dam was built in the 40's for a variety of reasons. At the time the main issue was navigating the Columbia. With the dam in place the locks provided access to the newly created lake behind it and overcame a series of rapids and waterfalls that were quite hazardous. Now, it is the 22 generators that are of primary importance. The provide affordable electrical power to the region.
The dam is 1.5 miles long and L shaped. The visitors center is quite good with helpful and friendly staff. The train that derailed in 2005 is still out of service so you can't get much closer. Their film with the history of the dam is informative. When not showing the film they show live video feed of the fish ramps and it is great to see those large salmon heading upstream.
A short walk down across the fields gets you to the river with good views of the dam.
The Columbia River Gorge is an amazing area. Waterfalls are everywhere, visible from the old highway. The Historic highway snakes along parallel to the freeway, and what a relaxing road to travel. It's a great alternative to the freeway. Allow a full day to give you plenty of time for stops and pictures.
This is the road that you can see the famous Multnomah Falls from. Also Latourell Falls. Crown Point Vista House is also beautiful.
We spent an entire day travelling this road - it's definitely not for those in a hurry! But if you have time to slow down and smell the roses, this road will reward you royally.
One of several dams across the Columbia River is at The Dalles. There is also a bridge across the river from the Dalles to Washington.
Nearby, there are some old abandoned wooden shacks, as well.