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A team of government and non-government entities have teamed up to launch helpful travel tips for visitors to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area as part of their ongoing "Ready, Set, GOrge!" campaign to improve visitor planning, safety and sustainability.
Through local businesses, visitor centers and more, the group will distribute 50,000 brochures and have launched a new website, ReadySetGorge.com, that provides tips for visitors on how to plan, prepare and safely enjoy their time in the Gorge, while practicing leave-no-trace principles. Combined with a social media campaign and frontline staff training in the Columbia Gorge region, the campaign will provide local businesses with tools for assisting travelers, and participating organizations will receive web badges.
"The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is a national treasure, and we want visitors who come here to take 'Ready, Set, GOrge!' to heart," said Stan Hinatsu, recreation staff officer for the U.S. Forest Service. "With 3-4 million people visiting the Columbia Gorge every year, we want people to understand that a bit of good planning and preparation can go a long way toward improving their experience and protecting the Gorge for future visitors."
The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area was established in 1986 to protect 292,500 acres of trails, forest, waterfalls, parks and historical sites within the spectacular river canyon. Unlike other national scenic areas, the Columbia Gorge is home to 13 communities, all of which have unique shops, eateries and local attractions that make them well worth visiting.
Ready, Set, GOrge! recommends that planning, preparing and taking these key steps can help visitors avoid congestion on the trails, and have a safe and enjoyable trip:
"We want to sustain the Columbia Gorge for centuries to come," said Kevin Gorman, executive director of Friends of the Columbia Gorge, which maintains a comprehensive website with information about hiking trails and their various degrees of difficulty at gorgefriends.org. "To do so, we all need to be respectful, courteous, pick up litter and take care of our natural areas and local communities. The Gorge give us all so much, let's always leave it better."
Travel Oregon's Kristin Dahl noted, "We want 'Ready, Set, GOrge!' to be the first thing people say as they advise visitors to the Columbia River Gorge, or to prepare for their own hike or water expedition. Visit ReadySetGorge.com and make sure you've taken the steps necessary to have a safe and fun visit."
The Columbia Gorge Express, launched in 2016 to ease congestion in the Gorge Waterfall Corridor, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) will return this year in mid-June and run through September 24, operating Friday through Sunday (and federal holidays). For $5 per roundtrip, it offers a convenient, reliable and fun way to get from Portland to Multnomah Falls with stops at Rooster Rock State Park.
In May, Columbia Gorge Tourism Alliance held a series of "We Speak The Gorge" frontline customer service trainings to teach retail, hospitality and restaurant staffs in Washington and Oregon about "Ready, Set, GOrge!" travel tips, which encourage visitors to explore less-visited places. Funded with a $5,000 grant from Travel Oregon's Rural Tourism Studio Matching Grant Program and the Hood River Area Chamber of Commerce, the program is sponsored by Skamania County, Hood River County, Mt. Adams, The Dalles area and West Columbia Gorge Chambers of Commerce.
The east end of the Gorge tends to receive fewer visitors than the west end of the Gorge. "The eastern end of the Gorge contains a wealth of unique visitor attractions, from outstanding museums to unique historical sites, all within a beautiful natural landscape that is strikingly different from the western end of the Gorge. We're excited to have more people discover all that the area has to offer," said Lisa Farquharson, CEO of The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce.
About Ready, Set, GOrge!: Begun in 2016, Ready, Set, GOrge! is the product of a collaboration between Travel Oregon, Friends of the Columbia Gorge and the United State Forest Service and other land management agencies and nonprofits. The program offers tips to "Make it Fun. Make it Safe," advising visitors to avoid crowds by going east, early or midweek; to plan ahead to have a safe and fun experience; and to take steps to help protect the Gorge, so future visitors can enjoy it, too. ReadySetGorge.com.