America's Best History Spotlight
On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area. And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find. You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't. It'll be fun. Visit them.
Vista House, Oregon
For nearly one hundred years, travelers along the Columbia River Gorge Highway or the Columbia River itself have seen the majestic waystop high above the river called Vista House. Dedicated on May 5, 1918, with its 100th anniversary held in 2018, this hexagonal stopover to peer across the many vistas of the gorge may not have been around for the Lewis and Clark voyage or others along the Oregon Trail in its heydey, but it has hosted millions of visitors post 1918 as they wandered down that historic highway to marvel at the scenes in every direction. Every year about one million visitors stop by. Photo above: Vista House on Crown Point, looking north, with period visitors. Historic American Buildings Survey. Courtesy Library of Congress.
Info, What's There Now, History Nearby
Now you can still stop at this historic spot and walk into this historic structure, gaining interpretive information about the Vista House and other area attractions. There are exhibits on the history of the house, the Columbia River, seven hundred and thirty-three feet below, and its Gorge, the Columbia River Highway, plus local history and geology. What geology, you say? How above lava flows, floods, and basalt clifts that once prompted residents to name the area after Thor. What's so special about a large visitor center and rest stop? Try marble floors and brass fixtures. However, it was derided by some upon construction due to its cost. That concern has long ago since waned.
Photo above: Vista House, 2008. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.
Where Is It
Vista House is located along the Columbia River Historic Highway on the bluffs above the Columbia River in Corbett, Oregon. From Fort Vancouver National Historic Site it's about twenty-seven miles. Take Washington 14 East, then I-205 South and I-84/US-30 East to NE Corbett Hill Road, Exit 22. Continue four miles east on NE Corbett Hill Road and the Historic Columbia River Highway to the Vista House.
What is There Now
Historic overlook from 1918 building, looking in all directions along the Columbia River Gorge. There's exhibits, a Museum gift shop, and expresso bar.
How Much to Visit
Free to visit and gander at the vistas. Owned by the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department and run by the Friends of Vista House in partnership with Oregon State Parks. Volunteers are on site to give interpretation and answer your questions. If your group would like a more detailed tour, contact the friends group that run Vista House for more information.
Vista House is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
If you're traveling along the Columbia River Gorge Highway and stopping at Vista House, you're nearby a number of interesting local sites, including Horsetail Falls and Benson State Recreation Area, both upriver from the house. Downriver, west from the Vista House are several parks, including Reed Island State Park within the Columbia River itself. Even closer, are Rooster Rock State Park (river) and Guy W. Talbot State Park (inland). For more national and regional attractions, there's the National Park Service sites of Fort Vancouver, only forty minutes west, Crater Lake, and Lewis and Clark National Historic Site.