Gryphon Park
Oregon Fall Colors 2003:

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Oregon Fall Colors

     River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge

We had previously visited the Columbia River Gorge in 1997 as an impromptu side trip on a visit to Portland. The Gorge is less than an hour's drive from Portland. This time we went there specifically in search of rich fall foliage color and the Gorge was our primary destination. We had planned our trip based on this VIA magazine article which claims the time to visit for fall color is "mid to late October." The article neglects to mention that the timing of fall color is extremely variable and hard to predict. Varying temperatures and precipitation in the preceding months can move the date range for the peak period of fall color as much as month in a temperate area like Oregon.

The Gorge is very scenic any time of year but were we disappointed that the fall color was only getting started at the time of our visit. After a day of visiting the Gorge's waterfalls, we decided to head on in search of better color.

On to the Cascade Mountains

Vine Maple Leaves

Figuring out which direction to head for the best chance at the vibrant fall color we had made the trip to see and photograph was no easy task. Unlike New England or other regions that have influxes of tourists coming to see the leaves turn, Oregon's fall foliage is not well known.  As a result, there are fewer sources of information about foliage conditions in the Pacific Northwest. Gathering the information we could find, we decided to head to south and east to the Central Cascade mountains. We hoped the higher elevations with their cooler temperatures would have moved the colors of the leaves to a richer state than those that we found at near sea level in the Gorge.

The drive into the Cascades reminded me of the Misty Mountains in the Lord of the Rings. The fog and clouds were hovering low over the mountain tops giving them a mystical air. As we drove higher into the mountains, we started to see the vibrant yellows of the vine maple turning. As we went higher, we saw the yellows making their way to vibrant to pinks and finally deep reds. In the Central Cascades, we found the fall show we were looking for.

Vine Maple Leaves
Vine Maple Leaves