Guthrie lived in Portland for a month in 1941, traveling through the Columbia River Gorge on commission to help promote the public construction of dams along the Columbia River. He wrote 26 songs in 30 days, crooning about the mountains and canyons, orchards and pastures in classics such as “Roll On, Columbia,” “Pastures of Plenty” and “Grand Coulee Dam,” which are part of his Columbia River Collection.
Guthrie’s style and use of lyrics to speak out against class inequity went on to inspire rockers including Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, the Byrds, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan (whom he mentored) and more.
A new podcast series, “Hear in the Gorge” takes you back in time to Guthrie’s soulful tunes — the ultimate road trip music — and celebrates his contribution with stories about the places that inspired him. Other episodes in the 2017 podcast series are just as compelling: One marks the 75th anniversary of internment of Japanese Americans, which happened in parts of the Gorge; another details the history of the Crag Rats, the nation’s oldest mountain rescue team.
The podcast series is a companion to the “Sense of Place” lecture series hosted by the nonprofit Gorge Owned, which encourages people to love and invest in the region. The Sense of Place lectures bring local experts to educate and entertain audiences at the Columbia Center for the Arts in Hood River.
Upcoming Sense of Place lectures include “History Slam: An Improvisational View into our Past” (Dec. 13, 2017); “Hanford: Our River Runs Through It” (Jan. 10, 2018); “Steamboats and Captains of the Columbia” (Feb. 14, 2018); and “River of Hope — Salmon Dreams and the Columbia River Treaty” (March 14, 2018).
Editor’s note: Months after the Eagle Creek Fire burned 48,000 acres, the area is still recovering. Many iconic landmarks, state parks, trails and other sites between Troutdale and Hood River (except Cascade Locks and Bonneville Lock and Dam) remain closed, slated for rehabilitation in spring 2018 or later. It’s always best to call ahead before traveling.