This past weekend, I drove east up I-84 to the small town of Mosier. Mosier is located at the brink of the change between the lush damp forests of the western portion of the Gorge and the drier grasslands to the east. When you exit the freeway, you are instantly welcomed with a sign stating “Entering Mosier, population 430.” The unassuming town marks the beginning of a short 6-mile excursion on the Historic Columbia River Highway, now known as Hwy 30, up to Rowena Crest.
The drive takes you winding through some gorgeous farmland. Orchards line both sides of the road, and the open meadows are full of wildflowers. It is hard to be patient, knowing once you actually get to your destination the flowers will be even more plentiful.
Continuing on your journey a few more miles, you can’t help but notice the stately manor on your left named The Mayerdale Place. In 1910 Mark Mayer established a home and a 230-acre apple orchard in Mosier. Later, he donated the land that is now Mayer State Park, which includes Rowena Crest, the Tom McCall Wildlife Preserve and a recreation area along the Columbia River which you will be able to see below you when you reach the viewpoint.
Soon you will come to your turnoff. The roundabout can be crowded with the cars of sightseers. The views from the Rowena Crest Viewpoint looking east towards The Dalles are amazing. The Columbia River Gorge spreads out in front of you, and the sky seems endless. Below you can see the Columbia River portion of Mayer State Park. The winds whip around you and catch your breath, rustling through the grasses and trees.
After taking in the breathtaking eastern view, I leave my car and walk west back the short distance towards Hwy 30 and cross the road into the Tom McCall Wildlife Preserve. The 271 acres is located on the Rowena Plateau high above the Rowena Dell, which leads directly into the Columbia River Gorge. The plateau is covered in wildflowers, including lupine and balsamroot. There are even varieties of wildflowers here that are unique to the Gorge! When I visited the preserve, the balsamroot was just passing its peak, and the lupine had just started to take over the sunny meadows. I took my time taking in the sights and listening to the breeze and the birds singing. I had the entire plateau to myself, as the other travelers seemed to stay over at the Rowena Viewpoint.
Interested in experiencing this all for yourself? The wildflowers appear from late February to June, although they are in their prime in April and May. There are two short hiking trails that wind through the parks, giving the visitor the ultimate experience.