Did you know that this year marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Historic Columbia River Highway in the great Pacific Northwest? On June 7, 1916, the Historic Columbia River Highway was officially dedicated and rapidly gained national attention for its iconic design, in addition to its inventive construction, which included bridges and rock walls. Although June 7, 2016 marked the official anniversary, the cities and towns of the region continue to celebrate throughout the year. You are probably saying to yourself, “what makes this highway so special?” Well, the answer is simple; this isn’t just any highway. This is America’s FIRST Scenic Highway and winds through (and leads to) some of Mother Nature’s most brilliant handiwork, such as Mt. Hood, the Columbia Gorge and Multnomah Falls – just to name a few.

It is important to note that the highway plays a significant role in Columbia Gorge communities, as landmarks like Multnomah Falls and the Vista House at Crown Point brings in millions of visitors each year. The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area remains the most highly populated National Scenic area in the country.

Take part in honoring the prodigious centennial by exploring this world-famous “King of Roads” with American Queen Steamboat Company®. When you embark on an American Empress® river cruise, there are a variety of shore excursions, both included and premium, that touch upon this magnificent scenic route and lead you to renowned landmarks. Take, for example, our Premium Shore Excursion from the port of Stevenson, Washington:

Multnomah Falls and Vista House -Including the Old Scenic Highway

Travel on the “King of Roads” as it weaves through towering forests and breathtaking waterfalls high into the bluffs towards Crown Point. Before arriving at the Point, we will pull off the highway for a stop at the Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint where you can capture a perfect photo from the most widely photographed vantage point of the Columbia River Gorge below. Our destination, aptly named for its unique formation and created over 14 million years ago by a lava flow, Crown Point offers a view fit for a king.

Perched at the height of the bluff above the Columbia River sits Vista House. Vista House offers an unprecedented, panoramic view of the breathtaking Columbia River which lies more than 700 feet below. Built in 1916 and known not only for its magnificent views, but also for its unique octagonal shape, this overlook contains a gift shop and interpretive displays exhibiting the historic and geological points of interest in the area.

Returning to the Scenic Highway, the journey continues to Oregon’s highest and perhaps most picturesque waterfalls, Multnomah Falls. Take some time to gaze at the incredible waterfall and browse the unique gift shop. The roaring 611-foot natural wonder demonstrates the power and beauty of nature in her rawest form. Watch in awe as this mighty waterfall crashes down on the rocky cliffs below and feel the peaceful mist fall upon you. The tour resumes on the Scenic Highway affording picture-perfect views of additional waterfalls emerging from the bluffs along the attractive roadway. You will treasure the rare glimpses of these geological wonders!

Whether you choose to travel this year during the special anniversary or choose to explore in the years to come, do take the time to mark an American Empress Pacific Northwest river cruise on your “to-do” list. It will be one of the most memorable vacations that you will experience in your lifetime!