Insider's Guide to the Gorge

Wildflowers and Waterfalls in the Gorge

On your next trip to our Signature landscape, look for these five unique Gorge wildflowers.

By Kate Bryant May 25, 2012 Published in the June 2012 issue of Portland Monthly

Image: Amy Martin

Green-Banded or Sagebrush Mariposa Lily

Calochortus Macrocarpus

This western native lily makes a splash in mid to late June, adding a lavender haze to the grassy hills and lightly wooded slopes of the eastern Gorge. Kneel down to see the fragile, goblet-like lavender blossoms with spidery sepals and a white base tucked amid the drying grasses.
See It: Mayer State Park; Tom McCall Nature Preserve; Memaloose State Park; Columbia Hills State Park

Barrett's Beardtongue

Penstemon Barretiae

Image: Amy Martin

A threatened wildflower species, Barrett’s beardtongue grows no place on earth (naturally) other than in the Gorge. The bright pinkish-purple flowers seen clinging to rocky cliffs and slopes grow only in a 10-mile range between Hood River and Lyle.
See It: along roadsides between Hood River and Lyle; on the Glenwood Trail in the upper Klickitat Canyon; Klickitat Wildlife Refuge

Image: Amy Martin

Columbia Gorge Daisy

Erigeron Oreganus

While most woodland wildflowers have finished flowering by the start of summer, this late bloomer is just getting going, sending up picture-perfect blue, pale pink, or white flowers in mid-June. Native only to the western Gorge, this daisy (an officially threatened species) is found from Crown Point to as far east as Mosier. To see it, look up: the Columbia Gorge daisy prefers wet areas under basalt ledges in the west Gorge, mostly on the Oregon side.
See It: Oneonta Gorge; Latourell Falls; McCord Creek Falls


Image: Amy Martin

Mountain Lady's Slipper

Cypripedium Montanum 

Consider yourself fortunate if you spot this rare, bright white orchid (or smell its sweet fragrance). Growing wild from Canada to California, the mountain lady’s slipper can be found in open woods and brushy slopes from late May to early June—or later at higher elevations.
See It: Major Creek Plateau; above Catherine Creek; other scattered high-elevation patches between Mosier and The Dalles


Lewisia Rediviva 

Image: Amy Martin

Named after Meriwether Lewis, who collected the first herbarium specimens, bitterroot blooms May through mid-June amid rocks and gravel in open areas of the east Gorge. Although it’s hard to see once it shrivels into dormancy after flowering, in season the low-growing white and pink-hued flowers can be nearly 2 inches across.
See It: Columbia Hills Ridge west of The Dalles Mountain Road and east of Haystack Butte

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