Explore the Gorge, free of charge

There are few places on earth that compare to the rugged natural beauty that can be found all around in the Columbia River Gorge.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, it is “a scenic area that includes a total of 292,500 acres, from the mouth of the Sandy River to the mouth of the Deschutes and spanning southern Washington and northern Oregon.”

Mountains, lakes, rivers, forests, plants and animals fill the unique landscape. The many parks, recreation areas and trails found in the Columbia River Gorge provide opportunities for exploration.

Maintaining those facilities isn’t cheap, and in 2011, the Washington State Legislature and the Governor created the Discover Pass to help support parks and other recreation lands and facilities operated by Washington State Parks, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

At $30 for an annual pass and $10 for a day pass, visiting these regional treasures isn’t cheap. The good news is, however, that a handful of “free days” have been designated in our state parks. April 4 marked one of those opportunities, and several more are right around the corner including April 22 for Earth Day, May 10 for Spring Day, June 6 for National Trails Day and June 13 for National Get Outdoors Day.

Nearby state parks to explore include Beacon Rock, Spring Creek Hatchery, Reed Island, Doug’s Beach and Columbia Hills.

We live in an incredible natural environment that has been preserved and protected. The opportunity to discover these areas is right at our fingertips.