Preserving a spectacular view

Cape Horn Waterfall Overlook set in stone

Hikers are in for a treat once they approach the Cape Horn Waterfall Overlook.

Falcons, hawks, eagles, ospreys and seals have already been spotted from this spectacular, and now safer, panoramic viewpoint along the 7.7-mile trail in the Washougal-to-Stevenson corridor of the Columbia River Gorge.

The landscape is so transcending, it might take visitors a minute or two to register the sound of water cascading down the cliffs to the left.

“This is truly an example of what dedicated partners, incredible volunteers and financial supporters can accomplish by working together,” said Cape Horn Conservancy President Teresa Robbins. “Viewpoints like this one serve a broad spectrum of emotions. We are interested in stewarding a spectacular trail, not a mediocre one. This is an example of spectacular.”

Robbins and her husband, Keith Brown, began laying the groundwork for the new overlook in January.

“We talked to the forest service about keeping these viewpoints intact. They were concerned about safety issues,” Brown said. “This project is an example of multiple partnerships stepping up to make sure these views are safe and protected for hikers and families to enjoy.”

After the U.S. Forest Service surveyed the land and developed a design, Cape Horn Conversancy and Friends of the Columbia Gorge members got to work with volunteers in March hauling 10 tons of stone down a quarter mile path. Michael Byrne, a mason from Portland, rounded and carved all of the rocks into place.

“I wanted to honor the Columbia River Gorge, and its spectacular beauty,” Byrne said. “I also wanted to honor all of the masons who have done work throughout the Gorge. It was done with hammers and chisels, and feathers and wedges.”

Byrne thanked Robbins and Brown for giving him an opportunity to display his work in the Gorge. They are already collaborating on another overlook nearby with the five tons of remaining stone.

“Keith and Teresa have a vision and a passion. This overlook is just a small part of that,” Byrne said. “Without those two, and all of the volunteers, it wouldn’t have happened.

“A mason’s name is never on the work. I’m a big believer in that,” he added. “The river and the view speak for themselves. I don’t want people to even notice the stone work.”

Avid Cape Horn Trail hikers Sarah Lord and Barb Beach are blown away by the new waterfall overlook. Lord was one of the many volunteers involved in this project.

“It makes a heart-altering view possible for people who wouldn’t have the courage to access it,” Lord said. “This place is so accessible and so stunningly beautiful. Those two things make this my go-to trail. This trail keeps me alive.”

Beach said she won’t forget stepping out to the edge for the first time, without fear of falling.

“This view takes my breath away, it absolutely takes my breath away,” she said. “And, it feels so secure. The whole picture is just surreal.”

The lower section of the Cape Horn Trail opens July 16. Robbins, Brown and volunteers constructed an informational kiosk and bus shelter at the Skamania County Transit Station. The main trail head is located across Salmon Falls Road from the parking lot.

Brown said Washougal High School student Tim Seaman helped build the kiosk and shelter for his senior project.

Robbins said she hopes to have an official dedication for the kiosk and the waterfall overlook in September.

No matter how many times they walk the access route, Brown and Robbins approach the Cape Horn Waterfall Overlook in awe.

“What feels good about this is working on something that you know is going to last for generations,” Brown said.

“This is some place I want my kids, grandkids and their grandchildren to have around, so they too can have these incredible views and landscapes to feed their souls,” Robbins added.