| The Columbia River Gorge is an extraordinary area, carved out by glaciers through the Cascade Mountain Range of Oregon and Washington eons ago. The land rises from about sea level to the towering peaks of nearby My Adams and Mt Hood, more than 11,000 feet high, within just 50 miles in either direction. The area is known for its natural beauty, high quality of life, rich culture and history and a plethora of year round recreational opportunities.
In the middle of the twentieth century the area was primarily known for its fruit orchards, predominantly apples, pears and cherries, and many canneries were located here. In the early 1980's the sleepy town of Hood River, located at the confluence of the Hood River and the mighty Columbia began to come alive with an influx of a new breed of recreational enthusiast... windsurfers. The powerful winds of The Gorge, caused by the high pressures to the west and low pressures to the east in summer which create a natural venturi effect, are funnelled down The Gorge where they pick up speed typically peaking in the mid Columbia region between Hood River and The Dalles.
News of these fabled winds spread quickly among enthusiasts of the new sport and by the mid 80's windsurfing shops began to spring up all over the area. Summer saw an annual migration of windsurfing enthusiasts from all over the world who came to challenge what soon became affectionately labelled the "nuclear winds" of The Gorge. "It's Nukin'" became the battle cry of these intrepid warriors and the Gorge real estate boom was born.
In the mid 80's the area, still economically depressed, had a backlog of homes for sale at depressed prices. Thirty or forty thousand bucks would buy almost any house in town. But not for long. As demand grew and the backlog disappeared, prices inevitably began to rise as more and more "boardheads" moved to the area, mostly in Hood River, The Dalles and across the river in Bingen and White Salmon, Washington.
People from other parts of the country have continued to see Gorge real estate prices as a good value, especially when comparing them to properties in expensive areas like Southern California and the Bay Area, and other prime areas in the U.S. In the 90's more and more people began to move to the area for reasons other than windsurfing... attracted by the high quality of life, the clean air, the sense of community and scenic beauty and endless options for outdoor recreation. For additional info on the many other attractions of this part of Oregon, see our main menu at the left.
Many of the current porperty owners on the Rowena Riviera were fortunate enough to discover the area in the mid 80's and early 90's and acquired theirproperties before the meteoric rise began. At the time only a few windsurfers had purchased properties in Rowena, where, with one minor exception, you'll find the only privately owner riverfront residential property in the mid Columbia in Oregon. That changed quickly... and by the end of the decade all but one or two of the 22 places along the river were owned by windsurfers. With very limited availability for Columbia riverfront property, a few properties changed hands in the 90's and prices soared. The area became known as the Rowena Riviera, playground to the wealthy, a tradition which continues to this day.
In the last few years, this situation has also been materially affected by the arrival of Google in The Dalles. Larry Page, the founder of Google, is an avid windsurfer, and decided to invest in the Gorge a few years ago when Google stepped in and purchased 35 acres of port property in The Dalles, with an option on 30 more. Required by the terms of the tax incentives they received, they were obligated to spend $18 million developing this property, but word has it they spend a good deal more, building two huge server farms, offices and support buldings in the The Dalles Port Campus. This spurred strong economic growth in The Dalles, which began to catch up to nearby Hood River in real estate prices and economic activity. 'The Google Factor' became a major component in Wasco County economics.
With all this growth, 2007 set new benchmarks for the Rowena Riviera with the sale of two Rowena properties... one for $1.4 million (the one at the right) and another for $2.25 million on a smaller lot immediately next door to Rowena Shores... this despite a national slowdown and de-escalation in the real estate sales and prices nationwide. This extremely rare opportunity to own riverfront property in the mid Columbia makes Rowena unique to the area... and seemingly immune to downward fluctuations in price. Basically, if you want to live in Oregon and own Columbia riverfront property in the mid Columbia, your only choice is to find someone in Rowena who is willing to sell to you. And that is simply getting harder and harder to do.
If you don't have a friend in Rowena, you're still in luck. Mayer Park East is a windsurfing park at the east end of Rowena which offers an easy launch sight into the powerful winds of the central Gorge. Plenty of parking, grass lawns for rigging and wonderfull restroom facilities make this a great spot for the family.
Speaking of lawns... if you need your lawn cut out in the gorge, there's no better choice than Louie Buzas who took care of Rowena Shores for years and continues to do it for the new owner. We're now living in Vancouver, WA and our gardener here is also a great one... Vu's Landscape.
If you are thinking of moving to The Gorge, we invite you to check with any of the many real estate agencies in the area. Check with the ones whose logos appear at the top of this page or just Google "Columbia Gorge real estate" and take your pick. One agent we like with experience selling on the Rowena Riviera is Michael Frost of Windermere in Hood River. Come live the good life!