I often travel through the Columbia River Gorge when going to and from the Pacific Northwest. This is a dramatic section of interstate highway, I-84, where you transition from dry sagebrush prairie, southern part of The Palouse, to the wet forests of the Pacific Northwest Coast.
The hills along the Columbia River, the gorge’s cliff walls, are basalt rock covered by scrub. As you cross the line where the rainfall begins there are tall and lush hardwoods and evergreens. It is a location of striking contrasts.
I have a favorite free boondock camping location just off of I-84 near Rufus, OR. Nothing fancy, just the remains of a gravel pit that was likely used during the construction of Interstate Highway. It is now an ‘officially free’ location that has no hookups, some pit toilets (well maintained!) and a wonderful view of the river. You can hear the interstate and there are train tracks on both the northern and southern sides of the river – not that close but you will hear the trains at a semi-distance.
When stopping in the late spring, summer and early fall the location can be busy as the high winds, and being free, means this is a popular location for wind surfers (aka, sail boarders). There are some folks that also seem to live in the location a lot of the time – I recognize their campers.
For winter stops I’ve almost always had the location to myself.
Be prepared for wind and lots of it.