THE DALLES, Ore. — Located along the Oregon Trail that brought 19th-century fur trappers and traders west, The Dalles claims 300 days of sunshine, perfect for the town’s 21st-century pioneers who cater to boaters, kayakers, cyclists and anyone else with a thirst for history.
“In the 1800s, it was a wild and crazy place,” said Mark Powell, the town funeral director who transformed the 1883 former Wasco County Courthouse into Clock Tower Ales, a restaurant and bar with 35 microbrews on tap.
He unlocks a pale-blue door on the second floor, and I follow him up three narrow, wooden ladders to the belfry where he goes twice a week to wind a 127-year-old Seth Thomas clock. From the tower, we look down on the site of a new cruise-ship dock.
With its riverfront location, The Dalles — the name comes from the black volcanic rock pillars wedged into the hills above the river — drew gold miners, ranchers, river workers and merchants who profited from trade and commerce along the waterway and railroad.