This month, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Act turns 25 years old. After the Act was signed on November 17, 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, Gorge land managers had a dual mandate: encourage economic development in the Gorge and protect an 85-mile stretch of incredible scenery.

For years, the Gorge has been a source of inspiration for photographers, who have captured its views in every season and shade.

Peter Marbach, a Hood River resident whose work has been featured in National Geographic, is one of these photographers.

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“In a single day,” he says, “I can be hiking into a remote lush waterfall in the western Gorge to trekking across hidden sand dunes in the east.”

He describes his photography as an attempt to capture the emotion of the scenes he witnesses.

“There are times when the sudden beauty of a scene becomes so overwhelming that it takes all of my concentration to stay focused,” Marbach says.

Blaine Franger, who also lives in Hood River, is a San Diego native who now tries to get out and photograph the Gorge as much as possible. 

“Every season offers a vastly different look,” he says, adding that “everything is always changing from month to month and year to year.”

“I consider my photography a way of sharing the beauty in this world that not everyone gets to see and experience for themselves,” he says. “Lots of people are stuck inside offices, cities and homes all day without much time to explore the natural world around us.”

Gorge photographers such as Greg Lief appreciate the impact that the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Act has had on the area’s beautiful views.

“The Columbia Gorge National Scenic Act has had a profound effect upon every single person that visits the Gorge,” Lief says, “not just photographers such as me, but casual tourists passing by on I-84 who stop at the Multnomah Falls exit and walk over to admire that beautiful waterfall.”

Lief sees his photography as an “ongoing documentary of the Pacific Northwest’s endless natural beauty.”

Chris Carvalho agrees, noting, “My photography strives to capture the joy and exuberance of nature when we let it remain wild and free”

“What I think the Gorge needs now,” adds Carvalho, “is a group of photographers whose mission is to monitor and record scenic impacts over time so the information can guide policymaking.”

“People are still nature’s creation, no matter how we surround ourselves with technology,” he says. “We would have a better world if more people would take the time to experience that joy, often.”

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Want to learn more about the photographers featured in our slideshow? Visit them online.