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BRIDGE of the GODS Magazine

Cascade Locks is a Great Place to Live

Jul 13, 2020 11:55PM ● By Gary Munkhoff
Aerial View of the Bridge of the Gods at Cascade Locks, Oregon

Bridge of the Gods on the Columbia River, Cascade Locks, Oregon

Nestled on the south bank of the Columbia River in the very “Heart of the Gorge,” the city of Cascade Locks is a unique, compact village, “walled” in on three sides by the National Scenic Area and on the fourth side by the Columbia River. Often described by visitors as “quaint,” or “funky,” the town’s extraordinary setting below the towering walls of the Gorge is best described as “stunning” or “awesome.”

In addition to being a walled city with no land available for expansion, we are also completely separated from our closest Oregon neighbors: Hood River is 15 miles to the east and Troutdale is 27 miles west of us. However, we are not isolated, as we are only a 45-minute drive from Portland International Airport, an IKEA, and a Costco. On the other hand, the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness is just a 90-minute walk away.

Many visitors come to town, but few choose to make it their home. For those few who decide to stay, we want to share a secret with you: the longer you stay here, the stronger your connection will become.

To better understand connection and livability, we sat down and talked with the Mayor of Cascade Locks, Tom Cramblett. Tom is a fourth-generation Lockster, and except for one year at college in La Grande, and two seasons as a security guard at Harvey’s Casino Resort in Lake Tahoe, he has lived in Cascade Locks his entire life. If you ask him what keeps him here, he will talk about the natural beauty across all four seasons, his family,
the solitude that he can enjoy by simply walking out his front door and heading up the Pacific Crest Trail to Wahtum Lake, the easy pace of living, and affordability. This combination of natural beauty, slow pace, and affordability is getting hard to find in Oregon as the state’s population swells.

Tom is a great example of one of the other advantages to small-town living: personal involvement in community affairs. He served many years on the City Council and has been Mayor for almost six years. He is known as Captain Tom on the sternwheeler Columbia Gorge (Owned by the Port of Cascade Locks), and he waters and mows the grass in the Marine Park. When running for the Mayor’s position, he walked the entire town knocking on every door in order to meet the voters. Try that in Portland.

Not everyone can be Mayor or a member of the City Council, or a Commissioner for the Port of Cascade Locks, but there are many committees and groups that are always looking for volunteers. Anyone can get involved somewhere, at some level.
In short, if you enjoy small-town living and being a part of the natural world around you, Cascade Locks could be your home.


Cascade Locks, incorporated in 1935, took its name from the set of locks built to navigate past the narrow Cascades Rapids of the Columbia River. Construction began in 1878 and was completed 18 years later in 1896. In 1938, the locks were submerged when the Bonneville Lock and Dam were built.

The Bridge of the Gods is slightly downstream of the locks and is the only bridge across the Columbia between Portland and Hood River.