The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum is now open seven days a week from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and raptors are on display outside from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM daily. “We are excited to be back to full operation after being closed completely for three months in the spring and then only being open on weekends over the summer,” says executive director Carolyn Purcell.
The opportunity to fully reopen is the result of federal funding, including a PPP loan/grant, and grants from Oregon Cultural Trust for $123,742 and Oregon Humanities for $10,000. These funds all support staffing and utilities during this time of limited revenue for the operation. Because of the pandemic, cruise ships, group travel, visiting school groups, and event rentals ceased beginning in March 2020, which resulted in furloughs for staff.
Purcell notes, “It will be a challenge as we enter 2021 without a clear idea of when our primary revenue sources will return.” Facility rental is now available with mandated distancing and face covering protocols. Many weddings were postponed this year, and some couples are now opting for very small wedding ceremonies including only immediate family and close friends. Regular programs, raptor presentations, and the Kids Explorer Room are not currently operating to avoid people congregating. The café is also closed until further notice.
The Discovery Center’s dedicated team is passionately planning new programming that adapts to a new frontier. Director of education Lisa Commander says, “We are committed to providing visitors with a safe and enjoyable experience. The spacious museum galleries offer visitors room to remain physically distant while enjoying our wonderful exhibits. Outside, the river trail beckons with the colorful panoply of fall foliage in all its Northwest glory.”
The roof repair project is now underway and will be completed before winter weather arrives. “We are especially grateful to those who have continued to renew their memberships and donate to our roof repair campaign during this difficult time,” said Purcell. Fundraising will continue for this project in order to repay loans necessary for its completion. “This facility is an amazing community asset that needs to be maintained. We simply cannot wait through another winter.”
Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum is the official interpretive center for the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Hands-on, multi-media exhibits illuminate the cultural and natural history of the Gorge, including Ice Age geology, Native American culture, Lewis and Clark, the Oregon Trail, trade, transportation, renewable energy, ecology, live raptor presentations and more. The museum is wheel-chair accessible, and family friendly, with a Kids Explorer room. Riverfront Trail offers hiking and biking, and a native plant nature trail circles the pond next to the museum. The Discovery Center is located off I-84 exit 82, at 5000 Discovery Drive, The Dalles, Oregon, 97058. Museum adult admission is $9, seniors $7, kids 6 to 16 are $5, and children 5 and under free. Live raptor presentations are held Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The schedule may vary to accommodate tour groups, so call ahead to verify times if you are planning your day around the raptor presentation. The Columbia River Trading Company museum store is open daily. For more information, phone (541) 296-8600 ext. 201, or visit www.gorgediscovery.org.