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In September 2017, the Eagle Creek fire ripped through the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, torching 50,000 acres of some of the most beloved trails and forests in the Pacific Northwest.
For those unfamiliar with the area, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is thirty minutes east of Portland, Oregon. This particularly striking section of the Columbia watershed spans eighty miles and comprises one of the most dramatic landscapes in the country, with over 4,000 vertical feet of relief and windy ridges of Douglas fir and hemlock. In all, the Columbia Gorge features over 100 waterfalls, including 611-foot Multnomah Falls – the height of Seattle’s Space Needle.
Fortunately, most of the previously endangered trails are now accessible again. Along with this restoration comes yet another exciting development: the return of the Gorge Waterfalls 50K and 100K, happening this weekend, April 2-3, 2022.
The race takes place on the traditional lands of the native people within the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs, Yakama Nation, Nez Perce, the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla, Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, the Cowlitz Tribe, and the Siletz Tribe, all of whom have occupied and stewarded the lands for countless generations. Read more about the Indigenous history of the Columbia River Tribes here.
The Gorge Waterfalls race began in 2011 as a 50K – originally Rainshadow Running – with a 100K option added in 2014. Following the 2017 fires, the race was put on hold indefinitely. Then the pandemic arrived.
This weekend marks two updates to the race: First, it’ll be the first time the Gorge Waterfalls ultra will be run in five years. And second, the Gorge Waterfalls 50K/100K was recently acquired by Daybreak Racing and Freetrail.
“The race has a high profile in the area,” said Jeremy Long, founder of Daybreak Racing. “So it seemed like a very cool opportunity to go double on this thing with Freetrail.”
Dylan Bowman, elite ultrarunner and founder of Freetrail, is equally excited about the partnership.
“After thirteen years of being a race participant, I’ll finally get to experience the other side of the event business as co-owner of the Gorge Waterfalls 100K and 50K. It takes a lot of work–I have a new respect for the race directors of the world.”
Major updates to the 2022 race include tweaks to course design and a more centralized race location set in Cascade Locks, to further support local businesses in the Gorge.
“We’re breathing our own vibe into the race,” said Long. “We’ve changed the staging venue, moved it to Marine Park. There’s now a whole island that people can camp on! We’ve been able to work with local businesses and sponsors right in town. Our beer sponsor is literally right across the street.”
Runners To Watch
Both the 50K and 100K fields include some of the finest runners in the country. David Laney will be a top contender for the 100K distance. And though he has his sights set firmly on UTMB this August, Laney prefers more regional races.
“I grew up in Portland and spent hundreds of rainy Saturdays hiking in the Gorge as a kid,” said Laney, “so it’s nice to be able to run a hometown race.”
Hillary Allen will be a leading female athlete racing in the 100K. She has been seen scouting the course all week, as it’s her first time running in the Columbia Gorge.
“It’s so incredibly green and lush! The terrain reminds me of France where I used to live, and the waterfalls are breathtaking. It’s a very runnable course.”
- Hannah Lafleur (Seward, AK)
- Hillary Allen (Fort Collins, CO)
- Alex Borsuk Hasenohr (Portland, OR)
- Denise Bourassa (Lakewood, CO)
- Hollyann Swann (Huntington, WV)
- Michelle Buncke (Portland, OR)
- David Laney (Portland, OR)
- Coree Woltering (Ottowa, IL)
- Keith Laverty (Bainbridge Island, WA)
- Drew Macomber (Bend, OR)
- Rich Lockwood (Seattle, WA)
- Pam Smith (Salem, OR)
- Allison Churchill (Springfield, OR)
- Leah Yingling (Salt Lake City, UT)
- Taylor Nowlin (Spokane, WA)
- Keely Henniger (Portland, OR)
- Ryan Miller
- Tyler Green (Portland, OR)
- Jason Schlarb (Durango, C)
- Christopher Denucci (Bainbridge Island, WA)
- Ian Sharman (Bend, OR)
- Adam Merry (Golden, CO)
Course Description At-A-Glance
100K: Out-and-back. Elevation gain: 11,000 feet.
50K: Point-to-point. Bus shuttle to start. Elevation gain: 5,900 feet.
- The 100k is a Western States 100 Qualifier.
- The 100k and the 50k are UTMB® World Series Qualifiers.