62 miles E of Portland, 20 miles W of The Dalles, 32 miles N of Government Camp

Every summer, hot air rising over the desert to the east of the Cascade Range sucks cool air up the Columbia River Gorge from the Pacific, and the winds howl through what is basically a natural wind tunnel. The winds are incessant, and gusts can whip the river into a tumult of whitecaps. They used to curse these winds in Hood River. Not anymore.

Ever since the first person pulled into town with a sailboard, Hood River has taken to praying for wind. Hood River is now the windsurfing and kiteboarding capital of America, which has given this former lumber town a new lease on life. People come from all over the world to ride the winds that howl up the Gorge. In early summer the boardheads roll into town in their "Gorge-mobiles," which are equivalent to 1960s surfers' woodies, and start listening to the wind reports. They flock to riverside parks on both the Oregon and Washington sides of the Columbia, unfurl their sails, zip up their wet suits, and launch themselves into the melee of hundreds of other like-minded souls shooting back and forth across a mile of windswept water. High waves whipped up by near-gale-force winds provide perfect launching pads for rocketing skyward. Aerial acrobatics such as flips and 360-degree turns are common sights. Now, even boardsailors have had to make way for the newest sport -- kiteboarding. This sport replaces the sail with a kite, shortens the board, and enables even more radical maneuvers and higher speeds than windsurfing, and lots more time in the air instead of in the water. Even if you're not into this fast-paced sport, you'll get a vicarious thrill from watching the boardheads going for major airtime.

Windsurfing and kiteboarding may be the main events here in Hood River, but this is certainly not a one-trick town. Sometimes the winds just aren't accommodating, and even boardheads can get bored sitting on shore waiting for conditions to improve. For this reason, Hood River has become something of an outdoor sports mecca, with a rapidly developing reputation for excellent mountain biking, white-water kayaking and rafting, paragliding, rock climbing, hiking, skiing, and snowboarding. In other words, Hood River is full of active people.

Hood River does not exist on sports alone, however; outside town, in the Hood River Valley, are apple and pear orchards, wineries, and vineyards. Hood River also claims a famous historic hotel and several good restaurants. Most of the town's old Victorian and Craftsman houses have now been restored, giving Hood River a historic atmosphere to complement its lively windsurfing scene. All in all, this town makes a great base, whether you're here for the sports, to explore the Gorge, or to visit nearby Mount Hood.