This post is based on an interview with Geologist Ellen Moore Bishop, an outstanding Pacific Northwest geologist and the author of “In Seach of Ancient Oregon.”  Doctor Bishop teaches at Columbia Gorge Community College

Ellen Morris Bishop

“A Landscape Demanding Respect”

I own three dogs, I’ve written two books about dogs, one book about hiking and Oregon’s geology and one about the Northwest as yet to be born.

When people first came here, that would have been about 15,000 years ago… what humans would have seen would have been a muddy, sort of semi-devastated landscape recovering from a series of enormous floods.

Pretty much ever since people came here the Gorge has remained unchanged, so the first people who came here probably would have seen a landscape similar to the landscape we see today.

When we go to a place of solitude, we expect to hear sounds of nature. That’s what Lewis and Clark would have heard, yet today we hear trains, interstate traffic, horns, and a lot of movement that wasn’t there, even though the Gorge always has been a connecting route between the east and the west for winds, for water, for people, for animals.

I think Stewardship is not only about just preserving what we have for the sake of preserving a moment in time of landscape but it’s about looking at understanding the past.   To be aware that we’re standing on, stewarding the responsibility for 15 million years and not only geologic history but the animals and plants that have lived here. This is a living system. Not only do we have the Columbia River and all of its fish and all of the life along the edges, but if you look at Eagle Creek you have the remnants of 30 million year old forests.  We need to preserve those and steward those ancient landmarks.  It’s a hard balance between how to you make things accessible to people and how do you make sure they don’t destroy those things that are most important to them.

I think an important thing for people to understand is that this is a landscape commanding respect. This is a landscape that we can come to and learn the history of the Columbia River, the history of a major artery, a major river of the Northwest. And it’s something that’s been here far longer than they have. The same is true about Indian petroglyphs. We don’t know how long petroglyphs or native tribes have been here, but we do know this is a landscape that has a lot to teach, that has been here for a long time and respecting that just simply for the age and the life it’s been here and the people who come before us, is one big thing.  Secondly, we’re still learning about the Columbia River Gorge. We’re still learning about the basalts.  This is an area that is not only very old, but in some ways is very new. Proust has a quotation that basically says. “The real voyage of discovery is not seeking new landscapes but having new eyes. “ And so what that means is we rediscover the Gorge everyday… these are things that are really important to preserve, to steward and ensure others in the future can share them.