Eight Great Reasons to Visit Maryhill, Queen of the Columbia Gorge

Project, Advertising & Data Manager
Published 9/10/19
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On a clear day you can see… Stonehenge?  From the Pacific Northwest? Sounds outrageous, but it’s true! On a clear day, there’s nothing that compares to the expansive views of the Columbia River Gorge. “God’s country” it’s been called. Sam Hill (who commissioned the full-scale replica of Stonehenge on a bluff above the Columbia River) saw the beauty of this land, purchased 5,300 acres in 1907 and named it Maryhill in honor of his daughter.

The views from Maryhill are amazing and a great way to experience them on a clear night is when the Friends of Goldendale Observatory host stargazing campouts. Stargazing campouts are few and far between but if you visit Maryhill, the drive will be well worth the reward. Happen to find yourself in Portland, Oregon? Consider adding this day trip onto your itinerary; just a scenic 100-mile ride east. From the remarkable views and art to the award-winning wine and Stonehenge Memorial, here are eight reasons to visit Maryhill.

1. See The Thinker and 80+ Works by Rodin. You’d expect to see these pieces at the Louvre or the British Museum, but this amazing collection is housed in the most unexpected of places - a museum on a bluff above the Columbia Gorge. Viewing Maryhill Museum’s Rodin collection alone is worth the $12 price of admission. Maryhill Museum contains 80+ pieces from the “father of modern sculpture” including bronzes, terra cottas, plaster studies and sketches. A thrill for art lovers!

2. Game of Chess, Anyone? Try your hand at a game with the life size chess set. Wonder what countries the game has been played in over the years?  Enter the George E. Muehleck, Jr. Gallery of International Chess Sets. This permanent display showcases over 80 sets from the Orient to Alaska, intermingled with chess-related artworks. Celebrate these veritable sculptures in miniature!

3. Stroll through the Outdoor Statuary Gardens. Large-scale contemporary sculptures complement works by Rodin along the garden walkways, under shade trees on the lawns and overlooking the bluff. In the William & Catherine Dickson Sculpture Park, enjoy works by some of the Northwest’s most prominent contemporary artists including Brad Cloepfil, Mel Katz and Matt Cartwright.

4. Picnic and Dining Options Abound. Picnic tables await on either the lovely, tree-shaded grounds of Maryhill Museum or at the Maryhill Winery. No picnic basket? There’s a cozy café at Maryhill Museum. Or, pair your meal with a glass of wine at Maryhill Winery’s vine-covered outdoor terrace where you’ll find live music on summer weekends. After lunch, try your hand at the game of bocce; you’ll find four tournament-quality bocce courts at the winery for visitors to enjoy.

5. Tastings at Maryhill Winery. Maryhill Winery has received over 3,000 awards since its first vintage in 2001. You’re in for a treat when you visit the beautifully carved, antique Brunswick Bar in the tasting room for the flight of the day. Maryhill produces more than 50 wines and ranks among the top five most visited wineries in the state. Step out on the terrace and inhale another breathtaking gorge view. The winery is open daily from 10am to 6pm except on holidays, and the $15 tasting fee can be applied towards a $25 purchase. 

6. Mind-boggle over the Eclectic Collections of Sam Hill. Queen Marie of Romania (granddaughter of Queen Victoria of Britain) was a friend of Sam Hill and presided over the museum’s dedication in 1926. She donated more than 100 works of art and personal items, many of which are on display in the entrance gallery. Maryhill Museum is full of delightful surprises. Curious about French fashion in post-World War II France? Check out the elegantly dressed mannequins in the Théậtre de la Mode collection which appeared at Louvre’s Museum of Decorative Arts in 1945. Also housed here are Orthodox icons and an impressive Native American collection.

7. Put on a Beret as Artist for a Day. Have a friend strike a pose and capture it in a gesture drawing in Maryhill Museum’s Rodin Gallery. Discovery Stations throughout the museum give visitors a chance to tap into their inner artist. A quick set of instructions, pencil, paper, easel and you’re off!

How do you make a gesture drawing? Rodin was a master! Look at your subject for a few minutes, following the contour with your eyes. Start drawing light, loose marks and then continue by making light, continuous lines of the largest shapes. Keep your focus on the subject, rather than the paper.

Hunt for other stations throughout the museum. Hint, you’ll find one at a gorge overlook with strategies on how to divide your paper into thirds both vertically and horizontally to create a landscape drawing.

8. Marvel at Stonehenge Memorial. Why go to Wiltshire, England to see Stonehenge? Three miles east of Maryhill Museum there’s a full-scale replica of England’s Stonehenge commissioned by none other than Sam Hill. These massive stones honor the Klickitat County servicemen who died during WWI. The memorial is open from 7am to dusk and is free admission.

9. Delight under Sun and Stars. Goldendale Observatory hosts solar and evening viewings Fridays through Sundays from 4pm and 8:30pm, April-September 2019 near Stonehenge Memorial while the observatory is closed for upgrades…

…oops! This was supposed to be the EIGHT, great list but with so many unique things to see and do, it’s easy to get carried away. Slip into the shoes of Sam Hill. If you have the whim, don your beret. Choose a clear day to get behind the wheel, enjoy the scenic ride and discover the natural beauty and unexpected charms of Maryhill.