Enjoy eye-popping storytelling with a murals tour in Estacada, Troutdale, Mosier, and The Dalles

Whether you’ve got a day or a week to enjoy in the Mt. Hood and the Columbia River Gorge region, rich tapestries of storytelling are on display from Estacada, to Troutdale and out to The Dalles. Take a tour and check out the charming murals that adorn walls in these towns, and learn the stories behind them. You’ll pull on threads of narrative that unwind and expose the rich history of this region, revealing the stories of the people, culture, natural wonders, and legends that make this place so special.

Your first stop on the tour is in Estacada, where there’s murals galore. The ArtBack Artists Cooperative has a list of 15 murals that you can explore, but there’s even more to discover - so happy hunting! You can check out murals honoring the role ginseng crops and Chinese farmers played in the local economy prior to World War I, or celebrating the arrival of spring in Northwest Oregon and the feelings of joy, happiness, and renewal that the season brings. Swing through the Grind Coffee House for a mocha or an iced coffee to get your day of adventures off to the right start.

After that, head into Troutdale and swing by the Mayors Square mural that provides a glimpse into the town’s bustling history, from horse-and-buggy times, to the era of freight trains and freight wagons, and to the introduction of automobiles. Plan a stop at the Sugarpine Drive-In for lunch and ice cream cones, where you can pose with your ice cream in front of the “You Are So Gorge” mural - a great moment to share with your friends, family, and followers on social media.

Your next stop is in Mosier, where you can bask in the beauty of a butterfly mural on the CenturyLink building in downtown, which was created in 2014 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the town’s founding. A collaboration between artist Toma Villa, a member of the Yakama Nation, and students from the Mosier School, the mural project was part of a broader effort to beautify the riverside town upon the 100th anniversary celebration. 

Mosier butterfly mural

Butterfly mural in Mosier

“I get ideas from native art but I really push myself to get original style. Bridge building, creating bonds through project work and others learning about art move me to share my culture, history and self with students,” Villa explains in discussing his approach to collaborative art projects he creates with students. “Creating art together creates a sense of responsibility, shared ownership and community that is often lacking in kids’ lives. During our shared time, students gain a sense of belonging and ownership.”

Finally, wrap up your tour in The Dalles, where history seems to reside on every corner. You’ll find 14 murals depicting everything from the journey of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, honoring the history of Native American tribes who’ve lived in The Dalles area for more than 10,000 years, capturing the lives of pioneer settlers on the Oregon Trail, or commemorating the history of the Hudson Bay Company.

Decision at The Dalles mural

Mural depicting Oregon Trail history - The Decision at The Dalles

“The British-owned Hudson Bay Company dominated the fur trade in the Pacific Northwest during the early 1800′s,” according to The Dalles Mural Society. “Dr. John McLaughlin, who headed the Northwest enterprise, sent brigades of boats far up the Columbia River to far-flung Company forts, bringing loads of supplies and returning with a bounty of furs. During the years 1824 to 1846, the brigades would ply their trade at The Dalles, a historic Indian trading site, purchasing the coveted beaver pelts for such items in trade as blankets, tobacco and pipes, knives, traps, beads, powder, and balls.”

If you’re intrigued and want to learn more about the history depicted in these murals, consider a pop-in visit at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum on Discovery Drive in The Dalles. Or if you’re ready to relax and unwind, grab a craft Northwest ale at Freebridge Brewing or a glass or Oregon pinot noir at the Sunshine Mill.