There’s a rather quirky, unexpected roadside attraction on the outskirts of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area: a life-size replica of Stonehenge in Washington state.
Overlooking the mighty Columbia River and surrounded by arid hills and vineyards, the monument was the first one built in the USA to pay tribute to military personnel who gave their lives in World War I. In 1995, the Klickitat County Veterans Memorial was erected near the site to honor those from the area who paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving their country, and each year a ceremony is held.
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The history of Stonehenge in Washington state
So why is there a replica of England’s famous attraction near Wishram, Washington? It’s all thanks to Samuel Hill, a Quaker who’s known for establishing the neighbouring Maryhill townsite which had a post office, hotel, general store and eventually the Maryhill Museum and winery.
Hill visited the real Stonehenge during WWI, and was inspired to duplicate the Neolithic structure back home as a sign of peace and heroism. He tapped the knowledge of engineers and archaeologists to construct it, using reinforced concrete when local stones didn’t work as planned.
The first step was dedicating the altar stone in 1918, when there was a total solar eclipse and one of the world’s best viewing points was in surrounding Goldendale, WA.
Hill commissioned an astronomy professor to align the position of the stone to the astronomical horizon, instead of the midsummer sunrise which is a three degree difference from the original structure. That subtle difference makes the Washington version challenging to use as an astronomical calendar.
The Stonehenge replica was completed in 1929, and when Hill died a couple years later his ashes were placed in a crypt just 50 yards away on the hillside. The spot is now marked by a granite monument that reads: “Samuel Hill: Amid nature’s great unrest, he sought rest.”
Visiting the Maryhill Stonehenge WA
Since the Stonehenge replica is dramatically perched on the edge of a cliffside, it’s easy to spot along Highway 14 which has sweeping views of the Gorge, the Sam Hill Memorial Bridge and Mt Hood in the distance. The site is open every day from 7 a.m. to dusk, and parking and admission is free.
Tour the towering rock formation, where plaques of the fallen soldiers are affixed to the stones. There are interpretive signs, as well as also a collection of rock cairns that visitors have erected in the middle of the site.
To make the most of your trip to the Stonehenge in Washington State, add on a visit to neighboring wineries like Jacob’s Creek Wines, Maryhill Winery or the Cascade Cliffs Tasting Room, visit the Maryhill Museum of Art, and explore the surrounding trails in Columbia Hills State Park and Horse Thief Lake State Park.
How to get to Stonehenge Washington State
To get to the Washington Stonehenge from Portland or Hood River, drive east down I-84 toward The Dalles. Cross the bridge that stretches across the Columbia River, or continue to Biggs Junction and cross the Sam Hill Memorial Bridge there.
The monument is just off Hwy 14 (the Lewis and Clark Highway) down Stonehenge Drive.
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Tamara Elliott is the travel editor and founder of The Gorge Guide, which highlights the best experiences in the Columbia River Gorge. She’s an award-winning writer based in Hood River, Oregon, who particularly loves the area wineries and waterfall hikes. Tamara is also the founder of Globe Guide, which offers savvy tips for exploring destinations around the world.