Oregon-Washington: Columbia Gorge Region
"The U.S.A.'s Rhineland," not just for the wineries, but for "an incredible job of protecting the views and many towns with considerable charm." Great potential for "agritourism and geotourism." On the downside: major dams and highways.
Here is a representative sampling of additional anonymous comments from the panelists. They are not necessarily the views of the National Geographic Society:
"Remains a beautiful and highly significant area to visit. River tours are seemingly in decline, and economic stress has hit some towns—shops and some restaurants have closed. The two states have done an incredible job of managing and protecting the resources and views, and many towns have considerable charm and appeal."
"Burgeoning wine industry is bringing a new kind of cultural and environmental awareness to the area that is certainly going to be a boon for tourism and for the area's prospects. Major issue to be negotiated is viability of the salmon habitat."
"This is a federally recognized scenic area. Benefits from some of the best land-preservation programs in the nation. The historic road that is the gateway to the region is one of the best-managed historic roads in the nation. Despite large numbers of visitors, the region still has pockets of authenticity, and the magnificent natural scenery is well protected."
"The U.S.A.'s Rhineland. While major highways along the Columbia River detract from its attractiveness, the 1915-era scenic drive is memorable, and the windsurfing capital of Hood River shows how tourism can positively alter a depressed lumber town."