President Jimmy Carter visits Multnomah Falls
Benson Bridge reopened at Multnomah Falls on Thursday, June 28, on the same day the roadside attraction just happened to attract special guests — former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, former First Lady Rosalynn.
The iconic Benson Bridge, which spans Multnomah Creek, had been closed since September because of damage sustained from the Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge last fall.
Even though many of the visitors at Multnomah Falls were unaware that Carter was stopping by, he was surrounded by people taking his photo or trying to shake his hand as he arrived at the falls. The crowd followed the couple up to the lower viewing platform where Carter — a former Georgia governor who served as president from 1977 through 1980 — admired the majestic beauty of the falls.
The Carters visited the falls as part of the Carter Center Weekend, a fundraiser for the organization, said Patty Garrett, who volunteers to coordinate the weekend. The Atlanta-based Carter Center is a nongovernmental human-rights organization that helps improve lives by resolving conflicts, advancing democracy and human rights and preventing disease in more than 80 countries.
The event changes its location every year, and often includes several sightseeing stops. This year, the event was based at Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Wash., and included two excursions through the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area during the five-day trip.
President Carter was escorted through the scenic area by Matt Ramich, U.S. Forest Service on-site manager for Multnomah Falls. Both Carter and Ramich smiled as they trekked to the overlook area at the popular high falls.
"That was a really great experience," Ramich said.
Jeff Crump wandered behind the large group following the Carters, but had no idea who the crowd was trailing. Once he discovered who it was, he made his way up to capture several photos of the former president.
"It was surreal," Crump said. "It's interesting to see a president."
Crump serves in the U.S. Air Force, and has seen Air Force One many times, but it was his first time actually seeing a president. Crump grew up in Oregon, and lives in Tucson, Ariz. He was visiting Multnomah Falls with friends, and his Air Force unit, Rescue Group 943, is training in Portland.
As the Carters made their way to the Multnomah Falls gift shop from the the viewing platform, Portland resident Norma Brown ran up to grab a handshake from him.
"It was great," Brown said moments after meeting the former president. "He was a great man. Well, he's still a great man, but he was a fantastic president."
After a 30-minute tour of the falls and gift shop, President Carter waved goodbye, hopped back on his bus and rode off into the gorge.
For more information about the Carter Center, visit www.cartercenter.org.